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Old 10-23-2019, 07:58 AM   #1
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I'm looking to option the only book written about someone that I want to script about. Has anyone done this without paying or paying very little upfront?

I can write the script without the book because there's so many articles about this person but I think having that as the source material would make it fire.
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:08 AM   #2
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Write it using those multiple sources and then let producers/financiers deal with the rights. Im guessing this isnt a NYT bestseller. Id worry about that later. Until
I started getting access to people who would acquire rights for me, I always cobbled together my own IP.
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:47 AM   #3
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Write it using those multiple sources and then let producers/financiers deal with the rights. Im guessing this isnt a NYT bestseller. Id worry about that later. Until
I started getting access to people who would acquire rights for me, I always cobbled together my own IP.
I think you're right and that's what I'm leaning toward. Only one book written on this super pivotal and massively influential person is super crazy to me. There's plenty of articles and Youtube videos to source from. This script is writing itself and I'd hate to have a speed bump slow me down.
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Old 10-23-2019, 01:32 PM   #4
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For what it's worth, you very may well need life rights from the person or their estate. And if there's only one book about the person, there could be a reason. Such as they (or their estate) are not interested in granting rights to many outlets.
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Old 10-23-2019, 04:49 PM   #5
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For what it's worth, you very may well need life rights from the person or their estate. And if there's only one book about the person, there could be a reason. Such as they (or their estate) are not interested in granting rights to many outlets.
She's passed away and there doesn't seem to be an estate. She even said in an article that she wanted her story told! It's never happened. She'd be tickled pink. I need to write this.

I'm leaning on sources that came out before the book so there's no question about source.
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Old 10-23-2019, 05:16 PM   #6
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For what it's worth, you very may well need life rights from the person or their estate. And if there's only one book about the person, there could be a reason. Such as they (or their estate) are not interested in granting rights to many outlets.
Worry about this later. Write it. BLOND AMBITION certainly didn't have the life rights of a very alive and very litigious Madonna. It's worked out well for Elyse Hollander.
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Old 10-23-2019, 07:25 PM   #7
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Worry about this later. Write it. BLOND AMBITION certainly didn't have the life rights of a very alive and very litigious Madonna. It's worked out well for Elyse Hollander.
I hear you loud and clear. You're so right. Thanks, bro (or sis)!
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Old 10-24-2019, 03:26 PM   #8
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Technically (legally), a written screenplay without the life rights is anathema to the studio legal department, or so I’ve read. Even so, I agree with the camp that says to write it. It may not be a “legally available” screenplay to option, but it sure sounds as though your heart is in it and that in itself might make it the home run that gets you other work as a writing sample.

Worst case scenario: You get the story out of your system, learn from doing so for the next project, and later, you have no regrets for “great stories (you) could have written” when you are wasting away and dying in the Old Screenwriter’s Home.

Best case scenario: Your heart is in it and the story sings so well that no one can deny coordinating their bid for it, option it, and buy the life rights to make the film.
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Old 10-25-2019, 03:57 PM   #9
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Worry about this later. Write it. BLOND AMBITION certainly didn't have the life rights of a very alive and very litigious Madonna. It's worked out well for Elyse Hollander.
I mean, kind of?

That movie will definitely never be made, which is one of several factors that seems to have hurt the salability of these sorts of biopics.

I honestly don't think that script would sell in 2019 (I know I know, Elyse sold it to her boss, etc.)... but that being said, I still think it's a smart sort of script to write (in other words, I agree with your main point).
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Old 10-30-2019, 02:34 PM   #10
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I mean, kind of?

That movie will definitely never be made, which is one of several factors that seems to have hurt the salability of these sorts of biopics.

I honestly don't think that script would sell in 2019 (I know I know, Elyse sold it to her boss, etc.)... but that being said, I still think it's a smart sort of script to write (in other words, I agree with your main point).
this is what i was thinking as well. at AFF i attended a legal panel the covered both clearance (e&o) as well as entertainment law when your lawyer is looking at contracts. two very different kinds of lawyers. the previous will work for a writer by the hour, the latter works off 10% of the writer's fee/sale of their project.

two good things going for the OP is you can't defame the dead and there doesn't appear to be a huge trust to stand and say you're defaming US. if you wanted to write a script about L. Ron Hubbard the Church of Scientology could sue because they can claim that the close tie between the founder and the ongoing organization could be defamed.

some of these biopics and specs aren't written to get made, but rather as a way to highlight a writer's voice and skill to the industry at large, creating writer BUZZ as is the case of BUBBLES the Michael Jackson spec that was on the annual black list a few years ago, will never get made because the very litigious Jackson estate would sue. the risk it too great in that instance.

it looks like BA has Le Luca (Social Network) attached as well as Universal Pictures, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to get made. i mean, can you imagine a Madonna movie where they don't have the rights to play any of her music? especially the early ones? that's the leverage Madonna will have over production. if she doesn't like something in the script she can with hold authorizing song rights, right?

it might be worth understanding some basics about risk and liability, because it's not about having a "winning case," it's about assessing the risk of litigation, insurance and investors.

liability can/does affect insuring your film. certainly there are filmmakers that push the envelop (HBO), for example both documentaries LEAVING NEVERLAND and GOING CLEAR. they knew they'd get sued.

the lawyer that spoke worked with Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network. tip of the day, you want to write a spec about Elvis Presley? don't do it. she said that Netflix will only work with "fair rights issued." and i think they only work with specific law firms because they don't want to get sued.

legal terms to consider:
  • Life Rights, not what you think it is... it's when you are granted rights to depict real people and how much creative license your are granted. pretty sure i have that right.
  • Right to Privacy
  • Right to Publicity -- comes down to whether they are considered a private citizen or a public figure, the ability to control the commercial use of yourself (image, name, likeliness, identifying features...
  • Fair Use-- important for independent filmmakers because depending on your risk it can raise your deductible to an amount that you can't actually afford and because the insurance doesn't kick in it's part because your deductible has to be satisfied first.

her advice was to be an "issue spotter," before you start writing. i'm not a lawyer, so i'm not offering legal advice, but it seems that the OP doesn't have a lot of issues to overcome.

if the OP wants to option the rights to secure the book it might not actually cost that much or might be deferred to when/if the project gets a financier. it doesn't hurt to ask, and if the answer is no, don't use what's exclusively not found from another resource.

it was a fascinating conference.
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