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Brandon Bland
Ildiko Olasz
Literature and Film
December 6, 2015
Film Adaptation Theory
Today, film adaptations often go unnoticed by the audience until advertisements
announce that it was taken from a best-selling book. The film usually has a major following
because of the fans of the original text but the question becomes: what makes a book worthy of a
film adaptation? If this were a simple question or simple task then we as a film audience would
see way more books being turned into films in an era where seemingly best-selling books are
receiving their own time to shine with regards to film adaptations. There are different aspects
that play into how a film adaptation becomes a success as we have seen with book series such as
Twilight, Divergent and Harry Potter. What makes these stand out from other adaptations and
what does the audience have to do with the progression of different films receiving the limelight
as a film? We will take a look of the several aspects.
How Does Film Adaptations Happen?
For starters, a film adaptation is usually an extension of a book or literary text in more of
a visual form. This form can take place with a loose grasp or firm grip on the original text and
therefore change the overall view of the final product. Film adaptations tend to begin with a
literary work that was quite popular either at some point in time, or in todays world, something
that had a track record of success with readers. The text must then be eligible to be adapted into a
form in which the reader can connect with the foundations of the text but the innovation that the

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visual could possibly bring to the plate (Trotter). According to The English Novel, there are three
different types of adaptations and we see those even today: faithful adaptations where the film is
faithful to the text. For example, the film has the exact wording of the text and exact overall feel
of the text. Another type of adaptation is when the adaptation keeps the overall core of the text,
meaning that it still has the overall feel but interprets the text in a way that could or could not be
recognizable. Finally, an adaptation in which the text is just the raw material in which another
idea could be based off of. For example, The Taming of the Shrew and 10 Things I Hate About
You where the director showed glimpses of the original text but took the idea to another level and
created a different feel for the audience (Beja).
What Are Audience Expectations?
In addition, one could expect that the audience that read the text would essentially be
interested in seeing the film to see how closely the directors followed the text. However, the
audiences can be skewed when it comes what they want for the adaptations. For one side of the
audience, they could want something new from the directors. The audience could want a new
spice to be added to the film that has them more on the edge of their seat then say they would
have been in the text or book. In contrast, the other side of the audience may want the adaptation
to be a mirror of the text to where the film looks exactly like the text except on screen. The
results vary with how the adaptations come about. For example, films like The Taming of the
Shrew and Divergent played almost precisely to the text as well as The Hunger Games. These
still had major success when it comes to their box office sales. On the other hand, films such as
Carlitos Way and 10 Things I Hate About You have went way off of the course of the text and
still had some type of success. With this, we can look to the future to fully gain an understanding
of where film adaptations will end up.

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Future of Film Adaptations

The future of film adaptations dont seem to change dramatically from where they are.
Adaptations now become alive as popular books continue to sell and as the fandom for those
books increase. There is no official guide to what books are made into films or what makes for a
good film adaptation but one thing that will never change and may continue to be a problem in
the adaptation world is the idea that the director changes the authors original viewpoint or tone
of the text. Giving directors and scriptwriters the right to change the overall tone of a text allows
for problems that could cause the film to not only possibly be a hit or a flop, but may turn the
fandom off from film adaptations to the text if it is in a series (Cohen). Another problem with the
future of film adaptations is the idea that the cinema begins to believe that they are better at
storytelling because they have an audience that does not have to be proactive when it comes to
viewing television. The cinema as storytellers again can skew the original feel for the text,
therefore creating a brand new perspective for an audience that has never read the text and
almost pit the movie watchers against the book readers.
As film gains popularity among a younger and older crowd, it is easy to assume that the
cinema would attempt to assume the position of storytelling. With this comes the opportunity for
them to change the overall feel for the text as well as the original tone of the author. With this
turn of tone, comes the change of expectation from the audience as they are on either side of the
fence with one part of the audience wanting to see something different from the directors and the
other side of the audience wanting to see the text just visualized before them. Directors will
never be able to accommodate either crowd, so they must choose wisely. Film adaptations

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usually happen because a book or text is popular and the director attempts to visualize that book
for the consumer in an attempt to bring the book to life before their eyes.

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Robinson, Tosha. "What Makes a Good Book-to-film Adaptation?" Crosstalk The
A.V. Club. AV Club, 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
David Bordwell term, in The Classical Hollywood Cinema (Routledge and Kegan Paul: London,
1985), 13.
Beja, Morris. Film and Literature, New York: Longman, 1977.
Trottier, David. The Screenwriters Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting and
Selling your Script, 3/e. Los Angeles: Silman-James P, 1998.
"Book to Screen--the Theory." Book to Screen--the Theory. N.P., n.d. Web. 08 Dec.
"The Chicago School of Media Theory Theorizing Media since 2003." The Chicago
School of Media Theory RSS. N.P., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

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