Q&A with Andy Serkis on adapting Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON & George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM

AndySerkisIn a Q&A organised by Samantha Shannon’s publicists in the UK, Andy Serkis discussed the acquisition of movie rights for Shannon’s debut novel, The Bone Season. Serkis, best-known perhaps as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, has set up his own film studio, Imaginarium Studio. The Bone Season will be one of their first projects, alongside an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, both of which will be directed by Serkis.


What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio’s very first slate of films?

We first came across the manuscript at the London Book Fair and immediately fell in love with the scope, the scale and the exceptional detail of the world Samantha had created. It’s a really compelling story with such a great central character – we all immediately saw its potential as a fantastic feature film.

Have you met Samantha Shannon, and how involved will she be in the film’s production?

Yes of course – she’s a delightful, incredibly intelligent person. She’s very warm and a passionate storyteller- dedicated beyond belief. We’re working very closely with her on all aspects of bringing the world of the book to the screen. We’ve been involving her with all the early concept artwork that we’re beginning to put together. Obviously it’s her world so we want to make sure we bring it to life in the way that she wants.

ShannonS-BoneSeasonCan you tell us about how the creative process for adapting a story like The Bone Season begins?

It begins with knowing the story you want to tell. There are thousands of stories contained within the world that Samantha has created – we have to be very disciplined about opening up the world in a way that will lead us on to further investigation in the rest of the series. We need to find the emotional heart of the story; the relationships; the tension; the suspense and the drive, and of course working closely with Samantha is going to make it much easier.

At this very early stage it’s about finding the right writer and the right approach to telling the story. Hand in hand with developing the screenplay it’s also about developing the visual world and bringing that to life, finding the right visual effects team who understand Samantha’s concepts.

You have been part of bringing some of the world’s most famous and well-loved fantasy worlds to contemporary audiences. Which of your experiences across film, TV, stage and video games would you say has been most helpful in preparing you to produce The Bone Season?

It would be impossible to single out any one single experience, it’s an accumulation of all my experiences to date, but obviously having worked on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s extraordinary world with Peter Jackson is incredibly useful. Peter basically gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of extraordinary characters in a lot of extraordinary worlds and has opened up my eyes to a genre that I knew very little about before.

Will performance capture will come mostly into play when portraying Shannon’s Rephaim race on screen in The Bone Season? Can you give us any insight into how you’d like these characters to appear?

We’re in very early stages of designing how we want to portray these characters, and are exploring a variety of avenues to bring these characters to life. We’re certainly not tied to any one production technique at this early stage.

Animal Farm is the other film on your inaugural slate. What can you tell us about this project?

OrwellG-AnimalFarmWe’re extraordinarily excited about Animal Farm. We have been working on the methodology this year, the development of the characters and the story. We’re working with a wonderful character designer and very pleased with how the animals are developing as visual characters.

In terms of story, we’re remaining very truthful to the original book however we are relocating the setting as if Orwell were writing in the present day – we’ve been working very closely with the Orwell estate on this.

You’re talents are very varied! If you could only do one thing for the rest of your career, which would you choose (stage/TV/film/video game roles, voice roles, director or producer)?

Mountain Climber.


Here’s a quick interview with Snorri Kristjansson, author of Viking-tastic Swords of Good Men, which was published at the beginning of August, by Jo Fletcher Books…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Snorri Kristjansson?

Teacher, writer, lover of cake, mild-mannered Viking and all-round enthusiast.

Your latest novel, Swords of Good Men, was recently published by Jo Fletcher Books. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader?

As a subversive, gritty, Grimdark-with-a-heart genre-buster, straddling the realms of Historical Fiction and Fantasy like a mythical God – or an action book with Vikings. Depends, really.


Is it part of a series?

It is indeed! Book 2 is currently finished and at the being-beaten-with-sticks-until-it-behaves stage. Work starts on Book 3 at the end of the month.

What inspired you to write the novel?

An abundance of time, a lack of employment and a couple of ridiculous coincidences.

And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

All around. An awful lot goes in, gets mixed somewhere about an inch behind the right ear and comes back out in idea form. Some of them aren’t very good at all.

Why are Vikings so cool?

Big question. Short answer: A combination of beliefs, actions, ingenuity, style and individuality. Shorter answer: ’coz they are. Wanna fight?

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

We are all children of Tolkien, I suppose. Stacks of Raymond Feist and David Gemmell followed.


How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

It’s great. My publisher and her army of Book Ninjas are a terrifying joy to behold. 

Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

I write well in cafés, but I haven’t had the luxury of establishing rituals yet. The time will come, though.

KristjanssonS-AuthorPicWhen did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing?

I’ve been writing for a long, long time, but never really viewed it as my Main Thing until relatively recently, when I totaled up the years and brain-miles spent doing text work of one sort or another.

Do you still look back on it fondly?

I’m not big on looking back, truth be told. I’m a forward kinda guy.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

The genre’s main problem is that there are way too many clever storytellers out there pumping out great and glorious work, and I don’t have the time to read it all. This is serious, so I would like fellow authors to be less awesome, thank you kindly.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

The conclusion to the Valhalla Saga, an outline of another thing that I can’t speak about, a couple of film things with cool kids that I can also not speak about and various other things. This list might have been more interesting in mime.

Sykes-TomeOfTheUndergatesWhat are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

Tome of the Undrgates by Sam Sykes, which is great fun.

I completely agree! What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I have done a full 50 minute standup show on a warship.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Oh, that list is LONG, but right at this moment I’d say, “Not being in the state of moving house”, which will happen very soon. Oh, and cake.