Authorship in Film Adaptation

Authorship in Film Adaptation

Authorship in Film Adaptation

Authorship in Film Adaptation


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 Adaptationis 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 ofDevil in a Blue DressandThe 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.


Jack Boozer

THIS COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ORIGINATED IN THE OBSERVATION that the study of literature-to-film adaptation has generally overlooked the actual process through which a source text is transformed into a motion picture. This process includes in particular the central role of the screenplay. The increasing attention to intertextual and intermedial influences in adaptation over the last two decades provides an opportunity to highlight the most consistent and crucial example of intertextuality at work, namely, the writing of the transmedial screenplay. Literature-to-film adaptation involves the textual transposition of a single-track medium of published writing into a document that embraces the scenic structure and dramatic codes of the multitrack medium of film. The composition of the screenplay illuminates the evolution of ideas that will determine the film production's relationship to its source text. In this introduction I describe the multiple roles and significance of the adapted screenplay and its history, as well as its centrality to the collaborative authorship that is at the heart of film adaptation. Focusing on the screenplay in adaptation necessarily foregrounds issues of authorship in a theoretical environment that has been weighted toward semiotics, poststructuralism, and broadly conceived influences of cultural intertextuality. The fragile status of authorship in the shifting landscape of adaptation theory is specifically addressed in the final section of this introduction.

The two previously published essays and ten original ones in this collection each emphasize some aspect of the process of film adaptation as it can be traced from the source text and adapted screenplay through the film's production, exhibition, and reception. The four parts of the book are organized around the three dominant arrangements for adaptive screenwriters in English-language cinema:

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