Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Why Do Many Small Nations 'Specialize' in Film Adaptations?

It has been estimated that an overwhelming percentage of Welsh films and television dramas are intentionally based upon other literary sources.

This overwhelming dependence upon literary adaptation is primarily from important Welsh literary or cultural sources. This suggests an attempt to ‘recall and recollect’ and to re-‘write the nation’, after a period of suppressed or neglected representations of Welsh-ness.

While Dave Berry’s book and other studies have attributed this Welsh dependence upon literary adaptation as ‘laziness’ (Berry 1994: 234), we see it as being related to issues of post-colonial ‘re-telling’ of a national story, or more related to the economics of production.

For example, Stephen Bayly directed Joni Jones (1982) as a well-received television series for S4C, an adaptation based upon the well-known children’s stories by R. Garallt Jones entitled Gwared y Gwirion or ‘Redemption of the Innocents’.

It is often the case in Wales, that directors will create a series which is actually suited to be converted into a feature film at a later date, should the funding and political will be present to effect the re-formatting.

Additionally, one of Wales's most famous sons is Andrew Davies, who is known around the world as the 'Prince of Adaptation'.

Andrew Wynford Davies (born September 20, 1936 in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, Wales) is a British screenwriter.

He is the creator of the children's Marmalade Atkins television series and A Very Peculiar Practice, and is also well known for his adaptations of classic works of literature, including the 1995 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and the 1998 adaptation of Vanity Fair.

Literary and stage adaptations have added clout with film production investors, who assume that a successful novel or stage play will naturally make a successful film.

Some screenwriters have been known to 'invent' a novel AFTER writing a film script, for purposes of marketing the film, and for raising venture capital.

In small nations, broadcasting drama department Commissioning Editors often opt for an adaptation. This satisfies several remits: nationalistic and cultural agendas are fulfilled, while it's assumed that an established audience exists for the new film or TV series.

My favorite book on film and literature in general is Tom Corrigan's 'Film & Literature' (1999, Prentic Hall Inc / Simon & Schuster).

Here's a pleasant Youtube tribute to Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice:

'Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature' (Paperback) by John Desmond (Author), Peter Hawkes (Author) is concise and readable new text for courses in Film Adaptation or Film and Literature introduces students to the art of adapting works of literature for film.

'Adaptation' describes the interwoven histories of literature and film, presents key analytical approaches to adaptation, and provides an in-depth overview of adaptations of novels, short stories, plays, nonfiction, and animation.

The book concludes with an analysis of why adaptations sometimes fail.


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© 2007 Mark Leslie Woods

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