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The Screenplay Assignment

Due Friday March 4, 4:00 pm.

  • One copy in your section leader's mailbox at the Department of English (3600 Market St., 5th floor).
  • One copy submitted as an email attachment to Professor Gamer.

    This assignment is 25% of your overall grade for the course. But remember: you may revise whatever you hand in on March 4th for your portfolio. We will comment on your screenplays and provide you feedback geared toward revision. If you miss the deadline, you merely lose your chance at having your draft read. Put another way: you should hand in something on March 4th at all costs, and provide any instructions you wish regarding what kinds of feedback you require.

    The assignment consists of three parts:

      1) Rationale for Film (no more than 5 pages double-spaced)
      2) Your Treatment of a Scene (however long it need be)
      3) Your Analytical Essay/Lecture (4 or more pages double-spaced, or approximately 1250-2000 words).

    1) Rationale for Film
    Audience: Scholarly conference on Jane Austen and film adaptation

    This part of the assignment is half exposition and half argument. In five pages or less, you need to map out your vision of the film you're making AND your rationale for the choices you wish to make. In other words, the most important aspect of this part of the assignment (and of the third part) is that you provide an argued rationale for why you are making the choices you are. While we want you to consider some of the practical aspects of film-making -- from budget and setting (time and place), to plot and characters, the look and style of the film, target audience, casting, director, costumes, and score -- we want you especially to think of your choices as interpretive, i.e., as acts of interpreting the Austen novel you're adapting.

    It's worth, therefore, refering to particular scenes in the novel and explaining precisely why you're choosing to represent them in the ways that you are. By all means do close readings of particular scenes in your source novel. How do your choices add up to a reading of that novel as a whole? Use this portion of the assignment to set up your readers for your screenplay. Since your screenplay will only constitute a small segment of the film, teach us how to see that segment as part of a larger whole. You can make your adaptation as faithful or as free as you wish. You can set your movie in England in the Regency, in Philadelphia, or in outer space. But make sure you have an interpretive rationale and overall vision for why you're doing what you're doing -- that through your adaptations you're arguing something about your source text.

    2) Your Treatment of a Scene
    Audience: everyone involved in the actual making of the film, as well as the conference attendees.

    Choose a scene from one of the Austen novels and write a full cinematic version of it. In addition to dialogue, you should indicate some or all of the following: camera angles and movement; time and place (exterior/interior); description of set; lighting; close-ups, medium and long shots; cutting and editing; movement, expressions, and gestures of characters; flashbacks; costumes; special effects; animation; voiceovers; music and sound. Use the Emma Thompson and Patricia Rozema screenplays as guides to your own writing.

    3) Your Analytical Essay/Lecture
    Audience: Scholarly conference on Jane Austen and film adaptation

    For this final part of the assignment you should imagine yourself as the keynote speaker for a conference entitled "Jane Austen and Film Adaptation." You have been chosen as a featured speaker because you have just finished making a new Austen adaptation that has not yet been released. As part of your lecture, you begin by showing as a kind of sneak preview a clip of your finished film: a clip of the scene you have developed in Part 2 of this assignment. In addition, you have provided your audience in advance with a copies of your Film Rationale and of your treatment/screenplay of this particular scene (i.e., parts 1 and 2 of this assignment). So, you should imagine your audience to be Austen scholars interested in Film Adaptation who have read your Treatment of the Scene and have now just finished watching the film-version of that scene.

    At the very least, then, your essay/lecture must analyze and reflect on the choices you have made in adapting the scene, making use of your own screenplay and passages from the novel itself as evidence. Please quote freely from the text of your source novel; be sure, when you do quote, to spend time after the quotation going through the passage and teaching your audience members how they should read it. Explain your reasons for any departures, omissions, or additions that you feel are important to your interpretation. Explain, as well, any key moments where you have tried to stay as close to the text as possible. Refer to Austen's text to show how your adaptation relates to or transforms it. What new insights or angles on the novel does your screenplay provide? How and why is this scene at once central to, and exemplary of, your overall interpretation of the novel? More important, make a developing argument about how these choices constitute a coherent interpretation of that scene and of the book as a whole. In other words, your essay's argument should have more than one step or point, and your points should build on one another, so that each paragraph arises logically out of the one preceding it.