Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘public domain’

“On January 1, 2020, works from 1924 will enter the US public domain, where they will be free for all to use and build upon, without permission or fee.”
Jennifer Jenkins
Public Domain Day 2020 from Duke University Center for the Study of Public Domain

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 12.38.58 PM.png

Thanks to a Facebook post by Ted Hope of the above link from Duke University I became aware of a wide range of films, books, and music that are now in the public domain. Of course, what that means is you are free use those stories without paying any royalties.

This includes the movies by Buster Keaton (The Navigator) and Harold Loyd’s (Girl Shy), books by E.M. Forster (A Passage to India) and Edith Wharton (Old New York), Eugene O’Neil play Desire Under the Elms, and music by George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue) and Irving Berlin (Lazy).

In music what is copyright free is the arrangements, not performances from 1924 until now. And the 1984 movie (and the script by David Lean, nor the play Santha Rama Rau) are copyright free, but you are able to go the 1924 source material and use freely.

The topics of copyright law and derivative works have long been the center of many conversations among content creators. As original as everyone seeks to be it’s impossible  to shake connections to past work. Just look at some Oscar nominated films this year: You watch 1917 and you think of Saving Private Ryan and Russian Ark (and Birdmam, and Rope), Marriage Story has traces of Kramer vs. Kramer, The Irishman is a brother to both Goodfellas and The Godfather and a cousin to Hoffa, Joaquin Phoenix is favored to win Best Actor for his Joker that Heath Ledger won an Oscar for in a supporting role as the same character in The Dark Knight.

Inspiration is one thing, copyright infringment is another thing. One of the nice things about adapting stories from 1924 and before is you are building on work that has proven worth. The test will be can you update it for a modern audience? But at least you can do it without the threat of being sued. No shame in following the steps of proven writers. And I think you find—as Francis Ford Coppola has said—at the end of the day, you will make it your own.

“Someone is going to invent a new art form, a new medium—it’s probably not going to be you. So follow in someone’s footsteps. Because if there is someone before you that has made an impact with the acoustic guitar, then we know it is possible. . . . If you would have said to me when I met you, my goal is to change the culture with an outdoor repertory theater that’s only going to be in Iowa, I would say ‘Has anyone ever come close to doing that?’, because your expectations might be mismatched. You said you wanted to change the culture. If on the other hand you say we have typewriters and we know how to deal with people in Hollywood and New York who have carriage and spectrum, I’d say yeah, there’s been a thousand people before you—in their own way—who have done that. Yes, go do that.”
Author/speaker Seth Godin (The Dip)
Interview on The Moment with Brian Koppelman (9/17/19)

P.S. Speaking of Seth Godin and Iowa, Godin’s book Purple Cow was one of the inspirations behind starting the blog Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places way back in 2008. On the 12th anniversary of this blog (January 23, 2020) I’ll give an update on the progress on my book based on the blog.

Related post:
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“I wear glasses and braces. I do all my clothes shopping at Walmart and second-hand stores. I spend more time on algebra than I do on my hair.”
15 year old Maya Van Wagenen

glamour-guide-for-teens

Yeah, teenager Maya Van Wagenen may still live with her parents in rural Georgia, but she doesn’t need to shop at second-hand stores anymore. (Unless she likes the style in that early Madonna kind of way.) A few months ago she signed a two-book deal with Penguin books reportedly for around $300,000. Sure you have to pay taxes on that, but yesterday Deadline reported  that “Van Wagenen has become the youngest non-actor to ever make a feature deal at DreamWorks.”

Her first book Popular: Vintage Wisdom for Modern Geek is set to be released in April 2004. From what I could find online the story takes places in Brownsville. Texas where Van Wagenen used to live and revolves around a high school girl who decides to use a 1950’s book Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide to win friends at her school.  I had never heard of Van Wagenen or Cornell before yesterday, but I saw the movie instantly in my head. And the movie poster can pull a line directly from the book cover; “The secrets of how you can be prettier and more popular.”

So much room for satire, commentary, and insight—and potentially entertaining every step of the way. Perhaps a dash of The Breakfast Club, Easy A, and Blast from the Past. And talk about a built in audience—what percentage of high school girls today do you think want to be popular, pretty, and smart?

My guess is we’ll all be learning more about both Van Wegenen and Cornell in the near future.  Couldn’t find much out about Van Wagenen, but she won 1st place in flash fiction for a story called The Princess on Route 4B that was a competition connected with Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.

From what I could gather online, Cornell was a junior model in the ’40s and had her first book published in 1951 offering advice on everything from boys and dress to hair and diet.

“If you don’t know what foods are fattening, ask your chubby friends, because they will know.”
Betty Cornell
(Found on a blog called Embarrassing Treasures)

By today’s standards I’m sure there are some things Cornell wrote more than 50 years ago that seem insensitive and politically incorrect, but I can also see why Steven Spielberg’s long time assistant, Kristie Macosko Krieger,  was attracted to and will be producing the movie. According to the Deadline report Amy B. Harris (Sex in the City) will be writing the screenplay.

Talent comes from everywhere. Congrats to Van Wagenen. And best wishes on your writing today.

P.S. How many manner, etiquette, and beauty books from the 19th and 20th century will find their way into movies in the next couple of years? What’s old is new again. (And all the better if the source material is in the public domain—anything published before 1923).

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

“The movie Frankenstein is not much like the book but there’s some essential creation in the book without which there could not be the movie.”
Walter Kirn
writer of the novel Up in the Air

 

Just in case you think Up in the Air is the only movie I’ve seen recently let me assure you that in the last couple days I have seen both Sherlock Holmes and Avatar. Both were spectacles that from a writing perspective left me with little inspiration. So back to Up in the Air. I found this nice little exchange at Cinema Blend between the novelist Walter Kirn and the screenwriter/director Jason Reitman about turning the book Up in the Air into a movie.

What was the adaptation process like?
Kirn: I think that the book is to the movie, what a piece of paper is to a paper airplane.
Reitman: That was great! That’s not the first time you’ve said that though!
Kirn: What I mean by this paper airplane comparison is this, he took this story and he folded it and he refolded it and he transformed it in a way that I completely recognize my own impulse in writing it but when I sat down to see it was not only honored and delighted but surprised by the transformations that had taken place in my own material and some of the potentials that I left untapped and, you know, here are two characters [gestures towards actresses Anna Kendrick and Vira Farmiga], one of whom is sort of in the book and one of whom is not at all in the book. There’s an Alex of a sort and there is no Natalie. So there’s so much invention. I think that anyone who’s interested in book to film adaptation really should look at this book and this film and see the way that that can be something more than a linear process but actual sort of chrysalis, you know, butterfly process. I read Jason’s script amazed and when you talk about Oscars and that sort of thing, because I know the source material that it came from intimately, there is a very deserved one there.

If you’re interested in adapting a book into a story I’d recommend Linda Seger’s The Art of Adaption:Turning Fact and Fiction into Film. And it would be most helpful to pick your favorite film made from a book and do a breakdown of the similarities and differences of the two. Try to figure out why some things were added and some things left out. Ask how creating a visual film changed some of the literary qualities? How how the structure of the book and the movie are similar and different.

Go deep with one book and one movie rather than trying to do broad strokes with several of your favorite books/movies.

And if you’re adapting a book into a screenplay, unless it’s just an exercise, it’s best to get the rights before you take on the task of investing in the screenplay. (Though I believe Reitman began his script before he actually had the rights to the story so these things do work out sometimes.) Some authors are very accessible, especially if you pick one of their obscure short stories.

And don’t forget there is a lot of public domain material out there.

Also, Walter Kirn has said in interviews that he wrote a script version of his novel. If anyone knows if there is a link to that script I’d love to read it to see how the original writer attempted to adapt his own material.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: