Adapting Short Stories & Magazine Articles into Compelling Feature Films

Adapting Short Stories into Feature Films
Credit: Dollar Photo Club
Finding great ideas for films can be tough, but the world of literature — both short form and long — provides a wealth of source material just waiting to be adapted for the screen.

This is the second installment of an interview series by ShareGrid, a company trying to change the landscape of of renting filmmaking equipment. In the first installment of the series, ShareGrid member and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez — whose latest feature The Stanford Prison Experiment is currently in limited release before hitting theaters nationwide — shared some thoughts on the relevance of film school in 2015.

In the second episode of the series, Kyle talks about how he went about making his first feature film, which was based on a short article that he read in GQ Magazine:

In the third episode, Kyle talks more about adapting short literature for the big screen. In fact, his second feature C.O.G. is the first film adaptation of a David Sedaris short story. He talks about the somewhat crazy lengths he went through in order to get Sedaris to agree to the adaptation, and why short stories often translate into feature films better than full-length novels:

Here's what Kyle says about why he likes to adapt shorter pieces to the screen: "The short story is the feature, and the novel is the TV series." I had never particularly thought about short stories offering enough material for a full feature, but it absolutely makes sense. Trying to cram the full breadth of a novel into a feature film is an uphill battle. While plenty of films have succeeded, many more haven't quite nailed it, because you're forced to trim massive amounts of source material down into something that will work in a visual medium.

Short stories, on the other hand, are usually far more singular and focused. They tend to revolve around one particular theme or idea, which makes them far easier to adapt into the medium of film. The best part is that there's a world of short stories out there, some of which are in the public domain and some of which come from lesser known authors who would be more than willing to give you the rights to adapt their work. So, if you're hard-pressed about what to make for your next film, definitely look into adapting a short story.

Have you guys ever adapted a short story or an article into a film? If so, share your experiences with us down in the comments!     

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here is a link of a joke a friend sent me over bbm, adapted into a short film, shot on the Panasonic GH2 about two years ago.

I had been scared of trying same for a feature length, but now I have been emboldend. what a wonderful insight!

July 31, 2015 at 10:18AM, Edited July 31, 10:19AM

RossOscar TeeJay
DOP/Sound Engineer

Dude, if you're going to share a film, make sure it's worth sharing. That's 15 minutes of my life I'm never getting back.

August 10, 2015 at 3:54AM, Edited August 10, 3:54AM


Absolutely right. And not just short stories, but newspaper and magazine articles. Even "Agony Aunt" columns.

I attempted to adapt a 450 page action thriller to 100 minutes of film, but when I got to 100 pages I wasn't even half way through the book. I considered dropping one of the threads - and one of the main characters - when I realised a 7 part series was the way to go (the book was set over 7 days). That meant I had to put back a whole lot of stuff I'd cut out.

August 10, 2015 at 3:38AM