Course Title: Adapt fiction and nonfiction work for the screen

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term2 2016

Course Code: COMM7325

Course Title: Adapt fiction and nonfiction work for the screen

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6125 - Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting

Course Contact: Program Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 99254815

Course Contact Email:

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Glenda Hambly

Nominal Hours: 70

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites

Required Prior Study

At RMIT, you are required to have completed all first year core courses before enrolling in this course.

Course Description

A large proportion of produced screen drama is adapted from pre-existing material: novels, short stories, stage plays and non-fiction books and articles. This course develops the skills and knowledge required to write an adaptation of a fiction or nonfiction work as a screenplay either as a commissioned script or as a speculative venture.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

ASWADT612A Adapt fiction and nonfiction work for the screen


1. Evaluate fiction or nonfiction work for suitability as an adaptation

Performance Criteria:

1.1 The strengths and weaknesses of story, characters and overall narrative structure are assessed
 1.2 Translations or editions together with any previous film versions are compared where necessary
 1.3 Potential markets are identified
 1.4 Copyright issues are identified


2. Determine the film story

Performance Criteria:


2.1 Essential story for adaptation and suitable genre are identified in the film story
 2.2 Premise and themes are identified in the film story
 2.3 Essential character arcs are described in the film story
 2.4 Story problems are noted
 2.5 Additional story development is mapped out
 2.6 Elements to be cut, elided or combined in the film script are included in the story development


3. Develop a treatment

Performance Criteria:


3.1 Story structure is developed or translated into a different medium
 3.2 Characters are developed in the treatment
 3.3 Problems of time and place are resolved in the treatment
 3.4 Story structure is designed in the treatment
 3.5 Effective subplots are developed where needed in the treatment
 3.6 Unnecessary subplots in the source material are eliminated

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to adapt pre-existing material for the screen

Details of Learning Activities

In this course, you learn through:

1. In-class activities:

  • lectures 
  • industry speakers 
  • teacher directed group activities/projects 
  • class exercises to review discussions/lectures 
  • peer teaching and class presentations 
  • group discussion 
  • class exercises to review discussions/lectures 
  • analysis/critique of students’ writings

2. Out-of-class activities:

  • independent project based work 
  • writing and reading assignments 
  • online and other research 
  • independent study

Teaching Schedule

Please note: While your teacher will cover all the material in this schedule, the weekly order is subject to change depending on class needs and availability of speakers and resources.



Class Content

Assessment due

Introduction to the course. Principles and problems in adaptation.

Case study: Adapting Fiction: Red Dog.

**Note: You must read this novella before attending the first class.

Discuss Assessment Task 1: Choosing your source material to adapt.




Adapting and updating a classic.

Case studies: From Emma to Clueless, Andrew Davies Othello, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

Class exercise: Contemporary adaptation of Mr and Mrs Dove



Copyright issues. Guest Speaker: Moira Moss

From stage play to screenplay. Show don’t tell.

Case study: The Boys



Assessment Task 1: One-page description of story and issues to be confronted in adapting the student’s chosen source material.

Discuss your adaptation choice with class and receive feedback.

Assessment Task 1 due



Continuation of above.

Discuss your adaptation choice with class and receive feedback.




Putting flesh on the bones of a short story. Converting inner states to observable behaviour.

Case study: Brokeback Mountain.

Preparation for class comparative analysis project, where you present a comparative analysis of a short story, novel, graphic novel or play and its screen adaptation.




Adapting non-fiction: Finding the drama.

Class exercise – Adapt two New Yorker essays: The Master and The Miner’s Daughter.




Adapting children’s literature for television and cinema
Guest Speaker: David Rapsey.

Case study: Go Girl: Know It All.




Presentation of comparative comparative analysis of a short story/play/novel/graphic novel and its screen adaptation.




Presentation of comparative comparative analysis of a short story/play/novel/graphic novel and its screen adaptation.




Adapting biography. Case study: Rabbit Proof Fence

Class discussion: Chopper, Hitchcock, Capote, Walk The Line, Social Network, Control.


Assessment Task 2 due


Semester break: 19–30 September




Assessment Task 2: One-page describing the structure of the student’s adaptation.

One-on-one feedback with your teacher.




Close textural analysis: Abbreviation. Turning prose into images and action.

Case study: Silence of the Lambs, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.




Adapting a novel to the big and small screen.

Case study: Puberty Blues (the 1979 novel, 1981 feature and 2012 mini-series).




Failed adaptations – Case study: Great Gatsby, Barney’s Version

The value of Voice Over – Me Earl and the Dying Girl, Taxi Driver

Assessment Task 3 due



Seminar: Reflection on the course. Summary of key principles of adaptation. Further work on problem areas.

Deadline for Assessment Task 3 – delivery of Outline.



Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
All the novels are best sellers and readily available in libraries or via second hand bookshops online.
Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey & Kathy Lette (copies available on reserve at the RMIT library, Cardigan St)

Short Stories:
Mr and Mrs Dove by Katerine Mansfield (available online)
Brokeback Mountain by E.Annie Proulx (available online)


Other Resources


Red Dog: An Australian Story by Louis de Bernieres. **All students must read this before attending the first class. It is a novella and a quick read.
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling(first five chapters only)
All the novels are bestsellers and readily available in libraries or via second hand bookshops online.

Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey & Kathy Lette(copies available on reserve at the RMIT library, Cardigan St)

Short Stories
Mr and Mrs Dove by Katherine Mansfield(available online)
Brokeback Mountain by E.Annie Proulx(available online)

New Yorker Essays
The Master (to be posted on Blackboard)
The Miner’s Daughter (to be posted on Blackboard)

Children’s Book
Go Girl Series: Know It All (a very short read. To be posted on Blackboard)

You also need to be familiar with William Shakespeare’s Othello.

Overview of Assessment

Assessment is on-going throughout the course. Assessment will incorporate a range of methods to assess performance and the application of knowledge and skills and will include: participation in class exercises, oral presentations and practical writing tasks.

Assessment Tasks

To demonstrate competency in this course you will need to complete the following assessment tasks to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment and where indicated, you will receive a grade.

The objective of this course is to provide you with the ability to identify original texts suitable for film adaptation, and with the skills necessary to formulate a conceptual approach to the adaptation. To this end, your assessment for this course will focus on an original text that you will choose to adapt. The progress of the adaptation will be assessed in three stages.

Assessment Task 1: Choosing your source material to adapt – due Week 4, 28 July

Write a half-page description of the story in the source material you are choosing to adapt and a half-page description of the problems you expect to confront in writing the adaptation. Also include a short, 200-word statement that identifies potential copyright issues, and appropriate action for dealing with them.

Assessment Task 2: The film story – due Week 11, 15 September

Write a two-page description of the structure of the story. This structural summary will define the overall shape of the story, e.g. its beginning, middle and end.

Assessment Task 3: Outline of the adaptation – due Week 15, 27 October (graded)

Next you will prepare a five-page prose document that will expand on the Assessment Task 2. This will be an outline of the script you intend to write. It will be a well-written and precise presentation document that can be shown to a producer.


Once you have demonstrated competency, your final assessment task will be graded (refer to Blackboard for grading rubric).

Assessment is to be emailed to your teacher digitally, as either a Word or RTF attachment. A digital, signed copy of the cover sheet must accompany this assessment. A copy of the cover sheet, along with instructions on how to set up and use a digital signature, are available on the program blackboard site. Your teacher might also request a hard copy.

This course is graded. Grades used in this course are as follows:

  • CHD Competent with High Distinction
  • CDI Competent with Distinction
  • CC Competent with Credit
  • CAG Competency achieved – graded
  • NYC Not Yet Competent
  • DNS Did not submit for assessment

Assessment Matrix

The assessment matrix demonstrates alignment of assessment tasks with the relevant unit of competency. These are available through the course contact in Program administration.

Other Information

Other Information

Please refer to the RMIT student page for extensive information about study support, assessment, extensions, appeals and a range of other matters:   

Submission of work
You must submit your work electronically to your teacher. Your teacher will specify whether this be by email, Google docs or Blackboard.

Cover Sheet for Submissions
You must complete and sign a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work. This should be submitted electronically with your assessment items.;ID=x3ddsmsrwa1hz   

Your learning experience will involve class-based teaching, discussion, demonstration and practical exercises. It is strongly advised that you attend all timetabled sessions. This will allow you to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring you the maximum opportunity to complete this course successfully.   

Assessment Feedback
You will receive spoken and written feedback on all your work.  Where relevant, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.;ID=qwxbqbg739rl1   

Academic Progress
Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy designed to assist you in achieving your learning potential.   

Adjustments to Assessment 
If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment satisfactorily by the due date, you can choose to apply for an adjustment to your assessment. RMIT University offers a range of adjustments designed to support you in your studies, including an extension of time to complete the assessment.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
RMIT University has a strict policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. Please refer to the website for more information on this policy.   

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning 
Credit transfer is the recognition of previously completed formal learning (an officially accredited qualification). Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an assessment process that allows you to demonstrate competence using the skills you have gained through experience in the workplace, voluntary work, informal or formal training or other life experiences.

Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) RCC applies only if you have previously successfully demonstrated competence in a unit of competency, and now require to be reassessed to ensure that the competence is being maintained.   

Please speak to your teacher if you wish to discuss applying for Credit Transfer, RPL, or RCC for the unit(s) of competency addressed in this course. 

Course Overview: Access Course Overview