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A 2-day Workshop Presented by Stephen Cleary

This workshop is a practical exploration of the art and craft of adaptation. The first day shows you a way to marry the specific technical demands the original material makes of the writer with a fast  way of getting to the centre of any adapted script you want to write.

The second day shows you writing techniques to ensure your adaptation is visual and cinematic as it moves away from the source material. This is followed by a step-by-step guide through some different adaptation processes.

The workshop ends with a case study, looking at a story which mixed a memoir and real-life events in an original and successful way. The film we will be looking at is “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, directed by Julian Schnabel, screenplay by Ronald Harwood from an original book by Jean-Dominique Bauby.     

Stephen Cleary’s "adaptations" workshop came along at the perfect moment. We had just optioned a book and the process of deciding which elements of the novel we wanted to adapt and how we would set about doing it became so much clearer. I can't recommend it enough!”
Natasha Marsh, Producer, Academy Award Winner, “Wasp”

Day one

9:30  Introduction
• The importance of the adapted screenplay in the film and TV industry, the peculiar problems of adaptation in development.
• The ancient art of adaptation

11:15   Coffee Break

11:30  Approaching Adaptation

• The three types of Adaptation and how they relate
           Example: Three visions of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

13:00   Lunch

14:00  Source material
• 10 screenwriter’s principles regarding adaptation
• 10 things to remember when adapting from the theatre
• 10 problems novel adapting sets you
• 10 things to remember when adapting true stories

15:30    Coffee Break

15:45  Where to start

• Key scenes: the smart way inside the story

17.00 end of day one


Day two

9:30  The Narrative Voice
• The adapting writers’ problem: your voice vs the original writer’s voice
• Replacing narrative voice with narrative point–of-view

11:15   Coffee Break

11:30  A Technical Approach to Adaptation

• Breaking down the Original
• Mapping out the Adaptation
• Story sequences and phases

13:00  Lunch

14:00  Case Study Pt 1: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

15:30   Coffee Break

15:45  Case Study Pt 2: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

17.00  end of day – end of workshop


Stephen Cleary

Stephen Cleary is a story developer and feature film producer. He has developed over 60 produced features with directors including Ken Loach, Beeban Kidron, Milcho Manchevski, Sophie Hyde, Beeban Kidron and Marc Evans. He was Head of Development at British Screen for four years. He produced New Years Day in 2001, (Panorama selection Sundance Film Festival, Winner Best British Film Raindance Film Festival) and co-produced Goodbye Charlie Bright in 2002. That same year he was also co-screenwriter of the feature, Alexandria.

Stephen founded and ran Arista, Europe’s largest private film development agency from 1996 to 2006. Graduates of Arista programs have written, directed or produced over 250 feature films, including The Last King of Scotland; Brick Lane; Totsi; The Flying Scotsman and London to Brighton.  

Stephen is now an international story consultant. He was the Grace Marion Wilson Visiting Fellow in creative writing at Melbourne University and in partnership with the South Australian Film Corporation, co-designed and ran FilmLab, an acclaimed initiative producing eight prize-winning low-budget features in three years. Most recently he developed Sweet Country, prize winner at the Venice and Toronto film festivals in 2017, and was the lead consultant on the Emmy-award winning documentary What happened Miss Simone?

When not travelling, Stephen lives with his family in Aquitaine, France.