Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Books on Film Club, with TIFF's Shane Smith

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith, Director of Public Programmes for TIFF Bell Lightbox, tells Open Book about TIFF's newest series, the Books on Film Club. Sure to please book- and cinema-lovers alike, these screenings feature outstanding film adaptations of some of our favourite novels, followed by a conversation hosted by the CBC's Eleanor Wachtel about the challenges, expectations and surprises that come with adapting a novel to the screen.

The next Books on Film Club evening takes place Monday, April 4, at 7:00 pm, featuring Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the controversial novel. Film critic Richard Corliss will share his insights and join the conversation.

For more information please visit the Books on Film Club website.

Open Book:

Tell us about TIFF's Books on Film Club.

Shane Smith:

Books on Film Club is TIFF Bell Lightbox’s new subscription series, presented in association with Random House of Canada. Hosted by CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel, this series of screenings and onstage interviews celebrates the art of adaptation, examining exceptional films that began as outstanding novels.


What was the inspiration for the Books on Film Club?


Throughout our 35-year career of programming films for both the Toronto International Film Festival and our year-round TIFF Cinematheque, we have come across many exquisite films that were inspired by well-crafted novels. Now that we have our permanent home, TIFF Bell Lightbox, it is the perfect time to showcase some of these amazing films and the texts that inspired them.


Which of the upcoming screenings and discussions are you most excited about, and why?


We have been incredibly fortunate to secure experts from a variety of fields — from scriptwriters and filmmakers, to literary scholars and film critics — and are thrilled to be able to showcase all of these talented individuals to our audience. But, if you were to push me to highlight one or two of them, I would have to say that it was a huge thrill for us to host Patricia Rozema, Canadian scriptwriter and director of Mansfield Park, for a discussion on her treatment of Jane Austen’s classic of the same title; and we are excited about hearing what Canadian author and poet, Michael Ondaatje, has to say about his writing process for The English Patient and Anthony Minghella’s filmic adaptation of his novel.


What do you think is the biggest challenge of adapting a book into a film?


Thinking back to our first two guests of the season — literary scholar and author Professor Linda Hutcheon, and scriptwriter and director Patricia Rozema — the key to adaptation is to capture a strong sense of the essence or heart of the primary piece of writing. Once you have a good handle on the material, the scriptwriter and filmmaker can then responsibly and confidently infuse their own artistic worldview into the adaptation.


Do you agree with the common sentiment about film adaptations, "The book is always better?"


I would have to say no. To return to Linda Hutcheon’s onstage discussion with Eleanor Wachtel back in February, when thinking about adaptation, one must resist the urge to put the original text on a pedestal. As Hutcheon reminded us, even Shakespeare’s plays were inspired by, and used conventions of, earlier pieces of writing. So in a sense, perhaps the key to understanding or appreciating adaptation is to keep the multiple sources in mind when reading and watching adapted texts.


Do you have a favourite film adaptation of the book?


What’s fascinating about adaptation is the variety of source material that we can consider for a series like this — everything from graphic novels and blogs to non-fiction books — that really push the boundaries of a series like Books on Film Club. And the range of films is incredibly extensive — everything from Persepolis and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, to Shakespeare adaptations and left-field films like Clueless, which used Jane Austen’s Emma as source material. There are so many intriguing, smart, unexpected adaptations that this series can continue to explore.


What book and film will be the focus of the upcoming Books on Film Club?


Our upcoming session will highlight Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of this canonical novel. Richard Corliss, esteemed and longtime film critic for Time magazine and author of the BFI Classics study on Lolita, will be our featured guest for these incredibly rich and provocative texts.


Shane Smith is Director of Public Programmes at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Previously, he was Executive Producer, In-flight Entertainment at Spafax Canada Inc., where he oversaw all in-flight programming for Air Canada. Prior to this he was Director of Programming for the digital TV channels Movieola: The Short Film Channel and Silver Screen Classics. He was a Short Film Programmer for the Sundance Film Festival from 2006-2010 and was for six years Director of the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival.

Smith has written about film for the Canadian publications Xtra! and Cinema Scope, and is the Founder and Co-Director of OzFlix: Australian Film Weekend in Toronto and Vancouver. He also directed the short film, Goodbye To Love. He is a former Programmer for the Inside Out Festival, a member of the Organizing Committee of the International Short Film Conference and was formerly on the Board of Directors of the Centre for Aboriginal Media, presenters of the imagineNATIVE Film Festival. Shane has been a programmer, jury member and speaker at film festivals all over the world.

For more information about Books on Film Club and other TIFF programming please visit the TIFF Bell Lightbox website.

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