Course Title: Adapt fiction and nonfiction work for the screen

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term2 2014

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


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.

WeekClass Content                                                                           Assessment DueElements
1Introduction to the course. Key principles and problems in adaptation.  
Case study: Adapting Fiction: The Hours.
Note:  Students are asked to read this novel before attending the first class.
Discuss 1st Written Assignment:  Choosing your source material to adapt.   
2Updating an adaptation. 
Case study: From Emma to Clueless.
Class exercise: Adapt Mr and Mrs Dove as a contemporary screenplay
3Adapting Non Fiction: Finding the drama.
Class exercise; Adapt two New Yorker essays: The Master and The Miner’s Daughter
4Students discuss their adaptation choice with class and receive feedback.Formative Assessment 1 2
5Continuation of above.
Students discuss their choice of adaptation with class and receive feedback

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
7Copyright issues. Guest speaker: Moira Moss.
From stage play to screenplay. Show don’t tell.
Case study: The Boyz
  1, 2

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

Formative Assessment 2
9Students present comparative analysis of a short story/play/graphic novel and its screen adaptation. Formative Assessment 2 2
10Adapting biography. Case study: Rabbit Proof Fence
Class Discussion: Chopper, Grace of Monaco, Hitchcock, Pollock, Capote, Walk the Line.

 2, 3
11Students discuss their structural choices with class and receive feedback
Formative Assessment 3 2, 3
12Close Textural Analysis: Abbreviation. Turning prose into images and action.
Case study: Silence of the Lambs, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
  2, 3
13Adapting children’s literature for cinema and television. Guest Speaker: David Rapsey.
Case study: Go Girl
Adapting children’s literature for cinema and television. Guest Speaker: David Rapsey.
Case study: Go Girl 
   2, 3
14Adapting a novel to the big and small screen.
Case study: Puberty Blues (the 1979 novel, 1981 feature and 2012 mini-series).
   2, 3
15Failed adaptations and the use of Voice Over.
Case study: Great Gatsby and Barney’s Version
   2, 3
16Seminar: Reflection on the course. Summary of key principles of adaptation. Further work on problem areas. 
Summative Assessment 1, 2, 3

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

The Hours by Michael Cunningham. All students are asked to read this before attending the first class.
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 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 on line)
Brokeback Mountain by E.Annie Proulx (available on line)


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 as essential building blocks for the more substantial summative assessment tasks. Summative assessment in this unit are graded.

To demonstrate competency, you will need to complete the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessments.

Formative assessment for this course comprises three exercises. In order to successfully complete this unit, you will need to complete these exercises to a satisfactory standard.

1. Written Assignment 1: Choosing your source material to adapt (Due Wednesday 30 July)
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.

2. Comparative Analysis (Due Wednesday 27 August 3 September)
Present a comparative analysis of a short story, play or graphic novel and its screen adaptation to the class.

3. Written Assignment 2: The film story (Due Wednesday 17 September).
A two-page description of the story’s structure. This structural summary will define the overall shape of the story; i.e. its beginning, middle and end.
A short statement identifying any copyright issues is to be included.
A brief indication of potential markets for the project.

There is one summative assessment in this course.

An Outline of the Adaptation (Due Wednesday 5 November)

Summary of Assessment
You will write a five-page prose outline of the adapted script you intend to write. This document will expand on the third formative assessment.

Details of Assessment
This will be a well-written and precise document that can be shown to a producer.
Your outline will clearly describe the shape of the story to be told.

Assessment Submission
Your outline is to be double-spaced.

This 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

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

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.

You will receive spoken and written feedback from teachers on your work. Where appropriate, this feedback will 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. Academic progress policy

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. You can apply in writing for up to a week’s extension from your course teacher. If you need a longer extension, you wil need to apply for special consideration. Special consideration, appeals and discipline

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
RMIT University has a strict policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. Academic Integrity and plagiarism

Work Placement
It is a requirement of this program that all students participate in authentic work related tasks. These may be either simulated or in a real work environment. On occasion, we are approached by industry and given opportunities for students to apply for short term placements. When these placement opportunities arise, students are required to negotiate the specific details with the relevant program coordinator or teacher. All industry placements require students, RMIT staff and host organisations to sign a written agreement prior to the commencement of the placement.

Course Overview: Access Course Overview