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About Writing Right: The Blog

FILMS FROM BOOKS

Someone asked the other day why it is that Hollywood only makes films based upon books. I can see where he might reach that conclusion. Still, it ain't necessarily so. here's what I told him.

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For starters, your assumption is wrong because your premise is incorrect. Hollywood doesn't necessarily want to make films based upon books. It wants ideas that are financially lucrative. Correction: It needs ideas that are financially lucrative. Creating a film today starts out in the lower millions of dollars and spirals upward from there; so, you can understand a producer's motivation. Whether or not the next brilliant idea comes from a book or an original screenplay (or even a magazine article, short story, or popular video game for that matter) is subjugated by potential sales.

 

With that said, many producers/directors understand that a well-selling book, particularly one by a big-name author (take your pick here), has already generated a lot of buzz in the story-loving world. Major publishers have invested big bucks to see that their star authors and their novels hit it big. And, every dollar Penguin invests in marketing and promoting a book is one dollar less than Pixar will have to spend on pitching the corresponding film. Read More 

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UNATHORIZED FILM SEQUEL

I was trolling the Internet the other day when I came across a question from someone who wanted to know whether or not he could write a sequel to an existing film if he changed all the names and places used in the film. Interesting question. Here's my response:

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Could you? Sure. If you change the names and places and don't use any dialogue or other material from the film word-for-word, you're creating a new work of art. It may be derivative, but then again, all new creations are derivative of one thing or another. Remember the phrase, There's nothing new under the sun? It's a memorable euphemism because it's true. Story ideas can't be copyrighted; names can't be copyrighted; descriptions and settings can't be copyrighted; other elements within common usage can't be copyrighted, all for obvious reasons. Just because you pick up a story at a point in time where the film leaves off, you can't be found legally guilty of plagiarism or copying something (a story) that doesn't actually exist yet (the sequel you're writing). Remember: Stories can't be copyrighted. Plots can't be copyrighted. Only the word-for-word representations of them (the verbatim manner in which the writer chooses to express them) can be copyrighted.

 

Now, with that said, "could you" write a sequel novel to a film is a lot different from "should you" write a sequel novel to a film, if you know what I mean. As another respondent pointed out, film companies, particularly major ones, have deep pockets. They can enjoy increased profitability from the publicity of a copyright-infringement action against you, even if they fail to prevail in a court of law. In other words, even if they lose, they win. Read More 

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NOVEL, NOVELLA, OR WHAT THE HECK?

When someone recently asked what he should do with his 47,000-word "novel," first into the fray once again was a remarkably misinformed and misinforming would-be author with a ton of garbage novels in print. They, of course, make her the quintessential diseminator of authoritative information. Don't they? Here's what I told the writer-in-making.

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Well, the Queen of Wrong missed the mark yet again. Does anyone actually pay attention to her responses anymore? I hope not, because they can be damaging to a young writer's future. If not deadly. Here's how.

 

First, she says your novella (it's not long enough to be considered a novel) needs to go through "at least five edits." She can say this with all impunity because she's clairvoyant. No one else could know what skills you possess, the amount of determination you have, and the editing abilities you enjoy. Nor could anyone else understand just how much editing your opus will require—if any! Does it sing like a wren with every word that's read, or does it drop with a thud like a hollowed-out Wiffle Ball? Without her clairvoyant qualities, Queenie couldn't possibly know. Thank you, Uri Geller. Read More 

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SHARING NEW FILM SCRIPT WITH OTHERS

Someone recently asked if he could share the first ten pages of his new script with me. My answer was a resounding absolutely not!

 

Nor, by the way, should a screenwriter ever ask to do so.

 

There's a good reason that all film and television producers refuse to accept unsolicited scripts. If one arrives in the morning mail, the production company returns it unopened. If a producer accepts an unsolicited manuscript for review and turns it down, he's exposed himself to legal action should he happen to make a film whose "idea" the author claims the producer stole from him.

 

Claims of property theft are more of a problem in filmmaking than in publishing because books are finished products while scripts are little more than malleable, evolving ideas or concepts. In any given year, probably twenty or more similar ideas are accepted for production. It wouldn't take much for a writer whose script was read by one of those producers to file a legal claim of property theft against him. That would halt all work on the film, pending the outcome of the litigation, which would most likely be a settlement of a considerable amount of money on the "agrieved author."

 

Because of that, any writer even attempting Read More 

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