Tuesday, along with the Producers Guild, the USC Scripter will announce its nominees. The Scripter, in theory, honors both the original literary work and the adaptation. Ideally, both move along in harmony as truly great original works. However, I have seen the Scripter award a script that is clearly more popular than the source material – Slumdog Millionaire is one. Million Dollar Baby another – the source material is good, but it isn’t the driving force behind the win. If the script is powerful enough, the source material doesn’t have to be. Likewise, just because the book is exceptional, doesn’t mean the committee will like the adaptation.¬† However, it helps to have a towering literary giant behind the film – No Country for Old Men, The Hours, Children of Men, etc.
This year, there are many more adapted scripts worthy of award attention than original scripts. Avatar, Hurt Locker, Inlourious Basterds, A Serious Man and Up are all original. But if you look at a list of the year’s films, you will discover that 80% of the really bad, bad movies are from original “concepts” turned into movies. Adaptations, though, already have their theme and context written out in book form and thus have mostly been tested already. All the adapters have to do, then, is not screw it up. The director, then, finds a way to interpret that story and make it his/her own.