Screenwriting : Getting the rights later by Regina Lee

Regina Lee

Getting the rights later

This method does not always work out well, but here is an example of a new writer writing a spec script around a well-known property without the rights, and therefore, placing a bet that he would be able to get the script into the hands of a high-profile producer who would then help secure the proper rights. Sometimes this method can work. At other times, the parties may receive a "Cease & Desist" order from the rights holder's attorney. There is no one size fits all. I'd estimate this method typically has a higher chance of success when the property is ubiquitous, when you are indeed able to attach a big name - a game changer, and when the rights holders are inherently motivated to act on the rights.

QUOTE:

Newcomer Evan Romansky penned the spec script, which was given to Murphy via his agent at CAA. Murphy spent a year securing rights to the character and the estate of original producer Saul Zaentz.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/one-flew-cuckoos-nest-prequel-ryan-murphy-scores-two-season-order-at-netflix-1036041?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=THR%20Breaking%20News_now_2017-09-06%2016:04:56_lgoldberg&utm_term=hollywoodreporter_breakingnews

'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' Prequel From Ryan Murphy Scores Two-Season Order at Netflix
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' Prequel From Ryan Murphy Scores Two-Season Order at Netflix
First Netflix stole Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios, and now the streaming giant has scored a high-profile drama series from another of TV's most prolific producers. a prequel series from executive pro…
Regina Lee

Beth/Mods, is there a way to make the article link pop up so that people can see the article more easily?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hi, Regina. Hmmm, well, the link should have shown at the bottom of the initial post, and usually with a graphic. So... I'm not sure? Lemme kick this over to tech. See if they can help. ;)

Tomasz Mieczkowski

Hi Regina - not sure why it's not happening. I ran some tests on my wall and indeed the embed section is not showing up. I added it to our pipeline and will fix it as soon as we can.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thanks, Tomasz! ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Reading the article... Very cool that a newcomer penned the spec. But I have mixed feelings about "Ratched." With Ryan Murphy at the helm, it sounds similar to season two of American Horror Story: Asylum—doesn't it? Of course anything starring Sarah Paulson should be very good. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

There's been other spec scripts written without securing rights... One that comes to mind is the 2016 Industry Survey Black List's "Blond Ambition"—written without Madonna's consent nor life rights, correct? I read it, and did not like it. At all. It read "false." Yet it landed at Universal. I don't see Madonna "blessing" it? Nor giving rights to the music? Dealing with the music seems very expensive and perhaps problematic? Anyway, should be interesting to see what unfolds. :)

Dan MaxXx

Both writers, blonde ambition and Ratched, are CAA clients. They know what they're doing. Rockstar agency

Mike W. Rogers

Is there something to be said about having the big name actor attached before the project has approval to sell the owners of the story? (i.e. I have Brad Pitt to play your beloved Protagonist In the movie!)

Regina Lee

Hi Michael, I have a friend who sold a project to Warner Bros. by getting a star (who has a production company) attached before the sale. Yes, it happens. WB was able to close the rights afterward.

Regina Lee

Beth -- Blond Ambition, the OJ Simpson mini-series, The Social Network, etc. - no life rights, information was in the public sphere.

Dan MaxXx

Bubbles, 2015 Black List script, about Michael Jackson and his chimp, is another CAA project. No life rights don't seem to be a problem with CAA

Regina Lee

Dan, please don't confuse people under the post. I'm honestly trying to help aspiring writers who read S32 and who are not as savvy as you are. Thank you for your help. As to Dan's post, Michael Jackson is no longer living. There are no life rights for people who are no longer living. That said, the law is not written by CAA.

Dan Guardino

Personally I won't write anything I haven't secured rights to. However I do agree with Regina that a dead person isn't going to come back and sue you especially since dead people don't even have the rights to privacy. Frank Sinatra's estate tried to sue someone after he passed away and lost. However that wouldn't stop some moron from trying to stop production in hopes of getting a payoff. I spent over $300k defending myself in a frivolous lawsuit that got tossed out of court after three years of litigation.

Jody Ellis

Question for you Regina Lee , I have an "impressionistic biopic" I wrote that is a true crime story. The story has been heavily covered in the public domain. The main character/suspect is alive and well. I've been operating under the assumption that because this was a highly publicized case and all my info comes from the public domain, no story rights would need to be obtained. Is this correct? I have had a couple execs ask me if I secured any rights, but do I really need to?

Regina Lee

Jody, seems correct to me. However, you might run into a problem down the road if you have material about the person's friends, family, colleagues, etc. who are not in the public sphere. For example, a friend might say, "hey that character is me, and you didn't get my rights."

Regina Lee

Thanks, everyone. My point here is that there is no one way to skin a cat. No one size fits all. I hate reading posts in which people talk themselves out of a good idea. Happy writing.

Danny Manus

Jody, since its so in the public domain/media, you could try to option an article on the subject thru the reporter instead of someones life rights, which is usually much harder.

Mike W. Rogers

Thank you Regina!

Dan Guardino

Regina. Some ideas are good and some aren't good. But, nobody knows which ones will work so one might as well try them all. Good post by the way.

Regina Lee

So true, Dan. Nobody knows. And what's "right" for one person is not going to be right for another person. Keep writing!! Break legs!

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