New book announcement-- TRUE EVENT ADAPTATION: SCRIPTING REAL LIVES edited by Davinia Thornley (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

Davinia Thornley's picture
Online Digital Resources
New Zealand
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Film and Film History, Humanities, Journalism and Media Studies, Local History

These essays all—in various ways—address the relationship between adaptation, “true events,” and cultural memory. They ask (and frequently answer) the question: how do we script stories about real events that are often still fresh in our memories and may involve living people? True Event Adaptation: Scripting Real Lives contains essays from scholars committed to interrogating historical and current hard-hitting events, traumas, and truths through various media. Each essay goes beyond general discussion of adaptation and media to engage with the specifics of adapting true life events—addressing pertinent and controversial questions around scriptwriting, representation, ethics, memory, forms of history, and methodological interventions. Written for readers interested in how memory works on culture as well as screenwriting choices, the collection offers new perspectives on historical media and commercial media that is currently being produced, as well as on media created by the book’s contributors themselves.




“Why should fictional adaptations get all the headlines? Davinia Thornley’s contributors revisit a set of ten real-life subjects and situations, from female circumcision in Egypt to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, examining their adaptation in films from The Quiet American to Zero Dark Thirty. These essays complicate and challenge traditional binaries between genre and realism, creating and interpreting, fictional and nonfictional films. Individually and collectively, they make a persuasive case for the importance of adaptation, and the power of adaptation studies, in helping us make sense of contemporary reality.”


Thomas Leitch, University of Delaware, USA




  1. Introduction—Scripting Real Lives                                                            


    Davinia Thornley

  2. The Study of Historical Films as Adaptation:

    Some Critical Reflections


    Patrick Cattrysse                                                                                            

  3. Waiting for the Great Swell of ‘74:

    John Milius and Autobiographical Self-projection in Big Wednesday


    Alfio Leotta

  4. Making Robert Sarkies’ Film Out of the Blue:

    Adaptation & Indigenization in Aotearoa New Zealand


    Davinia Thornley
  5. When the Truth becomes Too Hard to Tell:

    Jocylene Saab & Dunia (2005)


    Margaret McVeigh

  6. Making It “Real”/“Reel”:

    Truth, Trauma, and American Exceptionalism in Zero Dark Thirty


    Jennifer L. Gauthier

  7. (The Facts before) The Fiction before the Facts:

    Suburra from Novel (to Trial) to Feature to TV Serial


    Paolo Russo

  8. Reaching Young Audiences through Research:

    Using the NABC Method to Create the Norwegian Web Teenage Drama SKAM/Shame


    Eva Novrup Redvall

  9. An Adaptation of Life:

    Ethnographically-grounded Fiction as a Method of Inquiry into Personal Accounts of Traumatic Events


    Ester T. Roura

  10. Writing the Screenplay for the History Film:

A Case Study Featuring the Historical Figure, C.Y. O’Connor

Nadia Meneghello  


ABOUT THE EDITOR                                                                                              

Davinia Thornley is Senior Lecturer in Media, Film, and Communication at the University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand. She led the 2017 Screenwriting Research Network international conference, from which the majority of these essays are drawn, and is the author of Cinema, Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and Criticism: Filming on an Uneven Field (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Her current research centers on representations of the childfree choice in various academic disciplines.



Contact Info: 

Dr. Davinia Thornley

Dept. of Media, Film and Communication

University of Otago

New Zealand