Course Title: Film Adaptation

Part A: Course Overview

Program: C6045

Course Title: Film Adaptation

Portfolio: DSC

Nominal Hours: 68.0

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.

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


345T Media and Communication


Course Contact: Brendan Lee

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4368

Course Contact Email:

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.  An initial aim here is to provide students with criteria for the initial choice of source material for adaptation.  The professional screenwriter will also likely work from time to time on commissioned projects, where he or she is employed to adapt pre-existing material chosen by producers, networks or directors.

Screenwriting students are often inhibited in learning screenwriting craft by the initial problem of finding or ‘making up’ a story per se.  In Adaptation, the source material, once chosen, provides the story; ‘the story’ already exists. 

The task then is to define that story, to understand how it works (or not) on its own terms in its original form and then to translate that story into another medium, to tell it as a screen drama – as feature film, telemovie or mini-series.  Thus the emphasis in Adaptation is on screenwriting craft as students employ that craft to ‘translate’ story content from one medium to another.

Students gain a familiarity with a variety of scripts and script styles and approaches - Reconstruction, Re-imagining and Deconstruction – adapted from prose fiction, theatre plays and factual material.

Students will also gain an overview of the legal position and implications of adaptation from pre-existing material, including Copyright, Releases, Indemnity, Chain of Title, the Option Agreement, and the Assignment of Film Rights Agreement.

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Introduction to Screenwriting
Writing For Film

National Competency Codes and Titles

National Element Code & Title:

VBM393 Film Adaptation

Learning Outcomes

1    Evaluate pre-existing material and analyse and assess its suitability and potential for adaptation as screen drama. 

 2    Evaluate a variety of existing film adaptations in relation to their source material with regard to the craft employed in the adaptation.

 3    Demonstrate a knowledge & understanding of screenwriting craft as applied to adaptation in both workshops and in written assignments.

 4    A working knowledge of the legalities of adaptation re Copyright, Options, Film Rights, etc.

 5    Produce synopses and treatment of an adaptation project commensurate with client/industry specifications and standards.

(Some students may wish to continue to develop their adaptation project in other courses, such as Feature Film or Telemovie & Mini-Series.)

Overview of Assessment

Assessment includes:

One line, one paragraph and one page synopsis
Outline (3-8 pages)
Treatment (15-30 pages)

The form & function of these documents will be discussed in class.