Too close to the real deal?



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  • Too close to the real deal?

    Question from the not so knowing canucklhead.

    Would I get in too much trouble if I have a character in a script that is loosely based on a real life serial (child) killer.

    My first instinct would be no, as the overall story isn't based on any real event, but some bleeding heart might think I've infinged on this criminals rights, seeing the guy gets his head blown off in the opening scene.

    There's always that clause at the end of a movie "the characters in this flick are fictitious and bear no resemblance to any living yadda yadda yadda...

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    If it's truly loosely based, then it's not a problem as long as the character's name isn't something like Wayne Williams.


    • #3

      The movie business is a monarchy and story is King. If you're story is good, the studio will deal with any fallout and secure any needed rights. Write the best damn story you can. Don't waffle on it. A child serial killer is serious b'idness, so you can't fudge it. Make it real. Make it the best you can. Let the lawyers worry about liabilities after the studio shells out for the thing.

      This is providing you aren't actually using true details of the case and just changing the names. Law & Order did an episode based on the Bernardo murders and it took them a long time and many re-writes to avoid litigation.


      • #4
        Well, if this person is well known enough they have become public domaine, they're no longer protected by the privacy act. And can only go after you for slander and libel. Not unauthorized depiction. (Fame has its downside.)

        If you blow someone's head off in the opening scenes, though, and that's it, they are gone? It is hard to say you depicted anyone concretely in a recognizable way, regardless of public domaine and public figure issues.


        • #5
          Re: Monarchy

          Plan to craft the script with no reservations and little restraint.

          One of the killers in question is the "cereal killer" - this guy came home one day and without any reason, gutted his girlfriend's little boy and ate cereal out of him.

          This is not a made up story - this guy is in a prison in western Canada.

          That's the type of emotion twisting involved - my concern is that with minimal detail, one can figure out who the character is based on.

          Based on what you have to say, I'll forget about it and just get the story written.

          Tough script to write - I get enraged whenever i really get into it.


          • #6

            "Tough script to write - I get enraged whenever i really get into it."

            If this is the case, you have to ask yourself, "Is this story worth telling?"

            If it drains you mentally to tell this story, it most likely will have the same effect on the audience. I'm not suggesting running away from a theme because it might disturb an audience... but if you notice adverse effects physiologically, you might want to move on to other projects.

            Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a haunting film. It was a quality character study, I'll admit, but I wouldn't want to see it ever again. And I definitly wouldn't want to be involved in that kind of production, in the scripting or shooting stage.


            • #7
              Re: Masochism




              • #8
                Re: Masochism

                Anger is what I want to eliset from the reader/audience. If it gets me riled up - it'll get the audience going.

                Emotion - that's what Speilsburg goes for and it's what makes his movies so good.

                Your point is valid and i will definatley keep it in mind.


                • #9
                  Re: Masochism


                  You won't understand my cryptic message to Kosk above, so I shall explain it. We were discussing graphic violence in horror films earlier with Goreomedy. I made a comment that pretty soon someone will show babies being skinned alive, with the excuse that it was in the newspapers as something someone said satan worshippers do.

                  Now here comes the "cereal killer" story. Okay, it makes you angry. You want others to get angry. For my taste, it's a story that does not need to make it to the silver screen. I am not an authority. Maybe it would sell. I don't know.

                  I only know that this world is filled with beauty and ugliness, and we humans spend way to much time on the ugliness. Please, please find something else to make a movie about.

                  This is not an meant as an affront to you. I'm just expressing an opinion.

                  Bill Marquardt


                  • #10
                    Cereal Killer

                    A. The cereal-in-the-dead-kid event is too unique. Pretending that it wasn't this real life criminal's story would be a hard sell.

                    B. Think about the most gruesome serial flick ever made (Se7en comes to mind for me). Now replace all the victims with little children. Happy with the result? The words "gratuitous" and "sadistic" come to my mind.

                    I hate movies that put children in danger. It's cheap; every person with a soul is repulsed at the death of a child. What's the point? The biggest blow chow movie of all time?

                    I suggest you toss what you have in the fireplace and start over.


                    • #11

                      sorry i've got to agree with pteradon to an extent. i know a few people who couldn't bear to sit through some parts of se7en. don't get me wrong it's a damn good film but not for the weak stomached. the thing is that i would consider myself very strong stomached, some of the ideas for my scripts i get are horrific, not quite as sick as that but still... the point is that this would make me sick to my stomach and i certainly wouldn't look forward to rewatching it. no-one likes to see little kids hurt, never mind gutted and filled with sugar puffs. visually strong images are good but this is something that doesn't need and most people won't particularly want to see.
                      my advice; tame it down a little... even if you only change it from a child to a dog. no-one likes to see a gutted dog but it's a damn site better than a gutted child and almost as powerful an image. hope it helps.
                      just my thoughts, kruel;@


                      • #12

                        The only way I see to pull it off would be as done in 'Silence Of The Lambs'. You'll have to have others talk about what has happened, perhaps prosecutors or witnesses giving testimony as to the sickening nature of the crimes. I think a forensics expert as a witness would best be suited for such scenes.

                        That's the only way I can think of executing the story if you insist on going through with this. There have been three major child-killer cases here recently, and NO ONE will allow any sort of leeway for such a story, regardless of your intent or angle.

                        I wholeheartedly agree with the others here: your efforts are best spent on more fruitful projects.


                        • #13
                          Re: methods

                          I missed something. I thought the story was about someone who took revenge on child killers. Dumb, dumb me.



                          • #14
                            Re: methods

                            I think I wiffed a bit on what my story is about -- the story isn't about the killers, it is a about a sniper that uses a british made ( thus U.S. unknown) rifle to pick off child killers and pedophiles ( most while still cooped up in prison)The only real violence is the sniper picking off his targets.

                            I knew that going into graphic detail on the killers themselves would cross the line - I don't like to write that type of "gore" - only the background on the killers is given as a voice over or news report - and I intended only enough to bring people's own thoughts to the forefront.

                            The sniper uses the cereal killer as a point of justification at a later part of the script - he explains what the guy did as he's setting up for the shot and then makes the bold statement

                            SNIPER (V.O.)
                            So look me in the eye and
                            tell me what I'm doing is wrong.

                            Thanks for all your comments - I definately keep them in mind as go.



                            • #15
                              One thing to remember....

                              A guy eating cereal out of a kid, while horrifying in real life, would be funny in a movie.

                              Unless you're going for a bizarre black comedy, using Junior as a bowl will wreck the tone of your script.

                              But don't worry about going too far. Never worry about going too far.

                              "I only know that this world is filled with beauty and ugliness, and we humans spend way to much time on the ugliness. Please, please find something else to make a movie about."

                              Sorry to say it, Bill, but this statement is the generation gap.