British Columbia·List

Emma Donoghue, author of bestseller Room, talks about turning her book into a film

When it came to turning the bestselling novel Room into a movie, author Emma Donoghue was the newbie in the room, even though she wrote the screenplay.

'You can tell I'm a first timer, I am still so over-excited,' says 45-year-old Irish-Canadian author

"Room" is the story of a five-year-old boy growing up with his mom in the single room to which they have been confined. (TIFF)

When it came to turning the bestselling novel Room into a movie, author Emma Donoghue was the newbie in the room, even though she wrote the screenplay. 

"You can tell I'm a first timer. I am still so over-excited about all this," she told the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

The story of five-year-old Jack and his mother, who live in a single room, both held hostage by a man who never lets them outside, is screening tonight at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Donoghue says she was unusually involved in the making of the film as the executive producer.

"Involved in all the major decisions and I wrote the screen play," she said. The movie was filmed in Toronto, which allowed her to visit the set at least once a week from her home in London, Ont.

Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue talks about what surprised her about how things are done in film.

Even though she was involved in the major decisions, Donoghue says she knows the director is the boss when it comes to movie sets.

"I didn't feel like I was the boss at all, the director is so much the boss, I was on my best manners!" she said.

Donoghue says the screen offers a different experience than the book and that changes depending on how intimate or big the crowd is.

"It's wonderful that every audience is different. If it is a smaller audience, you will mostly hear sobs. 

When we saw it with 2,500 in Toronto at TIFF there were a lot of laughs, I mean appropriate laughs...I find that each crowd brings a different side of it," she said.

5 things that surprised her

The filmmaking experience has been exciting and surprising for Donoghue. She shared with CBC the five things that amazed her.

  1. There are no rules.
    "Or rather, there are, but you can break them if you know what you're doing. Sometimes when I made changes because I thought 'You can't do that in a film,' — for instance, I thought Jack would have to have short hair, unlike the long hair he had in the novel — the director would say 'Says who?' and we'd go back to the way it was in the book."
  2. Can shoot day for night.
    "Sorry to sound like a complete naïf here, but ... they can shoot day-for-night, which means film in daytime and darken it afterwards!"
  3. Props have duplicates.
    "Every prop — a toothbrush, for instance — exists in multiple copies, the best or most detailed of which is known as the hero toothbrush."
  4. Going off script. 
    "Strangely enough, I didn't mind when the director got the actors to improvise. They stayed in character and on topic, came up with speech patterns more natural-sounding than I could have written, and produced some brilliant new lines that ended up in the film."
  5. What is better, the movie or the book? 
    "Most surprisingly, I've ended up liking the film as much as the book."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Emma Donoghue talks about being new to the world of cinema with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.