How do I get the rights to make a play into a film?
August 25, 2011 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I want to turn a short play into a short film. If completed, it'll be a low-budget affair seen at a few festivals and hopefully online; the play was first performed in 1990 and the playwright is still alive. How do I go about getting the rights to film his play, or see if I can even think about affording it?
posted by BoringPostcards to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Email him, or call him, or drop him a letter. Explain what you want to do. He will most likely be amenable to the idea for little-to-no money. Be clear, direct, and businesslike in your correspondence. Have an entertainment attorney draft an agreement if the playwright is up for it. Most likely the agreement will include a clause related to exhibition, and will be limited to festivals. Make sure your agreement includes online viewing. Do not mention this stuff to the playwright -- just make sure your lawyer includes it in the agreement you send him.

Do not, under any circumstances, allow the playwright to write the screenplay.
posted by incessant at 10:18 PM on August 25, 2011

Best answer: He or she should have a web page with contact info. That being said, there's a very good chance the playwright doesn't, because playwrights are really awful at that sort of thing. If you still have the program for the play, see if the playwright belongs to any professional organization, such as the ALAP or the Playwrights Center or New Horizons. They can put you in touch. The theater that produced the play may have contact info -- I have received emails and letters before forwarded to me by theaters I have worked with.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:10 PM on August 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, both of you. Bunny Ultramod, I have the play (and what info I know about it) via a paperback book that collects several of his plays in one volume. I'll do some Googling, though. I wasn't sure if contacting the playwright more or less directly was the right thing to do, or an amateurish move. I'm glad to hear it's the right thing to do.
posted by BoringPostcards at 3:07 PM on August 26, 2011

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