In this special bonus episode, John and Craig answer listener questions from the 100th episode with help from guests Rawson Thurber and Aline Brosh McKenna.
John and Craig sit down with screenwriter-turned-psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo to discuss writer’s block, procrastination, partnerships and more. It’s a can’t-miss episode for aspiring writers and professionals alike.
John and Craig tackle the bursting mailbag, answering listener questions on topics ranging from the variable length of the TV season to underachieving agents to embarrassing IMDb credits.
Craig and John look at two recent court decisions that could have a big impact on how movies get sold and resold — and how writers get paid. First-Sale Doctrine is one of those intractable issues that involves freedom and control, bits and atoms, creators and consumers.
Can you sell a spec screenplay but retain the characters for other uses?
In his will, Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch left instructions that “in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.” Wendy S. Goff looks at why that opens a legal can of worms.
Craig and I talk a bit about the effects of first-sale doctrine in this week’s podcast, but we don’t define it. So let’s do that here.
Eriq Gardner looks at lawsuits filed by producers of an upcoming Emma Thompson film trying to establish her screenplay doesn’t infringe on existing works.
“Happy Birthday to You” — a common song famously still covered by copyright — may in fact be free and clear.
Kirby Ferguson and Andy Baio show two very different sides of remixing.
Checking clearances means making sure you’re not inadvertently referring to real people and real companies in your project.
Copyright is a bundle of protections granted to the creator of a work. It doesn’t cover the pure idea (“Save the Last Dance with dinosaurs”); it covers the expression of the idea (your original, 120-page screenplay Dinosalsa: The Jurassic Dance).
There is no grand tradition of a “director’s pass.” When it happens, it’s because some directors (1) believe they can write and (2) believe they can fix the perceived problems in the script. They may say they want to “make it their own.” But underlying that is the fact that there’s something about the script that bugs them, and you haven’t been willing or able to address it.
I have very little patience for accusations that someone “stole my idea for a movie.” Or a TV show. But such complaints are common. Sometimes, it becomes a copyright lawsuit. More often, it’s a campaign of whispers.
Composer Jason Robert Brown is flattered young singers like his work, but wishes they wouldn’t pirate his sheet music.
Any work you’re not getting paid for should be yours and yours alone. That’s why aspiring screenwriters write spec scripts. That’s what you should focus on writing. Still, there may be situations in which it makes sense to write a script for someone else without getting paid.
When a novel is adapted into a film or television series, how does compensation to the writer of the original novel work?
You’re naturally going to be drawn towards real-life people who are fascinating. That’s a good thing. Observe behavior. Figure out motivations and pathology. Then forget the real person.
Producers and production companies aren’t necessarily going to be excited that someone else had the project before them. Yes, it validates their taste a bit, but they may worry that the script has already been burned out around town. If everyone has read it and passed, what are they going to do with it, exactly?
Chris works as an assistant at a studio? Do they own anything he writes?
ScriptShadow reviews scripts to upcoming movies. And that hurts screenwriters more than anyone.
No! Stop and re-assess. There are at least three options, but simply stealing the plot and characters isn’t one of them.
A reader asks if a planned DVD crosses into dangerous copyright territory.
Screenplays don’t cite references because they don’t quote things.
Yes, you can have characters talk about people like Michael Bay without getting permission.