Re: [screenwriters-261] Question re: screenwriting credit

From: craig s.
Sent on: Saturday, November 3, 2012 3:29 PM
Hello Lee, 
Here's the bottom line on this.
You can only copyright dialogue and characters.
A plot is not copyrightable, they're only so many stories in the world.
There are thousands of films based on the same story variations.
If you call your film by the same name as the story use the same characters names and  lift dialog directly from the story.
You could potentially have a copyright problem.
Judging by the scale of your film I don't think he will.
From a practical standpoint since you changed the ending of the story.
It would probably be a mistake to contact the author.
this is all between you and your conscience.
It is not uncommon to use other works of art as inspiration.
So many films are based on Greek tragedies in fairytales, when you really look into them.
I think Pablo Picasso said something to the effect "artists borrow the great artists steal."
Regards
Craigry Price Shell



Sent from my iPad

On Nov 3, 2012, at 3:01 PM, Lee <[address removed]> wrote:

OK, let me start at the beginning...
A film making friend of mine has a book that is a collection of several modern noir-ish type short stories. My friend (who is a DP) indicated interest in several of the stories as potential next projects.
So, because they were short stories, I could write them out fairly quickly (about 2-3 hours) as screenplays. I did so with four of the stories. Once I completed the first three, we all talked about them, and for whatever reasons (logistical/story/etc) we passed on the them. But I wrote them, and have filed them, with no intention of pursuing the production of them.
But the last one, I also wrote it, but hated the ending. After brainstorming, I came up with an ending I did like. After discussing it further with my team, we decided that it was filmable, interesting enough, and based on our abilities & resources, we could actually do it.

So, the script is written... right or wrong, prudent or not, its done. There is nothing I could do to change that.

Now I am left with three options...
The first one is to file it away also without doing anything about it. But based on our discussion, my team & I feel it is worth pursuing.

The second option is to not contact the writer. Now based on an entirely different ending, and how easily it would to re-work the part he did write & I used, I have no doubt if we produced the story, he nor his publishing house would ever know. I am telling you that the ending to his story is very specific, and ours has nothing at all to do with his idea.

The final option was to do whats right, and actually contact the writer about using the part of the story that is his but also letting him know that we changed the ending. Of course he would have the option to either bless our project, or refuse us rights. If he refused, I would move on to a different project.

As of right now, our desire is to pursue the last option, to get his permission. That falls outside of what I have had to do as a producer in the past, as all of the projects I have worked on before were things where someone involved with the production also wrote the story. This would be the first time I was using a story by someone I didn't know.

My goal is not to steal someone else's work, or trick anyone or anything like that. If I asked permission and he said "no", I have enough other ideas that I would have plenty else to work on instead.
I also don't believe I have done anything "wrong" by simply writing a script based on a story I don't own, either legally or ethically. If I now tried to either produce the script or sell it, obviously that would be different. But so far, all I have is words on a page, and done only to determine if it was even something I'd be interested in at all.
If I am truly wrong for writing out what was already in my head, I don't know what to do about it now.

So based on all of that, and because we decided we are interested in gaining film rights to the story, I guess my biggest question is how to approach the writer with our idea of deleting his ending to the story, and inserting our own.

Does that things a bit more clear?
Lee


On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 2:09 PM, J.R. Fleming <[address removed]> wrote:
I don't get the impression from any of this that Lee is trying to do anything dishonest.  Does not sound like he has any intention of stealing any ones work.  I hear Lee asking how to approach the author to get the authors blessing. 


On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 1:56 PM, Karen Franklin <[address removed]> wrote:
I wouldn't mind someone living in my home for a couple of days and leaving it in better shape than how they found it. You wouldn't happen to know anyone like that, would you?


On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 12:20 PM, Kathy <[address removed]> wrote:
Would you want someone you didn't know go into your home and live for a couple days, then leave you a Thank you note?   Even if they did all your laundry & dishes & fixed everything broken in your home?
 
The plot, the characters of the story belong to the writer.  They are the writer's property. 
 
If you are going to adapt a living person's work, or one that has a copyright/ownership, you should have permission before proceeding.  
 
If you are just using it as a writing exercise, send it to the writer (obscure or not) and ask what they think of your adaptation of their story. 
 
Maybe the prospect of working with someone to adapt it, or giving you permission to film it, would excite them.   If it does not, or if they have sold the rights to someone else, you learn a lesson many others have had to learn with the added expense of lawyers.
 
Kathryn G. McCarty
kgmccarty.com

Artistic Director, Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre
Contra Costa College, Drama Professor

Check out my book!
DEFINING FORM & OTHER PLAYS

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"The difference between finding the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug" Mark Twain
 
In a message dated 11/3/[masked]:10:25 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, [address removed] writes:
Why would it make a difference?
I have already written it... would I just tell them I haven't?

This short story is so obscure, I don't actually anticipate much of a problem (who knows though, of course)...

Lee


On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 12:07 PM, steve hovland <[address removed]> wrote:
You should get the rights before you do it.
 
If you write first and try for rights later you will have problems.
 
I thought about doing adaptations but getting rights is such a pain I decided to learn how to do my own stories.
 
That can be done- Truby, McKee, others.
 
Steve


From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of Eric
Sent: Friday, November 02,[masked]:45 PM
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [screenwriters-261] Question re: screenwriting credit

What do you plan to do with this?

-Make it into a short: to show in festivals?

-Make it into a feature: and try and sell it to a distributor?

It makes a big difference how you intend to show it and if you plan to make money off of it or not.

Lawyers are expensive and not a cost that shows up on the screen.

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 8:31 PM, Lee <[address removed]> wrote:
I recently finished up writing a short screenplay. The screenplay is an adaption from a short story written by someone I don't know.

Right now, I have the credit as "Written by Lee Stokes, adapted from a Story by Book Writer".

Which if it was a straight forward adaptation, I would move ahead with.
HOWEVER, the truth is that as I wrote the screenplay, I realized that I hated the ending in the book.
I liked the characters, the setup, and most of the story, but when the payoff came, I pretty much hated it.
As the screenplay is now, I'd say like 2/3 or 3/4 of the story is the authors, but the final piece is wholly mine. I mean, my ending is nothing like his, nor based in any way on his original ending.

So two questions:
1. how do I credit the writing?
2. how do I broach the situation to the author when the time comes to try to obtain rights?

Any thoughts, insights or tips appreciated. If whatever I wrote isn't clear, I am willing to try and explain further.

Lee

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