Write a story based on IP that appears stuck in dev, or just move on?

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  • Write a story based on IP that appears stuck in dev, or just move on?

    I found a real life story I absolutely love and want to write, but according to IMDb Pro there is one film and one TV series in development based on the same IP. Both have named attachments, but trade announcements are five (film) and almost 10 (series) years old, with no news since.

    Should I say "Screw it" and move on, or try to succeed where others have failed? My instinct would be the former, yet someone got traction with a film version years after the series apparently fizzled, so maybe I'm wrong.

    What does the wisdom of DD recommend? And what are ways I might signal something is a fresh take on a "known" IP other than playing w/format?

    Thanks!

    - Irwin P

  • #2
    When you say IP do you just mean a true story about famous people?

    Anyway, what does IMDBPro say about development? Anything? Has anything changed in the last five years that would make this more viable now?

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    • #3
      It's a true story about a high profile criminal investigation in the 80s. The series is based off the book and the film is based off the primary figure's life rights, so there is IP but not in the exclusionary sense.

      Point ceded on IMDb Pro. All I'm saying is no activity since the projects were announced in the trades means they've mayyyybe lost steam. 🤷🏻‍♂️

      To me, what makes the story more viable now is the political and cultural environment we're in. A lot's changed since those scripts were penned, and what was once a heralded investigation with questionable tactics would now be viewed as a comical misappropriation of government resources.

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      • #4
        Can you find out if the book rights are available? That’ll confirm if the series development is dead or not. And even if you can’t afford them yourself, if they’re available and you can work fast, a prod co or producer may be willing to pick up those rights after the fact.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by JS90 View Post
          And even if you can’t afford them yourself, if they’re available and you can work fast, a prod co or producer may be willing to pick up those rights after the fact.
          Sounds like you are suggesting that irwin write a script based on IP to which they do not control the rights. irwin, do not do this. Just don't.

          As for whether it's still a viable idea given it has been in development, it's the "Both have named attachments, but trade announcements" bit that could be the reason not to pursue this. So they didn't get made, fine, but any producer considering this will see the trade announcements, see the big name attachments and think "we'll if those big names couldn't get it made..." and very likely pass.

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          • #6
            I'm always on team steal from real life, but make your own story. So if you want to write a Steve Jobs movie create you own fake Apple and fake leader. But that's just me.

            Unless a big studio or producer has the rights and is PAYING me to do it, I don't see the benefit of doing IP. It seems like all risk if you don't own the rights.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Northbank View Post

              Sounds like you are suggesting that irwin write a script based on IP to which they do not control the rights. irwin, do not do this. Just don't.
              Based on Irwin’s description, it sounds like a non-fiction story based on public events that wouldn’t necessarily require IP to write but that IP currently exists around.

              If you can piece together the info you need on this investigation from articles, news stories, court and FIA documents, and even your own interviews, I say go ahead and write it.

              If a prod-co likes it and the book rights are available they may want to option it and fold your script into that IP. My company has done that before.

              But broadly speaking I of course agree - don’t adapt specific material you don’t have the rights to. And if for some reason this one book series is the only source of information on this investigation than yes, stay away.

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              • #8
                Agree with every word js90 says. If you're drawing all your research from a magazine article or a book that you don't have the rights to, you might be making the script a very hard sell.

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                • #9
                  This is really great insight JS90 and JeffLowell (as always). You're absolutely correct: It's a public story that was widely covered (60-Minutes, book, news articles), so there are plenty of sources to draw from. I believe I can also get to some people who were intimately involved. Sufficed it to say, I won't be relying on a single piece of IP controlled by someone else.

                  Thanks for the advice and comments everyone! Love this community.

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                  • #10
                    Speaking of IP and (my calling card thread) -- was listening to a manager talk about a spec that did really well for his client and it was a Robin Hood spec where the Robin Hood was the good guy at night also the Sheriff during the day. And he talked about FREE IP.

                    So that got me thinking. What else is free IP that maybe we can think of a new take on as they do seem to love IP....

                    FREE IP

                    Peter Pan?
                    Frankenstein?

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