No announcement yet.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Ethics

    Who has more claim to a story?

    If a person gives you a basic concept for a movie and you toil to produce a script, who would have claim to the finished product?

    Let's say that you not only poured in your creative soul to complete the script, but by the time you finished, very little of the original concept remained.


    Someone tells you - I have an idea for a movie about a family in Thailand who's only hope to survive is kickboxing, but that doesn't work because of corruptiion in the business, so the mom marries a GI and they come to the states where they live happily ever after.

    You change it to - The women of a family, in war torn Southeast Asia, struggle to survive by entering prostitution. Most die from ill treatment and war, one survives. She falls in love with a GI, they marry and come to the states.

    Would you give the person that sparked the Idea any Money?

  • #2
    I saw a special on the writing of "Splash Dance" where the produced script and the original script had few, if any, simularities. But because the produced version originated from the original screenplay the writing credits were shared.

    Story Concepts, Log lines, Synopses, and treatments can be registered/copyrighted.

    Then there's the famous quote... "Good ideas are a dime a dozen"


    • #3
      If I had to pay cash every time someone in a bar heard the word "writer" and forced me into a corner to hear a story about Aunt Mabel's whacky peach canning soiree, I would be robbing trains to pay up. And if some person in a bar actually does corner me some day and tell me something I even want to use, I'm not giving them cash either. If they want cash they should do the work instead of cornering defenseless writers.

      So the question comes down to the circumstances under which someone told you a story. Like, if this is some person who just said, Hey I have this idea you should write as a movie, and you actually liked it and wrote it, well it is yours and you don't owe them anything. And next time maybe they should go write it themselves, if they are in it for profit. If on the other hand a producer brought you an idea, well, you are honor bound to work with that producer on the idea. It was brought to you in a business scenario, it is theirs, if you want to work on it, you work on it with them.

      As far as credits to a writer on an original script that gets rewritten and changed a lot goes, well look. That's fair and people should stop being so greedy and whole hearted slap happy about knocking a first writer off a project. Nobody would have a job if that first writer hadn't written that script because nobody would have bought that script, set it up, paid other writers to come in and rewrite it and made a movie. So everyone got paid because that one writer sat down and wrote something and pulled off a sale and I don't care how changed the script is, that writer deserves some credit for pulling that off. Instead of a bunch of other writers whining about how they don't see why that first writer should get credit they made all these changes. Jeez. Watching that just wears me out.


      • #4
        So Zup, you having problems with this kind of thing?


        • #5
          I have a friend who is an actress. I loosely based a character on her in one of my scripts. I even took the gist of an argument she had with her boyfriend and put it in. One of my screenwriting teachers told me that no one ever recognizes themselves in your script. If they think they do, it's always the wrong character. Anyway, she read the script and gave me her feedback. All's well, right? A few days later though, she said "By the way, about your script, I think you're a soul sucker." I was shocked, we never spoke about it again and we're still friends, and she never asked me for any money. The point is - no you do not owe anyone money for planting the seed, when they metion something in conversation and no your friends can't sue you for using aspects of them in a script. Where do these people think we get our ideas anyway?

          Thanks for an interesting topic.
          P.S. the above mentioned friend has been one of the most supportive and after all this actually set up a reading of one of my scripts with her theatre group. She was also the first to really believe in me and bought me Scriptware when I was first starting.


          • #6
            Ethics, or no ethics

            About a year ago, I was contacted by a producer, who had an idea and asked me to write a script. He had a few characters, and a basic premise, but no story or plot whatever. He promised to pay me, and I put two months into what became a script I was very proud of. I sent it to him, and he sent me a contract for the option and sale. Within a few weeks after he received the script, however, he stopped returning my calls and e-mails, and needless to say he never signed the contract or paid me a dime. He has since disappeared. I went through a legal support group for writers and tried to contact him, but it was no use, and I finally got the WGA-registration on the script, which of course I'll never sell because he had the "rights" to the story. I believe I performed professionally for this person and was ripped off, providing him with a shootable script for nothing. His ethics were lacking.


            • #7
              Re: Ethics, or no ethics

              Your story illustrates how important it is to have an agent, manager or lawyer working for you. Also remember this phrase - money upfront and a step deal. Learn it, love it, remember it. Plus, it helps if you only deal with WGA signatory companies. If you call the WGA they will let you know the status of a company.

              WGAw: Signatories



              • #8
                Re: Ethics, or no ethics

                Never turn in a script without a contract and commencement fee. Never ever. Sigh.


                • #9
                  Re: Ethics, or no ethics

                  In response to Jack's question. Not Yet, but I see it coming. I wrote a script using the name of the principle character and his mother, his occupation and some of the premise. The person that had the original idea even said to me, after reading the script, there's nothing left but hi name.

                  Should I change the character's name?


                  • #10
                    Re: Ethics, or no ethics

                    According to Christopher McQuarrie he really knew a guy with the name Keyser Soze. He told him he would one day use his name in a script. I would keep it if it's a great name. For secondary characters I often use friends' names. They love it.


                    • #11
                      The names have been changed to protect the idiots.

                      If the names are fictional, change them. In fact, if there's anything left of his original idea and you can get rid of it, do. None of this matters until you start making money. Once there's a pile of money on the table, anything goes. By then, it may not be your problem.

                      Money is to lawyers as blood is to ___________.

                      (Question from the LSAT)


                      • #12
                        Re: The names have been changed to protect the idiots.

                        Answer: Leeches
                        The Red Cross


                        • #13
                          Re: Ethics, or no ethics

                          Um, usually the names change first, the story second.

                          CM has got to be making that up. I heard the Keyser Soze legend in grade school. But who knows.


                          • #14
                            LSAT answer



                            • #15
                              Re: Ethics, or no ethics

                              GiG: Could be CM was making it up. He was telling some pretty crazy stories about one of his employers, and how he told them off the same night.

                              re: LSAT

                              Now, I know why I never wanted to be a lawyer. I could never pass the LSAT.