Steven Lewis Simpson

How the Neither Wolf Nor Dog movie is different from the book, and why that is okay.

As we are just 5 days away from the end of the opportunity to get the Neither Wolf Nor Dog DVD in its special pre-release offer through Kickstarter (it won’t be available in retail till the spring) I wanted to share some thoughts. Click here for the pre-release DVD

Many of you who have been avidly following the film’s progress will be people that love the book. I just want you to know at this point to expect that the film is its own work, not the novel directly translated. Every medium is different. All have their strengths and weaknesses. It was imperative that the film became its own work and that it embraced the best of the novel, but ultimately it had to compliment it and not copy it.

There was a lot in the novel we couldn’t do. You could have just had two hours of Dan’s speeches, but that wouldn’t have made a movie. On the other hand, there were things, that if done right, could take things in a new, enriching direction. Those that have seen the film, will immediately refer to the amazing performances. Dan is one of the incredible, unforgettable characters you could ever read in a novel. But fate dealt us a perfect hand in the movie as Dave Bald Eagle is everything Dan is on the page, and more. I am thrilled that Kent Nerburn shouts this point as eagerly from the rooftops as anyone else. He wrote the novel to celebrate the world view of such and elder. So to have such a noted elder as Dave, give this landmark performance is more than Kent or I could ever have dreamed. I have no interest in anyone who is not deeply moved by his performance, as it would mean you have a heart of stone :).

I have had the odd comment asking why we made certain changed like Grover’s hair, or him not having a white shirt, or the Nissan truck being red, not black. Well, a film is made in the real world and this is even more true when you have a tiny budget like ours. Richard, who played Grover, turned out to be a dream in the role. It had to be him. But also his hair was not short, not could it be short the way the characters was. Better to have the perfect actor, than the perfect haircut. And curiously, Kent said that he’s closer to the person that inspired Grover, than the character in the book. I am more excited about that idea.

As for a white shirt. White looks terrible on screen. It reflects too much light and ruins exposures. Similarly, black loses too much detail in many lighting conditions, whereas red pops on screen.

So in a film, we have to look at things in a different way. I’ve had peoples say our Fatback was perfect, even though a different breed of dog. This was Kent’s choice, and it was a great one. I’m not a dog person. No one will argue that the Buick is PERFECT. Right model, right age, right color.

Nerburn’s character is somewhat different. But a novel with a first-person narrative lets you into a story in a different way. Because you are in their head, a character can be outwardly more passive. On screen, we needed something different. Christopher Sweeney did an amazing job bringing this character to screen and making him more multi-dimensional.

The climax of the film was the biggest rewrite. But again this is something Kent and I would step back from, as we would never dream to assume we could write anything as powerful as what Dave Bald Eagle could say in such scenes. If the novel was just being repeated, we would have lost something exceptionally powerful and moving.

So please, once the film is on release in a few months, all I suggest is you go in with the expectation of the film being different, and to go in with an open heart. The film will reward you well. And if we didn’t change anything then we’d all lose out on the film’s final scene, which people love. It truly is the perfect end to the story.

At a recent screening for fans of the novel at a book festival, the film got a standing ovation. The IMDB audience score is an amazing 9.1/10. Read reviews here.

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