Best Adapted versus Best Original Screenplay?

Whiplash was the dark horse this year at the Oscars this year: it came from humble origins indeed.

Starting out as an 85 page screenplay on the 2012 Black List, the fledgling movie was cut to a length of an 18-minute short to be shown at Sundance Film Festival in 2013–as a way of creating capital to produce the full movie eventually. The viewing at Sundance caught the attention of financiers, like moths attracted to an irresistible porch light. Although the film’s release was limited, it managed to reach 34th rank in terms of sales internationally. The film’s success was complemented by glowing criticism of the movie, leading it to be nominated for five Oscars. One category for which Whiplash was nominated was for Best Adapted Screenplay.

But wait– “Adapted?” Wasn’t it originally written by Damien Chazelle–the one who is credited with “writing and directing” the film in the end?

According to the Academy, since the final movie was “adapted” from the short showed at Sundance in 2013, it isn’t an original work.

But if this is the case, then how do they explain Foxcatcher’s place in the Best Original Screenplay category? Although loosely based on the true story of John DuPont and his aspirations to be an Olympic wrestling coach, the movie is still based off of the book by Mark Shultz, who is featured as a main character in the movie.

Whatever the motivations were behind designating these movies to their respective screenplay categories, it can’t be denied that they both deserve a place in the nominations at the Oscars this year.

To conclude, here’s a quote Adaptation (2002) where a screenwriter is struggling to write an adaptation (now there’s an accurate movie title) : “To begin… To begin… How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.”

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