When we mention film adaptation, we are simply talking about the transfer of a body of work or story, idea, play, blog post, video game, non-fiction (including journalism), autobiographical works, comic books, scriptures, plays, radio programs, historical sources and even other films, folk storybook, in whole or in part, to a feature film.

From the above, film adaptation is not limited to books (literary and non-literary), it includes remakes of films, historical sources, news, articles. Literature, particularly the prose genre (novels) happens to be the common source of adaptation.

Games and other media also enjoy Hollywood story adaptations, but adaptations of novels are greater and better than ever today.

Although film adaptations have often been considered a type of derivative work, film adaptation has been conceptualized recently by academic scholars such as Robert Stam as a dialogic process.

In copyright law, a derivative work is an expressive creation that includes major copyrightable elements of an original, previously created first work (the underlying work). The derivative work becomes a second, separate work independent in form from the first. The transformation, modification or adaptation of the work must be substantial and bear its author’s personality sufficiently to be original and thus protected by copyright.

In the beginning we used to hear angry fan feedbacks like “The book is better than the movie”, because in their quest to work within budget and the practice of “Show and not tell”, Hollywood had trimmed locations to save money, cut characters to shave time, and often misunderstood the emotional core of the source material.

But with the recent creation of works like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Game of Thrones, the industry seem to have gotten the hang of it, delving into the world of detailed book adaptation, with all the details in world building, character development and so on.

Adapted films are more popular and successful than original screenplays today because the book or author already have a following that equals a guaranteed audience which ensures that it will not “flop” at the box-office.

This can be because film studios in Hollywood believe that adaptations are less risky, as they are using already created world and a ready audience, instead of the studio building a story and world from scratch.

You will repeatedly hear “Film it as it is”, to proves there is now a place in television for complicated, massive stories, and that adaptations don’t necessarily need to be dumbed down or simplified to fit the screen.

Part of the kudos for this development goes to the streaming platforms that have taken us from the episodic to serialized stories era, pulling the viewers into the world it builds. And this definitely is a great way to bring compelling content to the audience.

The so-called IP pipeline, through which stories flow from the authors’ laptop screens to yours, is just as vital to the culture economy as oil pipelines are to our fossil-fueled lives.

Books have provided essential raw material (a.k.a. intellectual property) for Hollywood since its founding, but the streaming-driven proliferation of content has led to an explosion of book-to-screen deals. It’s one of the few sectors of the business that has actually accelerated during the pandemic.

And the authors, with their publishers, are selling more books and smiling to the bank.

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