When it comes to literature, most people focus only on novels, short stories, poetry or dramatic plays. I adore all of those forms of literature, but many other forms exist: Essays, speeches, and in particular: the movie screenplay.
A movie’s screenplay is extremely important in the entertainment business. The Academy Awards have two categories for both types of screenplay writing: Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). Both types are difficult to write but for different reasons.
Writing an Adapted Screenplay is inherently filled with critics who love the original book/short story/play, etc. Some audience members get a picture in their own minds about how every detail should be played out, and they have a difficult time at letting those perceptions go in order to enjoy the movie. Many are ready and willing to pick apart every scene, character choice, and word of dialogue.
I am guilty of this myself. In my English classroom when we were reading a novel, 95% of the time I would not show a movie based on the novel because it would never live up to my kids’ expectations or my own. I own five different movie versions of, Call of the Wild, but I never showed ONE of them to my kids. The only videos I showed during that unit were two Discovery Channel documentaries about a pack of wolves in Idaho who my kids could choose to help sponsor (and each student who decided to contribute a dollar received their own Wolf Certificate…), because those films were more informative and relevant than all of the movie versions of the novel.
Point being, I never showed a movie version of something we read in class unless I thought it was worth my kids’ time and could add to my kids’ understanding of the work of literature.
Because of my high standards regarding what qualities a movie has to have in order for me to show it in my classroom, I always felt that any movie I showed in my classroom was absolutely justified. This became frustrating when some administrators would question my showing of a movie, because I knew I constantly weeded out the riff raff of cinematic trash. I also made sure I had some kind of assignment or project that went with watching a film or video. Sometimes students compared and contrasted the written piece to the piece on film. Most of the time, the films I showed my kids would give copious amounts of extra information regarding the topic of what we had read, so students were able to evaluate both the written work and the film to create a project that blended the information from both mediums.
Adapted Screenplays are a form of literature, and films of all kinds can enhance what kids are reading from the curriculum, as long as you choose your films with thoughtful discretion. Doing so should prove to be a ‘shield’ against any criticism anti-film/video colleagues may express.