Last week, in Safe Haven Movie Set Visit: Part 1, I took you through a visual tour of my August 2012 visit to the North Carolina setting of the movie Safe Haven, which comes out on February 14 and stars Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, and Cobie Smulders
Today, I want to concentrate on author/producer Nicholas Sparks. During the course of the trip, we had four formal opportunities to talk with Mr. Sparks and rather than simply provide you with a disjointed transcript, I plan to focus on three principal topics: the film, the setting, and the writing.
First, I want to stress how much I enjoyed meeting Nicholas Sparks. He's an easygoing, down-to-earth guy with no pretensions. Almost from the first moment you meet him, Sparks makes you feel as if he were a good friend. If you look at the photos I posted last week, you can see how comfortable he is. The photos from the movie Safe Haven shown here are courtesy of the studio (click to enlarge).
Book to Film: As we all know, a movie made from a novel invariably deviates from the book's plot. And this is also the case with Safe Haven. Sparks gave us a few clues of some of those changes and explained why such differences must occur. He stressed repeatedly that print and film are two quite different media, and what he has 30 or 40 pages to explore in a book, the screenwriters have only a few minutes to demonstrate. Thus sometimes plot points have to be changed. As Sparks noted:
It is a different kind of thinking. You have to be able to capture things. It's the picture first. And if you have a scene of introspection that you can't capture in a quick picture, sometimes you have to invent things or put things in or take things out to make it work. That’s just the nature of it.In addition to subtly changing some of the scenes, long narrative sections of Safe Haven (or any book to film) have to be projected to the audience by the emotions displayed by the actors. Sparks went on to say:
A novel is a story told in words. A film is a story told in pictures. You’re trying to get these pictures to fill in all that introspection that I could do and you don't have a lot of time. You really need . . . quality performances that make you say, "I know who that person is. I relate to them. And I'm going to root for them by the end of the film."Sparks was more than satisfied that all three stars (Duhael, Hough, and Lyons) conveyed the emotional impact of Safe Haven, giving the audience characters to root for and to boo.
North Carolina: If you've read Nicholas Sparks's novels, then you already know that they all take place in eastern North Carolina. Sparks is partial to the area not only because that's where he lives but because he loves the small towns, where everyone looks out for one another and where kids can grow up safe. He said:
The reason I write about this place is that not too many people write about eastern North Carolina and eastern North Carolina is very different because it's all small towns. It is a different way of life here than it is in other places, all small towns.He went on to talk about the strong sense of community, the beauty of the water, the friendliness, the history, and even the abundance of live oaks. He noted that although his books take place in the state, they have not all been filmed there. Regardless, he had been wanting to shoot a film in Southport, North Carolina, for years, and Safe Haven was the lucky movie that won the location. Here's what he told us:
I mean, I think this is one of the most beautiful towns. Ten years ago, I was here for the filming of A Walk to Remember. I remember walking down here and I said, "I have to find a book for this place one day."Thus Safe Haven fulfilled one of Sparks's dreams.
Sparks as an Author: Nicholas Sparks has a unique way of starting all his novels. He knows from the beginning that the story will involve "love and something." So the first two decisions he makes are the age of his main characters and the extra:
We all know that [one of my books will be] love and something. . . . You can have love and mystery, love and forgiveness, love and loss, first love, right? You can have all these things. [Safe Haven] was love and danger. I chose love and danger because it'd been a long time since I'd [written about that].The next thing Sparks works out is how make his story fresh and stay believable. Some of those decisions are based on the age of this characters and the "something" that adds to the story. In addition, he likes to write to a wide audience, so some readers might be drawn to the central issue of the book, whereas others will be attracted to the love story or to the friendships. But he is always looking for a different approach. Sparks gave us several examples, including this:
What you're looking for is three things. You're looking for things to be interesting, original, and universal. That goes to the theme of the story, the journeys of the character, but also the specific elements in the book. For example, one of the questions I always have to answer is, "What's an interesting, original, universal way for the characters to meet and come together?"As for the central issue of Safe Haven--and for all his novels, for that matter--Sparks was quick to point out that he doesn't have a particular agenda. Instead he wants to explore personal growth and how one moves beyond adversity or learns to accept and cope when life gives us sorrow:
What I'm trying to do more is to say that, if there's any message at all (and I don't write any messages), . . . [is] that [a single issue] doesn't define you entirely. It's one part of your life. But most importantly, parts you can change. I'm an author. But, I'm also a father, right? I also work out a lot, I also have brothers, I have friends. So, which one am I? You know, you're not just one thing.The two central people in Safe Haven are also multidimensional individuals who have several roles, and author Nicholas Sparks couldn't be happier with the way actors Duhamel and Hough have made it easy for audiences to connect with them and to hope that their characters can learn to grow, change, and trust.
Of course Sparks talked about many other things, such as his experiences as an audiobook narrator, his answer to his most-asked question (Are you the most romantic guy on the planet?), his writing process, and his favorite scenes in the movie. Those stories will have to wait for another day.
The Giveaway. Now at last the long-awaiting giveaway. Thanks to Big Honcho Media (and I have lots to thank them for), I am able to offer one of my readers who lives in the United States a chance to win tickets to the film Safe Haven and a copy of the movie tie-in edition of the novel. One winner will receive $25 in Fandango Bucks (like a gift card you can redeem online at Fandango.com to buy your tickets) and one copy of the book. All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is to fill out the form. I'll pick a winner, using a random-number generator on February 14, the day the movie Safe Haven opens in theaters.
Good luck! And look for Safe Haven to open in theaters next week. If you want to stay current on the movie's doings, you have plenty of opportunity. Check out the Safe Haven Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.