AdaptationThe great majority of Hollywood movies has been adapted from other sources, e.g., novels, biographies, plays, short stories, epic poems, news articles, real life, etc. An adaptation simply has greater chance of being made into a movie--of appealing to producers and investors.
Why do producers like adaptations?Primarily because they have a more predictable chance of succeeding at the box office. They have a greater appeal to an audience already familiar with the story and author, and who anticipate the cinematic release.
Perhaps even more importantly to a producer bewitched by the endless 'developmental hell' of getting a script properly written and into production, the concept, story, and characters of an adapted screenplay have all been tested in the marketplace. The story 'works' beginning to end--and it has achieved a certain fame and popularity because of it.
An adapted script often comes from a story penned by a well-known writer, perhaps a giant from yesteryear. It may even be one of the producer's favorites. That he's simply familiar with the story or the author is a major plus.
These benefits generally put the adaptation way ahead of an original 'spec script' on the producer's stack. And these same benefits help you as a writer both to write an successful screenplay, and, obviously, to get it sold.
Why don't more writers adapt?In spite of the enormous hold adaptations have on the Hollywood movie machine, new writers continue to submit original stories--the very hardest both to write and to sell--almost exclusively. Why? Ego, partly, the desire to tell their own story their way, even though no one in Babylon yet knows their name or abilities. Most importantly, though, are the rights to the story and the imagined difficulties of getting them.
For major contemporary bestsellers the going can certainly be tough for the new writer without substantial legal and financial resource. But with the major classics, and the undiscovered gem, there's still considerable room in the adaptation game for the newbie. First of all, the overwhelming share of world literature put out since the beginning of time has now passed into the public domain, meaning nobody holds the rights to it anymore. You may adapt such material to your hearts content without fear of legal reprisal. (more)