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Monday, September 17, 2007

What If You Had an Unproduced Screenplay?

This morning's panel at the IFP Filmmaker Conference, 'Turning Your Viewers On,' was a lot of fun. Laurie Racine sat in for David Dudas of Eyespot, and she was great (in addition to working for Eyespot, Laurie is also involved with Creative Commons and dotSub, which added a lot to the panel.)

Here's a question I posed to the audience, which sent the discussion off on a really interesting trajectory. My goal was to talk about how creative people think about the collaborative potential of the Internet.

What if you had an unproduced screenplay in your desk drawer? Would you put that screenplay up on the Net, where an aspiring filmmaker could take it and turn it into a movie -- with full credit to you as the screenwriter? What if you could be assured that if they made a movie (maybe they'd film the entire script, or condense it into a short), and they made money, you'd be guaranteed a percentage of any revenues? But let's assume the more likely scenario is that your movie would only show at a film school, or online, but wouldn't generate much of a return for the filmmaker...

(Afterward, Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine mentioned that Jonathan Lethem, a bona fide famous writer, has done this with some of his short stories.)

Here were some of the responses from the audience:

    - If the screenplay is in my desk drawer, it probably isn't very good, and I wouldn't want my name attached to it if a film was made.

    - I'd worry that someone would take it and make a lot of money from my work.

    - What if I become famous, and someday a studio wants to make a "real" movie from that old script that I wrote in college?

    - What if they changed my script while they were making the movie?

Have a look at The Jonathan Coulton Project, where a very good singer/songwriter allows anyone to produce music videos using his songs. Why wouldn't screenwriters want the same kind of thing to happen with their unproduced work?

I'd love to hear your feedback below... but one last quote from the novelist and blogger Cory Doctorow to get you thinking: "The greatest threat to an artist is obscurity, not piracy."

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