Abstract This article addresses how film producers approach film adaptations through various strategies, with its primary focus resting on the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of adaptation, and the possible consequences on the ‘what’ and ‘how’. The study combines production studies with adaptation studies. It thus takes the ‘adaptation industry’ as its interest, where the film industry, rather than the book industry, is surveyed. More specifically, it is the film producer who is placed at the centre of this study. The article aims to demonstrate that the often rejected notion of fidelity is in fact essential to understanding how film producers approach film adaptations. The analysis draws upon in-depth interviews with six key film producers in Norway. There is an established understanding that the conditions a cultural industry operates under—its regulations, financial models, and modes of distribution, as well as how its enterprises are organized—has consequences for the kinds of artifacts produced and how each of these reaches its audience. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, radical changes in film policy and state subsidy systems, intended to stimulate a more economically viable and sustainable environment for film production, have transformed the film sector in the Scandinavian countries as well as in the United Kingdom and other European countries. These changes have seen film treated as part of the cultural industries, rather than as an arena for artistic endeavor. Under a recent shift in film policy in Norway, the film producer has been explicitly promoted as the principal agent within film production. State funding schemes, too, are now aimed at the producer, as opposed to the director or screenwriter—a move away from the previous system, in which a director or screenwriter who had secured film funding would approach a producer when developing a new film project. Today, the responsibility for development sits with the producer, who hires screenwriters and directors. A film company’s production catalogue is now therefore also built on decisions made by the producer (in addition to being shaped by the decisions of funding agencies). In the years following the introduction of the new film policy, government grants for film production in Norway have grown substantially, and the annual number of releases has more than doubled. Dozens of new production companies have been established, and individual film projects have attracted independent investors and capital from other players in the cultural industries, and audiences have been drawn back to the cinemas by popular domestic genre films, which now routinely occupy a market share above 20%. Yet in spite of all these other developments, the inclination to make films based on books has not changed. The practice of adapting books to film still represents a substantial part of film production in Norway: Over past several decades, approximately 40% of Norwegian fiction films made for cinema are based on literary sources. Despite annual fluctuations, this proportion is fairly consistent from year to year. This general trend is in line with practice in a number of other western countries.1 Adaptations remain one of the constant factors in film production. However, it is still relevant to ask: What kinds of books are adapted and what are these films recognized by? And not the least: How come these books were selected in the first place? One might suspect that film adaptations—the preference for adapting certain books over others, and with that, the strategic rationale governing a particular film adaptation—have been affected by the changes in film production infrastructure. In other words, that adaptations remain a constant within film production does not—of course—necessarily mean that adapted films are not impacted by the industry sea change. Yet it is also worth considering that the notion of what a film adaptation ought to be is in fact quite fixed. During the same period as the recent transformation of the film industry in a number of European countries, the field of adaptation studies itself has been completely reinvigorated. We are now witnessing a proliferation of books, anthologies, and journals dedicated to the subject. This attention to the field stands in contrast to scholarly disinterest in adaptation studies in 1990s, when neither film studies nor literature and language studies seemed to care much for topics related to adaptation. In its new iteration, adaptation studies have advocated a break from earlier approaches, in particular from the notion of fidelity, and instead favour a move towards contextual/transtextual approaches. In their introduction to Literature on Screen, Cartmell and Whelehan address the importance of expanding the scope of adaptation studies, and point to several somewhat neglected areas—among them, the film and television industries themselves, which the authors note are a ‘vital dimension of literature on screen studies’ (4). Ten years later, this area remains relatively absent from adaptation studies. A focus on the production side of adaptation will help shed light on why certain books are chosen for adaptation and not others, the functions adaptations fulfil from a producer’s standpoint, and what governs the thinking behind an adaptation. This article will combine perspectives from adaptation studies and production studies, and thus move the focus of critical conversation about fidelity from the director and the author to the film producer. To some extent, this represents a shift from an aesthetic to a pragmatic understanding of fidelity. Bringing these two fields of study together—with a particular focus on adaptation at six Norwegian film companies—will shed new light on the ideas and processes that govern the adaptation of novels into films. One of the insights that production studies might bring to adaptation studies is that the idea of fidelity is still regarded as highly germane. As will be argued in the conclusion, fidelity in this context encompasses more than making aesthetic evaluations; it also entails notions about what an adaptation should look like in terms of content and form. The film industry’s consistent turn to literature as source material has typically been approached in two ways. Traditionally, adaptation studies has emphasized artistic considerations, where a particular set of qualities held by the source text is regarded as interesting, attractive, and/or challenging. Literature on film and media management, on the other hand, argues that literary adaptation reduces financial and creative risks—money is saved because the story has already been developed, and tested and tried with an audience. An approach centred in production studies will enable us to bring in other considerations. Although not a coherent field, production studies takes an interest in the processes that go into the development, production, and distribution of film and television programs, and the ways in which production companies are organized, as well as the modes of conduct that shape decision making (Lotz, Making Media Work). In the words of Banks, ‘production studies scholarship explores the process of production and the intricate webs of collaboration that are far more complex than those suggested by the terms “media maker” or “media making”’ (118). An industry adaptation approach will thus not only take an interest in the film producer, but also look at how the producer engages with other actors within the field, such as the screenwriter and the director, the distributors, the literary agents, the funding bodies that support the various projects, as well as their responses to policy systems. Lotz, Making Media Work, has pinpointed the study of creative media managers as particularly helpful if we are to understand how such individuals play a meaningful role in the production of creative goods. The position adaptations hold within the film industry can be organized according to the various levels identified by Lotz, Production Studies, ranging from political contexts to individual agents. At a macro level, we might regard adaptations as a response to ideas about national heritage and cultural identity, as these are expressed, for example in policy papers. Micro-level analysis, on the other hand, is narrowly focused, paying attention to particular organizations, individual agents, and individual productions. A micro-level study of adaptations engages questions about how production companies develop business relationships, their production strategies, and the role of serendipity in generating new project ideas. With its small- and medium-sized production companies, as well as a willingness among industry players at all levels to share information, the Norwegian film industry serves as a rewarding area for conducting production studies.2 A NEW TURN IN ADAPTATION STUDIES Through the end of the millennium, the general trend was to regard adaptation studies as among the less interesting topics within film studies—a fate shared with its sister discipline narratology. Although both disciplines (individually and in combination) held a central position when film studies gained footing within US academia in the early 1980s, within a decade they came to be seen as outdated carryovers and were criticized for being too invested in formal and structural analysis (Whelehan). Critics charged both disciplines with producing inward-looking theories that resulted in self-contained analysis and a preoccupation with critical terms. Some of this critique is, arguably, exaggerated. Text-oriented considerations are aimed at teasing out various stylistic and narrative strategies at play within literature and film, and analysis from this perspective has led to some very insightful and important observations about the aesthetic traditions and devices governing literature and cinema. Much can be learned about the nature of literature and film by probing ‘what novels can do that films can’t and vice versa’, as Chatman has argued. Comparing novels and films in which the story itself remains fairly consistent makes it possible to recognize the different conditions underlying literature and film. Some of these differences have to do with the inherent qualities of the two media, while other differences relate to issues of production and distribution. Leitch has identified several fallacies that a compare-and-contrast method can evoke. Still, this method is useful for assessing differences and nuances between forms of storytelling, whether these differences are based on conventions or media format. There is no reason to leave this text-oriented tradition behind when expanding the field of study. In their new incarnations, both adaptation studies and narratology pay more attention to context, by widening their engagement with other fields and new theoretical concepts. With proponents of ‘revisionist adaptation studies’ (DeBona 2), also described as ‘new wave’ (Murray, The Adaptation Industry 9), calling for new approaches and perspectives, there is a need for a broader scope to adaptation studies—for the field to open up and recognize how particular texts circulate across different media platforms and in different contexts; to see how franchise products, of which the book is only one of many, manifest themselves within popular culture; to look into how adapted films are advertised and reviewed, and the effect this in turn will have on the understanding of the source text; and to take into account the interrelated commercial and industrial aspects of film production and publishing. Two central strands can be identified within the revisionist interest in adaptation. On one side, there is a turn away from the text-to-text approach to an engagement with the notion of a dynamic exchange of multiple texts, as outlined by Bakhtin, Barthes, Kristeva, and Genette. Various notions of intertextuality, appropriation, remediation, trans- and intermediality, and other terms that relate to what Andrew has characterized as ‘the horizontal network of neighboring texts’ (28), are applied to dissect the textual interchange in which works of adaptation partake. Such analysis might look at how a popular literary character is remoulded as it circulates (and is recycled) within multiple strands of popular culture. Just as the myth of Batman or Jesse James is reinvented for every film, so too are Darcy, Anna Karenina, Lisbeth Salander, Othello, and other iconic figures shaped and reshaped by each film’s version of their story, by actors’ star personae, and by magazine cover stories and fan blogs as much as they are by the source text. On the other side, there is the strand that focuses on what Murray (“Materializing Adaptation Theory”) has called a ‘materializing adaptation theory’. This theoretical approach demands a move away from formalist aesthetic evaluations in favour of an engagement with theories of cultural production. Research engaging this approach addresses topics such as the symbiosis between certain bestselling authors and the film industry (e.g. John Grisham), the work of literary agents (who negotiate rights), the effect a movie has on the sales figures of the source book (tie-ins), and the cultural prestige that comes with adapting a prize-winning novel (e.g. The English Patient). Such studies of the ‘contemporary literary adaptation ecosystem’ (7) seem to be positioned in the intersection between media studies and literary criticism, and have found less footing among film scholars. In this line of work, the industry studied tends (so far) to be that of literature, not film production. While production studies has become a significant field within film and television departments, little scholarly attention has been paid to how and why certain books (and not others) are chosen for adaptation, the process of making a film adaptation, or the ancillary objectives a film adaptation might accomplish. Industry adaptation studies offer a relevant approach to cover that gap. This following section of this article will sketch out some of the methodological considerations relevant to industry adaptation studies, before moving on to a case study of the Norwegian film industry. It takes up some of the questions raised by the second strand of revisionist adaptation studies, as it deals with the engagement of film producers in the adaptation industry. The discussion to follow is underpinned by the idea that the film producer is the main mover within the film industry, a point neglected in much of film theory (Spicer et al.). As will become evident, the question of fidelity remains an important matter in adaptation practice. In fact, fidelity might even be regarded as a key factor in understanding why certain books are selected for adaptation. A PRODUCER-ORIENTED APPROACH TO ADAPTATIONS The difference in scope and aim between a text-centred approach and a producer-oriented approach to adaptations can be illustrated by Altman’s discussion of how notions of genres come to be. Altman illustrates the theoretical complexities at play in establishing and recognizing a film genre by setting up two contrasting models of analysis, a ‘critic’s game’ and a ‘producer’s game’. Altman’s point is that the critic’s and the producer’s idea of how a genre is constituted differ completely, because each has a separate horizon of orientation—one looks at results from the past and the other attempts to forecast the future. That is, the critic searches for certain recognizable traits in a list of existing films, while the producer tries to identify and anticipate what elements an audience will respond positively to. Although genre criticism has little in common with adaptation studies, the games proposed by Altman might still be illuminating when performed for adaptations.3 The critic’s game runs something like this: (1) Define the merits of the source text with respect to style, theme, conflicts, characters, setting, and so forth. (2) Establish through textual analysis the extent to which these merits are realized in the film version, and draw attention to noticeable alterations. (3) Make assessment about the achievements of the film versus the source text, such as narrative efficiency, thematic rendering, or historical depiction. (4) Look into similar adaptations and make claims about what kind of source texts will either result in artistically challenging films or commercially successful films, or will run the risk of being a failure at both. What is striking in so many analyses of this kind is the penchant for turning the film director into the equivalent of an author-figure. Claims made about particular aesthetic traits, such as style or narrative devices, and the form and function of these traits, are explained as considerations made by the film director in question. Anchoring the aesthetic choices to a director establishes the artistic agency at play, and becomes a way of arguing that the adapted film could at certain points have taken other turns and that we can imagine directors deliberating over various options (say, how to depict a character’s moral dilemma, or the staging of a setting). It should be stressed that some very valuable insights about film narratology can transpire from a comparative approach, such as questions of how we make meanings about events when they are told (in writing) and when they are shown (by moving images). Media essence is still central to how stories are communicated and perceived. But with respect to artistic agency and intentionality, the manifest aesthetic trait—that is what we see on the screen—could just as well have emerged accidentally or spontaneously during the artistic process, or other people in the process could be responsible, such as the screenwriter, the film editor, the cinematographer, the actor, or the producer. The producer’s game, in turn, has entirely different rules. While the critic’s game by nature consists of making theoretical assessments drawn from a list of existing films, the producer’s game is concerned with the outcome of future film productions, and runs something like this: (1) Study the art section or trade magazines for interviews, book reviews, and sales charts; attend public readings at libraries and book festivals; and arrange meetings with editors and literary agents. (2) Find a title that can appeal to a target audience at the movies (broad or niche) and acquire the rights. (3) Estimate production costs and requirements. (4) Hire a screenwriter and a director with the desired artistic qualities to develop the production. (5) Start marketing the film, emphasizing its most potent selling points—which may not always be the source book or its author. (6) For the next film, start all over again and repeat each step. This formula is by no means an extensive depiction of the process that goes into a film production, and not every film adaptation follows steps (1) to (6) of the producer’s game (although quite a few do). Nonetheless, the formula serves to illustrate that the producer is usually not concerned with making aesthetic evaluations based on thorough textual analysis and an artistic vision. In other words, to translate a novel’s characteristics into film is not a producer’s primary concern, at least not initially. Where adaptation studies is concerned, the key interest in playing the producer’s game is to discuss how the film producer engages with the literary field—as both reader and media manager—and to look at the processes and strategies that are at play when a book is optioned and turned into a feature film. We might then learn why film producers are attracted to certain books. Naremore has famously called for bringing sociology to adaptation studies, to more closely examine, among other things, the latter’s commercial apparatus. Such an approach would move adaptation studies away from its strictly textual terrain and toward the centre of media studies. Murray’s response (The Adaptation Industry) to this call deals with what she considers the material phenomenon of the adaptation industry, and the cultural production involved therein. What tends to be overlooked, according to Murray, is an examination of the how and the why from the perspectives of those responsible for making adaptations happen—authors, agents, publishers, editors, book-prize committees, screenwriters, directors, and producers. Her chapter on the close interplay and cross-fertilization between the institution of literary prizes (the Booker Prize in particular) and the film industry is impressively rich. Here, she demonstrates how important the prestige of the prize is for the film and how, in return, the film adaptation secures the long tail of the book. This might sound self-evident, but Murray demonstrates how the key players involved—prize committee members, literary agents, and film distributors—operate strategically to secure this profitable loop. Murray’s penetrating investigation of the different players and arenas of the adaptation industry ends with a somewhat cursory depiction of the role of the producer. Her focus is on how books are paired up with potential film industry decision-makers, and the mutual benefits that might transpire from this in terms of audience engagement, sales figures, and prestige. However, Murray’s study does not address why it might be desirable to adapt a particular book in the first place. Adaptation studies would benefit from a closer consideration of the perspectives informing the decision-making processes behind film adaptations as, too often, the producer’s point of view is left out.4 With the recent reinvigoration of adaptation studies, it is time to consider more closely producers’ varying strategies toward adaptation. Questions to consider include: Why do film producers regard adaptations as advantageous? How do producers orient themselves within the literary field? Why is a specific book chosen for adaptation, and who initiates the selection process? Are there certain sought-after qualities the book should possess? What are the merits the producer envisions for the adapted film? At what point in the development process do a director and a screenwriter become involved? Does the producer have other strategic interests in mind beyond producing the film? Is it easier to secure funding when the film in question is based on a well-known book? This is, of course, just a sampling of questions pertinent to a producer-oriented approach to adaptation studies. THE PRODUCERS AND THEIR MATERIAL: A NORWEGIAN CASE STUDY A producer-oriented approach underpins a recent study of contemporary Norwegian film production that aims to uncover how the film producer engages with the literary field (Engelstad and Moseng). The material consists of in-depth interviews with producers from six different production companies. Extracts from these interviews will be used in the discussion about fidelity to follow. The producers selected represent companies that have long histories in the film business, yet each differs in orientation within the film market. Among the six, Filmkameratene is the most strictly commercially oriented, while Motlys is recognized an as art house-oriented production company. The four others (Paradox, Maipo, Friland, and 4 ½) in different ways occupy intermediate positions with respect to these two poles. It should be added that all production companies in Norway are either medium-scale or small-scale in size and operate as independents (they are not owned by large media enterprises), as is the case with most other European production companies. In 1990s, Norwegian adaptations were dominated by literary classics, in particular the work of Nobel laureates Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset, resulting in a number of historical dramas with an epic scope. These films clearly fall under the umbrella of ‘heritage film’, inspired by the tremendous success of Merchant Ivory productions as well as the Danish Pelle the Conquer (Bille August, 1987). However, of the more than fifty film adaptations by Norwegian companies over the past fifteen years, novels by contemporary authors well-known among a broad reading public dominate the list. Although their literary achievements differ with respect to style and merits, most of them (although not all) are what Barthes calls readerly texts; that is, they belong to a storytelling tradition that prefers clearly focused plots and somewhat enigmatic characters. Such texts present us with a recognizable world, and the reader accepts that whatever meaning is attached to the story-world is conceived as fixed and pre-given. Most of the literary texts are also characterized by a straightforward style of writing. The kinds of literature most of these novels represent are usually seen as easily adaptable to the film medium, where the adaptation process merely consists of transposing characters, events, and setting from one medium to another. These elements of the narrative form the backbone of the story and, as McFarlane has argued, preserving them is a given in any faithful adaptation. It is, of course, never that easy—not every novel can be a blueprint for a film script. Adaptation also inevitably demands considerable changes, as well as choices with respect to style and narrative scope. Still, most of the literary texts apply a kind of zero-degree style of writing—that is straightforward and with little ornamentation—that is easily transposed to a conventional style of classical storytelling for film. In addition, the cultural item—the story with all of its flavour—can be seen as pre-sold, as it is already well known to some of the anticipated audience. Of the novels and short stories adapted in Norway in recent years, some very few can be identified with a modernist tradition of aesthetically or thematically challenging literature, or what Barthes calls writerly texts. This is a kind of text that tends to draw attention to how it is written, that uses a specific language and self-conscious commentary, demanding the reader work things out and provide meaning. Mostly, the films adapted from these artistically ambitious texts undergo what Stam has called aesthetic mainstreaming: ‘In the name of mass-audience legibility, the novel is “cleansed” of moral ambiguity, narrative interruption, and reflexive mediation’ (43).5 A notable Norwegian example is Nikolaj Frobenius’ novel Theory and Practice (2004), with a film version directed by Jens Lien. Some elements of the story depart considerably from the novel, and the novel’s experimental style—it is equipped with semi-autobiographical footnotes and photos of the author—is not carried over to the film. Instead sequences with a humorous touch are added, and the adaptation is given the title Sons of Norway (2004). However, it was Frobenius himself, in collaboration with Lien, who initiated the project and developed the screenplay. Broadly speaking, it may seem that, for the film producer, the process of optioning novels is guided by risk avoidance, and that some kind of surefire formula for making adaptations can be applied. Producers find adaptations desirable, this line of thinking goes, because, as von Rimscha has pointed out, using literary sources minimizes the time-consuming activity of developing new story ideas, which reduces the creative as well as financial risks. While it might be true that the considered risks are lower than with original scripts, actual costs do not seem to decrease. The average cost of an adaptation in Norway is no less than that of a film with an original script, both with respect to development and production. This suggests that financial considerations alone cannot explain the producers’ interest in adaptations. When producers are asked to describe their business strategies and priorities with respect to adaptations, their explanations indicate several determining factors. In referring to specific projects in development, the producers explained their choices in terms of the merits of an individual book. They would remark, for example, that ‘the audience is ready’ for a particular story (Filmkameratene); or ‘it is about time’ a book was brought to the screen (4 1/2); or that ‘we lack’ a particular kind of film today (Paradox). And while they might admit that a well-known name was usually important in their decision to pick one book over another—it made it less strenuous to secure funding—this hardly ever seemed to be the decisive factor that guided the choices they ultimately made. The producers did not set out in search of bestsellers to adapt. Good sales numbers, good reviews, and a match with our own taste; that is the ideal combination. However, each project has a unique prehistory that has less to do with the actual novel than with actual people and business opportunities. What the equation is missing, then, is that we need directors and screenwriters who are willing to do adaptations. Someone has to be interested in doing the projects. (Friland) It is easy to be deceived by the fact that a book has sold in bucket loads. It might give a false sense of security for those who believe that optioning a book appears like a safe bet, and it might work to the contrary if everyone has read the book and nobody is interested in the film. It might happen, and it has happened. So I believe it is a false sense of security. (Motlys) The interviews also confirmed that producers largely believed there was a strong business case for adapting novels. Only a handful of the dozens of developed manuscripts production companies received each year—whether written on spec by newcomers, or by established screenwriters or directors—had the qualities producers desired. This lack of interesting original material led producers to look elsewhere for projects. All six companies had, more or less successfully, established connections with one or more publishing houses to receive advance notice of forthcoming books. Adapting books, then, was often also seen as an economically reliable means of developing film projects. There is no doubt that making adaptations is a way the producer can start up a film project. It represents an approach where the producer can make the initial decisions, and then bring in others to work on the project. This has nothing to do with having the founding idea. It has to do with a need to initiate projects that have a chance of being completed. (Maipo Film) The inclination towards adaptations is quite understandable, as adaptations also permit the producer to exert greater artistic influence in the development process than an original story does. It is the producer who brings the project to the table and it is the producer’s ideas that drive the development process. Some producers option several books they find interesting, even though only a few will end up in production, while other producers take a more careful approach and option only books they find particularly compelling. A book is optioned because the producer envisions a certain kind of film being made from the source material, and this in turn governs the choice of screenwriter and director to be contracted. This is a complete reversal of the artistic initiative involved when a director is a film project’s principle driver. FOUR STRATEGIES TOWARDS FILM ADAPTATIONS One of the surprising facts that interviews with the six producers uncovered was the lack of what we might term conventional wisdom of the trade. Although it is impossible to predict a success, producers do make audience estimations for all of their films based on particular sets of parameters. Still, there was no common approach to film adaptations among the companies interviewed. Rather, each developed its own guidelines based on the company’s individual business strategy. Each of the six producers departed quite decidedly from one another in their strategic deliberations about what they wanted to achieve. The material from the interviews suggests there are four main strategies producers adopt when integrating adaptations into their development and production cycle. It should be noted that the way each production company manages film adaptation, and the purpose adaptations serve, is closely related to how each producer operates more generally. Moreover, the four strategies outlined below are not mutually exclusive; some companies balance several strategies, depending on the film project’s scope. Strategy 1: Have enough productions in development At all six companies, producers are approached on a regular basis by screenwriters and directors with suggestions for adaptations, but these discussions usually amount to nothing. The producers interviewed explained that, often, they found little of interest in many of the books presented for adaptation—or, at least, in the way the books were pitched. Ultimately, only directors or screenwriters with whom the producers had a desire to work succeeded in having their ideas considered for adaptations (4 ½, Maipo, Friland). While the producers turn down most of the adaptation projects offered, it remains the case that optioning a constant flow of books for adaptation allows a production company to continually move projects into development. This strategy also allows the producers to maintain relationships with creative personnel they like to work with by offering them projects to develop. This is the most common strategy. The medium-scale production company Maipo is a case in point. For this company, a ready supply of material for adaptation is a necessity if it is to have enough overall projects in development. Maipo also collaborates closely with a handful of directors, and adaptations are a way of providing these directors with work. This strategy has also been adopted at Paradox, which routinely has an adapted film among its projects in development. In this context, it is telling that Maipo and Paradox are among the companies with highest production rates in Norway. Strategy 2: Cultivate a talent base In some cases, producers use adaptations to attract fresh, talented directors. Adaptations are seen as safe ground where directors early in their careers can gain experience and build a reputation. This is in particular the case with the many Norwegian adaptations of children’s books. Adaptations are also offered to more seasoned filmmakers who may have experienced recent career setbacks and need to regain confidence or to relaunch their careers (Paradox). In these instances, the producer options books and controls the development process not only in order to achieve commercial success—which is always of importance—but also with the filmmakers’ future films in mind. The medium-scale production company Paradox uses adaptations as a kind of cross-fertilization between its various projects. Many adapted Paradox films are aimed at a younger audience and their family members, and the revenue from these films is spent on higher-risk film projects. Children’s films are seen as safe projects to start out with when a director needs to grow confidence within the trade. The small-scale, up-and-coming production company Friland aims at collaboration with renowned creative talent, and adaptations are an opportunity to connect with well-known authors and promising directors. It does not seem to matter to Friland whether these partnerships lead to a blockbuster movie or an arthouse film. The company produces both kinds of films. This producer was also the least concerned about maintaining artistic control in the development process. Of the four companies with a mixed catalogue of films, 4 ½ has the most diversified strategy towards adaptation. This company’s interests span from lesser-known novels aimed at young readers to internationally acclaimed authors, from critically acclaimed literature aimed at a female reading audience to historical biographies, and crime fiction by seasoned names. Perhaps this diversity is due to the fact that 4 ½ engages in these projects more or less spontaneously. Rather than using adaptations to keep the wheels turning, adaptations at 4 ½ serve as a means of spotting and nurturing talent. Strategy 3: Make an entertaining film for the broadest possible audience This strategy belongs to the kind of producer that is first and foremost concerned with financial outcomes. At these companies, film is regarded as a unique medium, different from that of literature, and what attracts a reading audience is not necessarily thought to be the same as what draws a large audience to the cinema. The primary concern of these producers is entertainment, and the goal is to reach every possible segment of the audience, not just a niche. Adaptations are only of interest if the source text enables the film to hit a nerve within contemporary culture and therefore to make a commercially successful film. The producer at Filmkameratene, the most strictly commercial production company of those interviewed, regards film as a completely different enterprise than literature. As a result, Filmkameratene is in general not very interested in making adaptations. Only those books that can be converted to box-office hits aimed at the largest possible audience are of interest. Strategy 4: Make an interesting film with interesting collaborators Here, we find the romantic idea of film as an art form played out. In general, the producer expresses a disappointment with the quality of screenwriters and finds authors to be more artistically dedicated and focused. Adaptation is to some extent regarded as a means to recruit authors as prospective screenwriters for later projects. While adapting their own work, the authors are inclined to make changes—as they have no interest in writing the same story over again—and this attitude is matched by the producer’s view that their only obligation in adaptation is to make the film as good as possible. This strategy underpins development at the art-house film producer Motlys. In interviews, this producer expressed interest mostly in stories that reveal a kind of pop-culture sensibility, and authors that carry the voice of a generation. His hope was that these projects would lead to further collaborations with the authors, and that they at some point in their careers would consider the possibility of writing original stories for the screen. Different strategies, yet same result There seems to be, then, a whole set of reasons for why film producers engage in making adaptations. Yet, despite all the differences in the various strategies toward adaptations, the end result is still a rather homogeneous batch of books that are turned into fairly straightforwardly told popular films. A film adaptation from one production company is usually no different from that of another. There are certain exceptions to the rule, and they usually correspond with strategy four above. But on a general note, the particular strategy or combination of different strategies each company adopts does not seem to make much difference when it comes to actually selecting books as source material. Why does this happen? One reason might be financial. Film production in Norway has become increasingly dependent on private investment, and film distributors have become important collaborators in the development stage (in part by estimating audience attendance, and providing investments in terms of minimum guarantee). As a result, funding a film that is perceived as overly serious, difficult, or strange might in the end present too many challenges. Projects of this kind, if they reach development, are generally terminated before moving into production, usually due to a lack of financing. Another reason might be creative challenges. A fictional text of the kind we describe as open, multilayered, or excessive engages its readers in different ways. Yet for filmmakers, a common vision—a shared sense of what the film is about—is of vital importance. For example one of the producers interviewed explained that he had become interested in a quite wild and expressive novel, but terminated the project quickly as he was unable to find anyone interested in doing the film: I got nowhere with the project. Today, I can understand why they were reluctant to do the film. I was fascinated by the tonality of the novel, but how can you translate that to film? There are very many challenges to that assignment. Not that it was impossible. I am sure that if the right team had come together, it could have been realized, although as a choice for an adaptation, it was not particularly commercially driven. (Friland) Financial estimations and creative challenges may also explain why the different paths to adaptations all lead to more or less undifferentiated films (with some exceptions). However, a more reasonable explanation—based on the reports from the film industry—is that fidelity to the source text does matter after all. During conversations with the producers, it became evident that all of them found it important to stick closely to the source material—out of respect for the author and the readers. A number of comments indicated that the idea of fidelity was in fact a guiding principle. If the book has gained a large readership, and that readership is also your target audience, then you need to be concerned about being faithful to the book. (Maipo) If you are going to make a film based on a book that is well-known and has a large readership, then it is wise to be faithful to that source. (4 ½) Once you decide to use a book as a basis for a film, then you have established a sort of framework for yourself. (4 ½) Things are different when you work with a book—it is after all a story that’s already complete. There is a question of how much you can depart from the book in order to make the story work well on film, without disappointing its readers at the same time. That is a balancing act. (Filmkameratene) From the very beginning, we’ve had a deep sense of loyalty toward what we believed to be the author’s intentions. We have been very conscious of that. We are not going to make up something that is completely farfetched when it comes to what lies at the heart of the novel. (Friland) In general, novels were selected because in one way or the other they engaged the producers as readers. And when producers positioned themselves as readers, to depart too much from the source somehow seemed objectionable. The producers were quite clear about this: it made no sense to option a book if the plan was to make radical changes. What follows from such a position is that fidelity becomes inherent in the adaptation process. To remain faithful to the source novel is easier when the book in question has a rather conventional narrative form, and this in turn governs the choice of books that are adapted. Narratives that are more complex and unconventional, on the other hand, demand more radical changes to be transposed from literature to film. The greater the artistic ambition in a book, the harder it can be to turn it from a book into a film. Will you take a book and turn it into a film that might have lesser artistic ambitions? What is it that you choose? If you take the world’s most compelling book, which has great qualities, then those qualities are probably very literary in nature or more difficult to transform into another format with the same level of artistic quality. (Motlys) There are some exceptions to fidelity as the guiding the rule, as should be noted. In one case, Fatso (Frölich 2008), based on a novel by Lars Ramslie, the producer advocated the idea of mainstreaming a controversial aspect of a novel by rewriting a scene depicting a sleep-rape to instead letting the protagonist perform an awkward act of self-castration (in a somewhat comic depiction). People like to go to the movies to laugh. They like to cry, as well. Yet fewer people go in order to cry than to laugh. So in order to reach a larger audience; making things appear a bit more humorous might sell more tickets. You might say you adjust to the market. (Paradox) As mentioned above, the experimental and playful autobiographical elements in Theory and Practice were not transposed to the film adaptation, even though Sons of Norway has an art-house sensibility. In this case, the producer notes, it was collaboration with the author himself, who made these changes, that made the adaptation possible in the first place. I don’t think we could have diverged so much from the novel without having its author as the screenwriter. (Friland) It is, in fact, only the art-house film producer that pays little heed to the book once the project is secured. He claims to discard the source material as a rule of thumb. I don’t feel any obligation to be faithful to the book. The film is the king. You need to do whatever makes it good. (Motlys) Yet these last cases were not the norm. With few exceptions, then, fidelity is the guiding rule by which these producers operate. When we regard fidelity from the standpoint of film producers, three related aspects can be identified. (1) Fidelity means that the source material is recognizable in the film, in terms of plot structure, character depiction, and mood. Fidelity in this case has to do with narrative. (2) Fidelity also means that the film corresponds to commonly held conceptions about the book or its author. If an author or a series of books has gained a certain public image or reputation, then the film might highlight those aspects, even if the aspects are lacking in the source text (but present in some of the author’s other texts). Here, fidelity relates to impressions or popular ideas about authors and their body of work. (3) Finally, fidelity is also a matter of adhering to a conventional classical storytelling tradition. If the novel is experimental or challenging in style or in its treatment of moral issues, these elements tend to be left out—or revised—in the film version. The general notion of what an entertaining film is supposed to be is then fulfilled. Fidelity in this sense is about following conventions of mainstream commercial cinema. In each of these three aspects, fidelity relates to audience expectations—as they are envisioned by the producers. Issues of fidelity have a long history within adaptation studies. For the past decade, the field’s somewhat marginal position within film studies as a whole has been blamed on a putatively excessive concern with fidelity. Calls have been made to discard the issue of fidelity once and for all. Yet if we are to understand why and how adaptations continue to dominate the film industry, and have done so since the industry’s earliest days, then fidelity still matters. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The author would like to thank Jo Sondre Moseng for his close collaboration in conducting interviews, and for our thoughtful and productive conversations about Norwegian film producers. REFERENCES Altman, Rick. Film/Genre . London: BFI Press, 1999. Andrew, Dudley. “ The Economies of Adaptation.” True to the Spirit. Film Adaptation and the Question of Fidelity . Eds. Colin MacCabe, Kathleen Murray, and Rick Warner. New York: Oxford UP, 2011: 27– 40. Banks, Miranda J. “ How to Study Makers and Making.” The Sage Handbook of Television Studies . Eds. Manuel Alvarado, Milly Buonanno, Herman Gray, and Toby Miller. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015: 117– 32. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Barthes, Roland. S/Z . New York: Hill and Wang, 1974. Bloore, Peter. The Screenplay Business: Managing Creativity and Script Development in the Film Industry . London: Routledge, 2013. Cartmell, Deborah and Whelehan Imelda. “ Intorduction—Literature on Screen: A Synoptic View.” The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen . Eds. Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007: 1– 12. Chatman, Seymour. “ What Novels Can Do That Films Can’t (and Vice Versa).” Critical Inquiry 7. 1( 1980): 117– 36. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS DeBona, Guerric. Film Adaptation in the Hollywood Studio Era . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010. Engelstad, Audun, and Moseng Jo Sondre. “ Mapping the Film Producer: Or, Six Producers in Search of an Author.” Beyond the Bottom Line: The Producer in Film and Television Studies . Eds. Andrew Spicer, A. T. McKenna, and Christopher Meir. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014: 45– 64. Leitch, Thomas. “ Twelve Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory.” Criticism 45. 2 ( 2003, Spring): 149– 71. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Lotz, Amanda. “ Industry-Level Studies and the Contributions of Gitlin’s Inside Prime Time.” Production Studies: Cultural Studies of the Media . Eds. Vicky Meyer, Miranda J. Banks, and John T. Caldwell. London: Routledge, 2009: 25– 38. Lotz, Amanda. “ Building Theories of Creative Industry Managers: Challenges, Perspectives, and Future Directions.” Making Media Work: Cultures of Management in the Entertainment Industries . Eds Derek Johnsen, Derek Kompare, and Avi Santo. New York: NYU Press, 2014: 25– 38. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS MacCabe, Colin. “ Introduction. Bazinian Adaptation. The Butcher Boy as Example.” True to the Spirit. Film Adaptation and the Question of Fidelity . Eds. Colin MacCabe, Kathleen Murray, and Rick Warner. New York: Oxford UP, 2011: 3– 26. McFarlane, Brian. Novel into Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Murray, Simone. “ Materializing Adaptation Theory: The Adaptation Industry.” Literature/Film Quarterly , 36. 1( 2008): 4– 20. ———. The Adaptation Industry: The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaptation . London: Routledge, 2012. Naremore, James. “ Introduction: Film and the Reign of Adaptation.” Film Adaptation . Ed. James Naremore. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2000. Spicer, Andrew, A. T. McKenna, and Christopher Meir, eds. Beyond the Bottom Line: The Producer in Film and Television Studies . New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Stam, Robert. “ Introduction.” Literature and Film. A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation . Eds. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005: 1– 52. von Rimscha, M. Bjørn. “ Handling Financial and Creative Risk in German Film Production.” Wide Screen , 3. 1( 2011): 1– 19. http://widescreenjournal.org. Whelehan, Imelda. “ Adaptations: The Contemporary Dilemmas.” Adaptations. From Text to Screen, Screen to Text . Eds. Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan. London: Routledge, 1999: 23– 8. NOTES 1 Close to 40% of the films developed in the United Kingdom are adaptations, while in Hollywood, adaptations account for approximately 50% of the projects developed. See: Bloore (11). 2 As elite informants, Norwegian producers are unique in being highly accessible. In contrast to British companies, Norwegian producers are not guarded by gatekeepers, which means that it is quite easy to set up appointments for interviews. 3 The ‘adaptation game’ was previously presented in Engelstad and Moseng. In this article, the authors discuss how producers can be profiled with respect to their creative engagement in the adaptation process. 4 A telling example is MacCabe’s ‘Introduction’ in the volume True to the Spirit. Here, he outlines the production history of Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy, in part by digressing into the makings of, and reception of, several of Jordan’s other films. However, not once does MacCabe mention Jordan’s longstanding collaboration with the producer Stephen Woolley, nor the role of the commissioner at Channel 4. 5 According to Stam: ‘Adaptation is seen as a kind of purge. In the name of mass-audience legibility, the novel is “cleansed” of moral ambiguity, narrative interruption, and reflexive mediation. Aesthetic mainstreaming dovetails with economic censorship, since the changes demanded in adaptation are made in the name of monies spent and box-office profit required’. Stam made this comment as a reflection on Hollywood adaptations, but it seems to be equally applicable to Norwegian adaptations. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adaptation – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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