MDIA Professor Eric Williams, in addition to being the Director of the MFA in Communication Media Arts and Co-Creator of the Immersive Media Initiative, is an award-winning screenwriter with a passion for storytelling. Recently, he has published two books: Screen Adaptation: Beyond the Basics: Techniques for Adapting Books, Comics and Real-Life Stories into Screenplays, and The Screenwriters Taxonomy: A Collaborative Approach to Creative Storytelling (Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice).
Once you understand the basics of screenwriting, ideas for your next screenplay are everywhere. Whether it comes from a favorite children's book, a summer novel you discover accidentally, a news story that catches your imagination, or a chapter from your own life – advanced screenwriting strategies should now guide you through your first adaptation. In Screen Adaptation, Williams uses examples from award-winning screenplays to explain new storytelling techniques. His real-world examples illustrate a range of advanced approaches – including new ways to identify and craft tension, how to reimagine structure and character, and how to strengthen emotional depth in your characters and in the audience. Screen Adaptation teaches readers new ways to engage with source material in order to make successful adaptation decisions, regardless of the source material.
The Screenwriters Taxonomy
In The Screenwriters Taxonomy, Williams offers a new collaborative approach for creative storytellers to recognize, discuss and reinvent storytelling paradigms that have evolved over decades. Williams presents seven different aspects of storytelling that can be applied to any fictional narrative film – from super genre to micro-genre to voice and story pathway – allowing writers to analyze existing films and innovate on these structures in their own stories. Moving beyond film theory, Williams offers a hands-on perspective on this taxonomy, exploring classic films such as The Godfather and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as more modern films such as 12 Years a Slave and Argo.
While these are his first non-fiction books to be published, Williams has written, edited, and published countless screenplays, short stories, and anthologies. These include Media and the Creative Process, a textbook co-edited and partially co-written with MDIA Professor Beth Novak, and screenplays of Bill Littlefield’s novel The Prospect and Luis Urrea’s Across the Wire. Additionally, Williams served as editor for Voices From the Heartland, a book of short stories about growing up in the Midwest, and he then went on to win the Ohio Arts Council Award of Individual Excellence in Screenwriting for his screen adaptations of that text.
With his most recent publications, Williams hopes to inspire screenwriters to explore their creativity. “I hope that I have given people a new way to think about their creative process,” he explains. “There is this idea that a writer has to hole up in the private recesses of their own mind, and hide in isolation until their story is written – and that the whole thing (the characters, and the story, and the way that it’s told) has to bubble up from within – as if writers are alchemists turning isolation into gold. And that’s not completely true. At least, it doesn’t have to be true. Writing can be a collaborative process. In fact, screenwriting should be a collaborative process because filmmaking is such a collaborative process. And hopefully, these books give people a way to talk about their creative decisions… I hope my books encourage greater creative collaboration by giving people the words they need to discuss their creative decisions.”
Williams has experienced the power of creative collaboration within the MDIA classes he teaches. “Screenwriters who only write often don’t reflect back on why they made certain creative decisions – but by teaching in the School of Media Arts & Studies, I am in a dialogue every week with my students about the process and the creative decisions involved in writing screenplays,” he says. “It forces me to think about why I do certain things – just as I ask my students why they do certain things in their writing. The greatest gift I have been given as a writer is to be surrounded every day by the creative students in this school. Every day I am surrounded by students who are filled with such energy and passion and creativity. It’s an honor to be able to teach here, and to be able to talk about my craft every day. Writing these books was just a way to take the ideas that have been bouncing around in my classrooms for ten years, and putting them onto the page so that people everywhere can catch just a little bit of the wonder that I get to enjoy every day.”
Further exploring the various means by which to tell stories, Williams’ latest area of interest is 360-degree storytelling through virtual reality. He will be teaching MDIA 4202 Advanced Screenwriting: The Rewrite and COMM 3220 Virtual Reality Production: 360 Degree Storytelling this upcoming spring.
For more on Williams’ books, see The Screenwriters Taxonomy and Screen Adaptation.
For more on Ohio University’s virtual reality course offerings, see here.