Course Title: Adapt fiction and nonfiction work for the screen

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2013

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

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Ms. 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


3. Develop a treatment

Performance Criteria:

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


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:

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

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.

WeekClass Content                                                                           Assessment DueElements
1Introduction to the course. General discussion of the varieties of adaptation and the problems inherent in adapting various source materials. Key principles in screen adaptation.

Discuss students’ assessment project - source material for their adaptation.

2Class workshop. Adapt Mr and Mrs Dove as a contemporary short drama. The specific problem of adapting prose fiction. Retaining the author’s voice.

Progress report 1. Students pitch their choice of source material and its translation to screen drama – and receive feedback.

3Class workshop Mr and Mrs Dove cont.

Progress report 1 cont. Students pitch their choice of source material and its translation to screen drama – and receive feedback.

 Assessment 1 1
4Case studies: adapting a true story. Guests: Shaun Grant writer of Snowtown and Jane Hampson, currently adapting Tamil Tigress.

Seminar: Problems of adapting Non Fiction. Quiz Show and Bikie Wars and the source material. Truth versus entertainment.

5Seminar: Brokeback Mountain. Putting flesh on the bones of a short story. Converting inner states to observable (filmable) behaviour.

Preparation for class comparative analysis project.

6Students present comparative analysis of a short story, graphic novel, novel or play and its screen adaptation.  1, 2
7Students present comparative analysis of a short story, graphic novel, novel or play and its screen adaptation.  1, 2
 Semester Break: April 1 to April 5 (inclusive)  
8Guest Speaker: Moira Moss to discuss Copyright issues, option agreements, assignment of film rights agreements, releases, indemnity and chain of title.

Seminar: The Boys – from stage play to screenplay. Changing genre, show don’t tell.

9Craft Workshop: opening out a stage play. Imagining action in three dimensions.  2
10Progress report 2. Students report to class on their own adaptation. Assessment 2
 2, 3
11Progress report 2. Students report to class on their own adaptation. Assessment 2 (cont.) 2, 3
12Seminar: Failed adaptations. Great Gatsby and Barney’s Version. Separating prose style and content. Retaining the author’s voice. The use of Voice Over narration.  2, 3
13Seminar: adapting a novel to the big and small screen. Puberty Blues - the 1979 novel, 1981 feature and 2012 mini-series.   2, 3
14Class workshop: Go Girl series; Know It All adapting children’s literature into a television episode.   2, 3
15Two guest authors speak about their experience in dealing with screenwriters. Compromise and protecting the original vision.   2, 3
16Seminar: Reflection on the course. Summary of key principles of adaptation. Further work on problem areas.

Deadline for Assessment Project – delivery of students’ adapted Treatment

 Assessment Project due.1, 2, 3

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts


Other Resources

 You are advised to look at the course Blackboard site for ongoing updated information on relevant references.

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

Assessment tasks in this course are either formative or summative. Formative tasks provide the basis for ongoing feedback and can be considered essential building blocks for the more substantial summative assessment tasks. Summative assessment tasks in this unit are graded.

To demonstrate competency in this course you need to complete each one of the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard.

Formative Assessment

Assessment 1: Progress Report 1- Choosing your source material to adapt
An analysis of your choice of source material, including a brief synopsis of the (prose fiction, stage play, non-fiction work ) for adaptation. Your analysis should argue the suitability of the source material for screen adaptation but also set out the problems to be addressed in adapting it to another medium. To be submitted and presented on Week 3.

Assessment 2: Progress Report 2 - Determining the film story.
A series of “short documents’ including a one sentence, one paragraph and one page synopsis of the film story, a formulation of the film’s theme and dramatic question, the plot, identification of the principal characters and their story arcs. (Due Week 10/11)

Assessment 3: Comparative Analysis – Group Class Work
The students in the class will divide into groups of three to analyse ONE of the short stories/novels/play/graphic novel from a list provided by the teacher. (Date for group discussion to be determined with teacher)

Summative assessment

Assessment 4: Completed Treatment. Minimum 15 to maximum 20 pages.
A prose description of the screenplay for a feature or tele-feature. Due: Week 16.


For further details on the assessments and information on the grading system and criteria used, please refer to the course blackboard site.

Grades used in this course are as follows:

  • HD 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

The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that you attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency.

Feedback - You will receive verbal and written feedback by teacher on your work. This feedback also includes suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.
Student feedback at RMIT

Student Progress
Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential. Student progress policy

Cover Sheet for Submissions
You must complete a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work. This signed sheet acknowledges that you are aware of the plagiarism implications.

Special consideration Policy (Late Submission)
All assessment tasks are required to be completed to a satisfactory level. If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension. Special consideration, appeals and discipline

Course Overview: Access Course Overview