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Types of Film and Video Adaptations

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/5/2010

Have you ever heard of a film adaptation? This is when a film is developed from an existing concept or set of materials. Learn about some of the different types of adaptations that are currently used in film and video projects.

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    The Most Common Type of Film

    Film adaptations have been occurring since the earliest days of silent films, and far outweigh original subjects in modern film production. Taking a story and transferring it from a medium, such as a novel, play, or book and then putting it on the screen can be a great way to image an already existing story or event. These adaptations come from a variety of sources in a variety of ways, each with its own approach and list of precedents.

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    Historical and Current Events

    One of the most common types of adaptations is one that is not conventionally thought of as an adaptation because it does not have a primary source text. Adapting historical or current events is often used as the basis for a film's environment and primary action, yet it is not taken directly from another medium. On the other hand, to do this you have to extract plot points from a number of periodicals and other research sources.

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    This is a similar principle to adapting people’s lives for a film. If you take the events and character of a person’s life, that is also an adaptation because you are recreating events that were experienced by someone, and you are essentially using their lives. This, like the historical or current event adaptation, usually does not require the writers or producers to acknowledge or pay royalties to anyone from which the story is being adapted.

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    Original Artistic Material

    When you most commonly think of adaptations you consider when a text, ranging from books to comic strips, are adapted. What happens is somebody, such as a producer or studio, purchases the film rights to that material. Then they try and make a film that either directly translates the elements of that text or uses that text as a building block for an original work. This is similar when another visual medium, such as a television program or videogame, is translated to the screen.

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    Remakes and Sequels

    Remakes have become very popular in recent years, and this is simply when a previous film is redone with a slightly different viewpoint. This is a way to re-imagine an older film but still market it to fans of the previous one. Studios have been pushing these recently because it is a way to maximize older film properties that they already own. Sequels are also in this vein and represent a way to create an entire franchise off of one original concept. This is still an adaptation because the original creative work is interpreted and built upon.

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    Original Work

    Even though adaptations are the most popular kind of film creation, no work is as striking as an original concept. When developing a large digital video project try to consider where your vision is and if you feel more inclined to develop an adaptation or an original script and video production.