Authoring a film adaptation of a literary source not only requires a media conversion but also a transformation as a result of the differing dramatic demands of cinema. The most critical central step in this transformation of a literary source to the screen is the writing of the screenplay. The screenplay usually serves to recruit producers, director, and actors; to attract capital investment; and to give focus to the conception and production of the film project.
Often undergoing multiple revisions prior to production, the screenplay represents the crucial decisions of writer and director that will determine how and to what end the film will imitate or depart from its original source. Authorship in Film Adaptation is an accessible, provocative text that opens up new areas of discussion on the central process of adaptation surrounding the screenplay and screenwriter-director collaboration. In contrast to narrow binary comparisons of literary source text and film, the twelve essays in this collection also give attention to the underappreciated role of the screenplay and film pre-production that can signal the primary intention for a film. Divided into four parts, this collection looks first at the role of Hollywood’s activist producers and major auteurs such as Hitchcock and Kubrick as they worked with screenwriters to formulate their audio-visual goals. The second part offers case studies of Devil in a Blue Dress and The Sweet Hereafter, for which the directors wrote their own adapted screenplays. Considering the variety of writer-director working relationships that are possible, Part III focuses on adaptations that alter genre, time, and place, and Part IV investigates adaptations that alter stories of romance, sexuality, and ethnicity.
Authoring a film adaptation of a literary source not only requires a media conversion but also a transformation as a result of the differing dramatic demands of cinema. The most critical central step in this transformation of a literary source to the screen is the writing of the screenplay.
“Screen Adaptations and the Politics of Childhood: Transforming Children’s Literature into Film is an exciting contribution to the area of adaptation studies. … This book should be of particular interest to scholars working in film adaptation studies, and especially to those whose research addresses the filmic adaptation of children’s literature.” (The Lion and the Unicorn, Vol. 43 (2), April, 2019).
The importance of staying true to the source material.
The key to adapting any source material is understanding what it is all about and how it works. Adaptations come in two basic types: literal adaptations that follow the source material closely and thematic adaptations that retain major themes but alter essential details.
Second, a fundamental distinction exists between history and memory. History is then, memory is now. A judicious, critical management of documentary evidence allows history to get as close as possible to the facts of the past; then as it was then. Memory is the past remembered and reconstructed through the lens of the present and its building blocks. Movies flourish in a popular, contemporary market place. They must entertain the sensibilities of the present. Anachronism is their delight and pleasure. Memory is their very breath. So history inevitably gets short-changed in movies—with some notable exceptions.
The creative liberties that can be taken during the adaptation process.
In the literary sense, adaptation is a process by which a piece of writing is transformed into another work. This transformation can be done for many reasons: for the sake of aesthetics, for political reasons, or to make a commentary on the original work.
Although adaptations are always tricky to deal with, some rules can help us determine whether or not we have a good adaptation. Know why you’re adapting. There are many reasons for adopting a novel into a film, but if you don’t have the main reason for adopting, then your film will probably be bad.
Creative liberty also means to use or not to use literature at all. As the American movie-going audience became more accustomed to mass media communication, a link with literary sources was considered less necessary for a movie. The earlier films of the Hollywood studios were quite conservative in this respect. Then U.S. independent cinema—ships that sailed without the need for literary ballast—began developing in the early 1950s, with a distinct and indigenous independent cinema movement existing by the late 1960s and 1970s. U.S. movies became less literary. From the 1930s to the 1960s in the U.S.A. the majority of major films were based on material that came from other forms, mainly literary, while most U.S. films nowadays are created from scripts written to be filmed directly.