From The Journal Of Screenwriting V3 Issue 1: Imitation and adaptation: A screenwriting pedagogy by Debbie Danielpour

Highlighting the articles in the past editions of the Journal of Screenwriting, of which I am the Book Reviews Editor. Hopefully these abstracts will entice you to did a little deeper into the history and future of screenwriting. — Rosanne


Imitation and adaptation: A screenwriting pedagogy by Debbie Danielpour

Because originality is highly valued in all the arts, it initially appears counterproductive to teach screenwriting students the craft by encouraging them to imitate established genres or to adapt literature. This pedagogical method, however, teaches students genre-specific narrative structure and conventions, avoids the paralysis that sometimes comes with ‘complete’ artistic freedom and ultimately allows students to discern the qualities of their unique ‘voice’. Countless contemporary American films are adaptations, sequels, parodies or mashups, yet many fear that learning via imitation will cause students to write derivative or cliché scripts. By exploring the history of emulation in art and the fact that the value placed on originality is relatively new, the pedagogic push for originality starts to appear short-sighted. Further analysis reveals how reaching for ‘highly original’ may produce innovation but few screenplays of critical value. Identifying an example of ‘original’ within the genre boundaries of the horror screenplay demonstrates how a screenwriter can break new ground while still writing within the conventions of the genre. Fiction to Film Adaptations also prove to be highly innovative and original works, ultimately refining the definition of creativity, innovation and originality in screenplay writing.


The Journal of Screenwriting is an international double-blind peer-reviewed journal that is published three times a year. The journal highlights current academic and professional thinking about the screenplay and intends to promote, stimulate and bring together current research and contemporary debates around the screenplay whilst encouraging groundbreaking research in an international arena. The journal is discursive, critical, rigorous and engages with issues in a dynamic and developing field, linking academic theory to screenwriting practice. 

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