Adapting one piece of art from one thing into another is a dying craft because too many people believe they are capable of making that transition seamless and artistically irrevocable when they are really only able to serve their own selfish aesthetic.

The key to a successful and artful adaptation is to make yourself a slave to the master work.  You do not become the work — the adapter must always remain an outsider — but you take your instruction and your mandate from the originating ideal.

Few people are willing to give up their will and focus to something that must be greater than them and that is where most adaptations fail:  The will of the adapter overwhelms the intent of the original creator.

The cautious and caring adapter must also be wary of simple regurgitation where nothing changes and everything remains the same except the context of the original framing.

When to change and when to remain the same is the largest task that fails most adaptations.

We become tricked by the familiar and we then fail in our job to honor the original intention by creating change that is unbelievable and revocable.

The Artful Adaptation is about re-creating and not creation; it is about shared honor, not independent overwhelming; it is about mesmerizing instead of trickery.


  1. David,
    Could you list a few of what you consider to be successful adaptations and a few bad ones?

  2. Gordon —
    It’s easier to list the failures than the successes because 99.99% of all adaptations are failures.
    Jean Anouilh’s Antigone is a sublime adaption from the Sophocles original.
    Orson Welles’s adaptation of William Randolph Hearst’s life into Citizen Kane was amazing.
    Alvin Sargent’s adaption of Ordinary People from book to screenplay was tender and monumental.

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