Lawrence Hill on adapting The Book of Negroes as a movie mini-series

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First aired on CBC Live (13/09/13)

As part of CBC Live at TIFF, author and 2013 Massey Lecturer Lawrence Hill was interviewed about adapting his bestselling novel and 2009 Canada Reads winner The Book of Negroes as a movie mini-series.

book-of-negroes-200.jpgHill said that he co-wrote the script with director Clement Virgo, and the project is now going into production. "I think they'll be shooting in South Africa in the next few months, and then Nova Scotia right after."

Hill was asked what he found hardest about writing the screenplay. "I think you have to re-imagine the novel to understand how it's going to work on the screen. I don't think that the way to judge a film or a mini-series is how closely does it follow the book," he said. " I think the litmus test has to be how good it is on the screen. And so you have to decide not just what stays in and what goes out, but how to retell the story in a way that's going to be effective in a mini-series."

Winning Canada Reads "had a huge impact on sales" of the novel, but Hill said that it's generally very difficult for Canadian writers to sell their work overseas, and that "the biggest impact of all was that it made international publishers that much more interested in picking up the book."

Hill also talked about Blood: The Stuff of Life, which is the basis of his Massey Lectures. "Blood is a book-long meditation about the way that we see the blood in our veins, and how our understanding of the blood that flows in our bodies affects our sense of identity and belonging, individually and collectively," he said. "There's so many ways to talk about blood, whether it's Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson affecting the composition of their blood to win the Tour de France and the Olympics, or whether it's embryonic stem cell research, or whether it's the politics of blood donation. I think we're more affected by blood than we even know."

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