We initiated a new project this fall: ADAPTATION. Our goal with this project was to provide students with a background in understanding the artistic process of identifying and adapting a work of fiction for the screen.
The work actually began with our summer assignment: reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and viewing part of the Hulu TV series. Once school started, we began looking at several short stories, and famous films that have been adapted from them. We read the original short story “The Birds” by Daphne Du Maurier, analyzing both the story and the choices that Alfred Hitchcock made in his famous film. We read “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and students worked in groups adapting that story to a high school setting. And as our final preparation, we read the Japanese short story “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and watched scenes from Akira Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon”. Student groups were assigned sections of the short story, each describes an event from a different character’s point of view, and they learned and practiced film making pre-production skills such as creating a Look Book, a screenplay, and a shot plan.
Finally, it was time to begin the project itself. Students were given the instruction that “Your adaptation must remain true to the intent of the original work.” In other words, we encouraged them to change the setting, the characters, the genre–whatever creative avenue they wanted was fine–so long as the message and theme of the piece were intact. Finally products needed to be essentially “PG-13” and appropriate for family viewing in the Hayse Theatre. In the end, their work amazed us. They found themselves having to thoughtfully navigate difficult issues of updating material, reinventing situations, and marshaling sets, locations, costumes, props, actors, equipment and time.
The films we ended up with represent some of the best film making we have ever seen our students do. The stories that form the basis of their work range from humorous satire, to dark gothic horror. All are classic short stories considered part of the literary canon. They are:
- Cathedral, Raymond Carver
- A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner
- All Summer in a Day, Ray Bradbury
- The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- A & P, John Updike
- A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce
- The Lesson, Toni Cade Bambada
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County, Mark Twain
- The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe
- The Ransom of Red Chief, O. Henry
As films become ready for posting, you can find them linked here.