An archive of the work of television writer-producer Daniel Knauf

DRACULA

No, not that Dracula.


Five years before I ran the NBC series starring John Rhys Meyers, I was commissioned by ABC to write a contemporary version of the Bram Stoker classic. It was a dream-gig, as the novel has never been faithfully adapted (despite the title of Copolla's feature).


In Stoker's novel, the characters of Dracula and Van Helsing are eclipsed by Mina, Jonathan and their circle of friends and family. Stoker's DRACULA is far from a simple good-guy/bad-guy story; it is a deeply nuanced and complex portrait of a small, devoted group of friends bound by love--romantic, familial, fraternal and platonic--who are confronted by an ancient evil.


Filmed versions have always distilled the conflict down to "Dracula versus Van Helsing" due to the fact that there simply isn't enough real estate in a feature length of 90 - 120 minutes to properly develop the ensemble. They are therefore unfortunately relegated to serving as little more than hot meals for Vlad.


The 4-hours committed by ABC gave me the opportunity to remain faithful to Stoker's original intent. 


The contemporary setting was surprisingly not an issue. Stoker's story is, after all, timeless. I was even able to incorporate his device of telling the story via written correspondence between the principles via the modern practice of communicating with texts and email. The biggest obstacle was the novel's time-frame, which was protracted by the difficulty of long-distance travel and communication in the 19th Century. The solution was almost bone-heatedly simple: I simply compressed each month in the novel into a week in present day.


In the end, soon after I finished this adaptation, ABC decided to shut down their mini-series division and the project was abandoned.


Damn...


If you're like me and an ardent fan of Bram Stoker's DRACULA, savor this one. You're in for a treat. I just wish we could all watch it together on TV.