Adaptations And True Stories

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Adaptations And True Stories

Another source of ideas are published novels or incredible true stories. However, unless the novel is in the public domain or the person whose true story you're writing is you, you'll have to secure the rights first. This costs money and is very tricky, but if you're determined, here are some tips from entertainment lawyer Judith Merians:

Get exclusive rights throughout the universe in all media now known or hereafter invented. Even if you intend to produce only a DVD movie you should buy all media so you don't have competition on the same story in other media.

If you're getting an option (securing the rights for a limited amount of time, after which they revert back to the original party), get it for a period long enough to pitch, set up a project, and do a draft before the option expires. Always get an optional second option period so that if the project is in active development you can extend the option period without having to pay the purchase price. You don't want to have to buy something before you know you're going to produce the project. Keep development costs down.

Do not grant approval rights to the author of the novel or the subject of the life story rights. That can kill a project at the whim of someone who does not want to "approve" for whatever reason. No one will finance this. You can grant consultation rights if the subject insists on being involved.

Life story rights should cover a broad enough period of the person's life to be able to tell the story. First check to see that you can get the rights to all other real people who are essential to your story. If you can't get the rights to an essential character without whom the story can't be told, and there is not enough information in the public records to write in the character, pass on the project.

Sign the subject to render exclusive services as a consultant by furnishing photos, documents, interviews, and giving you access to others. Your story will be richer and more authentic, and if anyone else is developing the same story from public records you'll have an edge by having exclusive access to inside information.

Get everything in a signed document and have all rights documents drafted and negotiated by an experienced lawyer. This is where you spend you money—securing the rights properly.

A warning: many beginning writers try to write their own life experiences. But that horrible breakup you went through at 17 is almost certainly an insufficient story. Creating good drama requires distance. Most of us are too close to our own stories. We get caught up in the personal details and lose sight of the universal. When that happens, the most dramatic event in our lives will only come across as boring to an audience.



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