The Deal with the Gravity Lawsuit

John and Craig do a deep dive on Tess Gerritsen’s lawsuit concerning Gravity, using the case as a way to talk about contracts, chain of title, adaptation and corporate ownership. Spoiler: It’s really complicated, but it’s really interesting too.

The Tentpoles of 2019

Craig and John discuss the 31 superhero movies slated for the next few years. Is it good business or a trainwreck in the making?

Threshers, Mergers and the Top Two Boxes

Craig and John discuss the accusations of plagiarism surrounding True Detective — and what plagiarism even means in the context of filmed entertainment. Movies don’t have footnotes, so how should screenwriters give attribution?

Uncomfortable Ambiguity, or Nobody Wants Me at their Orgy

Nothing is cut-and-dried this week. John and Craig talk Game of Thrones rape, allegations against director Bryan Singer and the new report showing the same low employment numbers for female writers in film and TV.

Draw Your Own Werewolf

Craig delights as John gets @-napped in a Twitter thread about copyright infringement. Then they talk disruption in television, and how it affects writers.

When you think someone stole your idea

A screenwriter sees a trailer that matches the premise of something he wrote ten years earlier. Was it idea theft, or just a good idea.

Period Space

John and Craig tackle the greatest controversy in screenwriting: how many spaces to put after the period. From there, it’s follow-up on the Final Draft episode, including some behind-the-scene details.

101: Q&A from the live show

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.

Psychotherapy for screenwriters

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.

10 Questions, 10 Answers

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.

First sale and funny on the page

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.

Selling a script, but holding on to the characters

Can you sell a spec screenplay but retain the characters for other uses?

Death and advertising

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.

First-sale doctrine

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.

Getting ahead of copyright battles

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 Lawyers

“Happy Birthday to You” — a common song famously still covered by copyright — may in fact be free and clear.

Everything is a remix, but you can still get sued

Kirby Ferguson and Andy Baio show two very different sides of remixing.

Getting clearances

Checking clearances means making sure you’re not inadvertently referring to real people and real companies in your project.

You can’t copyright titles

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).

Surviving the director’s rewrite

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.

No one stole your idea

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.

I sing this song for you. For free.

Composer Jason Robert Brown is flattered young singers like his work, but wishes they wouldn’t pirate his sheet music.

When is it okay to write for free?

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.

Do novelists get more for successful adaptations?

When a novel is adapted into a film or television series, how does compensation to the writer of the original novel work?

Can I base a character on a real asshole?

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.