Screenwriting : Short story adaptations & rights of international works. by Franz Salvatierra

Franz Salvatierra

Short story adaptations & rights of international works.

A year ago, I wanted to do a short film adaptation of an argentine short story (published in 56.) I contacted the agents managing the literature of the author in spain(The author passed away in 84.) They briefly told me that the audio visual rights were not available at that moment. What do I need to do to legally make this short film? Anything I can ask for or offer to give the agency back? Anyone know when such a story would become public domain? I have my script adaptation to at least come at them with some work prepared this time.

Richard Toscan

I don't pretend to be a lawyer, but you're asking for legal trouble if you go ahead with your film without getting the rights and I believe it will be many years before this story goes into public domain. Are you in a position to pay for the rights to the story? There's nearly always a way to make a rights deal either with the agent or current rights holder if you've got the cash. Otherwise, the options you'd have are vanishingly small, especially if your writer is well known in the Spanish speaking world and beyond in translation. The most promising approach might be the following: 1) Find out from the agent in Spain who owns the film rights now and then see if you can convince them let you try your hand at the project. It's possible the rights holder has purchased film/TV rights to all of the stories in a blanket deal and may have little interest in the story you want to adapt. 2) Find a well known Spanish or Argentine film actor and get them to agree to be attached to your project. Then use that connection with the agent and/or rights holder as a way of cutting through the clutter and demonstrating your project might have legs.

Jeff Bollow

Sorry but making a short film without the author or their estate's permission is intellectual property theft. Either ask them why those right are unavailable (someone else may already have optioned them) and persist until they grant you rights (all rights are negotiable so you may just need to find out who owns them and what they want), or let it go. It frankly doesn't matter that you've spent your time writing an adaptive work. If you don't have the right to do that, it doesn't matter. Get rights first or be prepared for the possibility that it will have been time spent in vain.

William Martell

You need to own the rights before you adapt the story. In the USA a work becomes PD seventy five years after the death of the writer. This is why I always recommend creating original work.

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