Guest Post: Janet Batchler on ‘Newt Scamander’

Janet Batchler, profound Potter Pundit, renowned Hollywood screenwriter, USC prof, and friend of this blog, left her thoughts about the new Joanne Rowling film project on a thread where many readers might miss it so we’ve bumped it up to a Guest Post for your comments and corrections> Thank you, Janet, for dropping in!

Coming to the discussion here of the Newt Scamander film late, but thought I’d check in as a voice from Hollywood.

•I doubt WB “put the squeeze on” JKR.  …When my writing partner and I were asked to write a Batman movie, the call from WB to our agent began, “We’re offering you Warner Bros.’ most important corporate asset.”  That’s what HP is now:  WB’s most important corporate asset.  Putting the squeeze on the person who created that asset (and could create more of it) would be highly unproductive.

•We do know that WB courted JKR for over a year regarding this project.  That means that she almost certainly said no to writing an HP sequel, no to writing the story of the HP generation’s kids, no to writing the story of the Marauders, no to writing the story of the Founders. Good for her.  All of those have more than a whiff of exploitation, and there would be nothing for JKR to explore creatively.

•JKR spent most of her adult life on HP.  Since the HP saga concluded, she has been trying to do very different things.  The tension of people wanting her to return to the HP world (not just WB — all those millions of fans as well) combined with her love of that world must be overwhelming at times.  Finding a way for her to return to it that is not a retread of HP in any way is a win for everyone involved.

•Writing a screenplay is *vastly* different from writing a novel. Narrative writing and dramatic writing have in common that they are both forms of storytelling and, well, not much more than that.  (Most people who talk about the difference but who are not screenwriters typically prove pretty conclusively that they don’t know what they’re talking about.)

•For JKR, then, writing a screenplay is likely to be a welcome challenge: A chance to explore and learn a whole new area of storytelling and structure.  Given that she’s been trying to stretch her wings in other areas of writing, why wouldn’t she want to give it a try?  I expect she will do quite well at it (It’s not a given; even Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists have been known to turn out screenplays that are practically unreadable) .

•Personally, I think the solution they came up with is brilliant.  New York in the 1920s with wizards?  Count me in!….  This story lets us back into the world we all love so much, but it’s not the same old thing once again.

•The bottom line:  JKR gets to go back to the Wizarding World but she does so without the restrictions and predictability that necessarily come with a return to Hogwarts in any time period.  She also gets to add a completely new realm of writing to her resumé.  We get to go back to the Wizarding World but this time we meet brand new characters and hear stories we’ve never heard before.  We also get movies that were *designed* to be movies, not adaptations of books, so many of the things people dislike about the HP movies simply won’t be issues.  WB gets to add to the value of its most important corporate asset and keep the HP movie/theme park franchise from becoming stale.

If you don’t want to go to the Newt Scamander movie(s), don’t go.  But my guess is that you’ll be missing out on something rather delightful.


  1. I agree on all points made here. Lucky is the author who has the opportunity and desire to revisit a place where both her fans and she long to meet up. I too love the visuals immediately conjured by the time period although my fantasies also included some steam-punk, Jules Verne kind of props. Perhaps if Newt has a time-turner? A science-nerd Doctor Who with a broomstick and wearing a leather aviator helmet and goggles! Plus her great humor was in evidence when she named this guy. Newton (for Isaac), Artemis (goddess of wild things), and Fido…for the laugh! I really laugh out loud each time I think about it. I think we’re all going to like this guy. And I think he’s going to be fun.

  2. phoenixsong58 says

    Thank you, Janet Batchler, for your words of knowledge and experience (and wisdom) on the Newt Scamander film! I had no doubt that it will be something delightful, and I had no intention of missing it. But I love hearing all the reasons why. It adds to the fun of anticipation!

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