View Full Version : Adapting One-Act Play NOT FOR PROFIT - Legality?


nothing_glory
10-27-2008, 09:15 PM
Hello all, this is my first post but I've been reading almost non-stop since I joined. I know the question has been asked many times over if adaptation without permission is okay (which it is not I understand), however I only want to do this for personal purposes. I am a new filmaker and this will be my first film. I'm wanting to adapt Douglas Hill's "Heart In The Ground" into an eight minute film, and do not plan on trying to sell or market it. I don't even want to enter it into any festivals, I just want to get going with my film making and thought starting with one-act plays would be a good place to start gaining experience with. So if I'm adapting my own screenplays from other peoples' plays but not making any money off of them, am I safe from infringment? I don't even see how I could be sued since I won't be showing it publicly.

directorik
10-27-2008, 09:55 PM
I think adapting one act plays is a great way to learn about making movies.

Technically it is copyright infringement, but if you don't show it to anyone
other than friends and family (and that includes uploading to YouTube) you
won't be sued.

wcmartell
10-28-2008, 12:17 AM
Copyright is the right to copy - if you do not have the rights, you can't copy it whether you make money or not. So, technically and legally, you're in trouble the minute you do it.

But they'd have to find out about it. So if you make your movie and show it to no one, you're probably safe.

But who wants to make a film and show it to no one? What if the film turns out great? You can't show it to anyone!

So I would suggest writing something original for a couple of reasons:
1) If it turns out great, you can enter it in festivals and use it to further your filmmaking career.
2) You get to learn about storytelling and exercise your creative muscles.

If you *need* to adapt a short story, I'd suggest finding something in public domain, where copyright is not an issue, and if the film is great - you can still enter it in festivals.

- Bill

directorik
10-28-2008, 01:17 AM
One of the first "serious" movies I made when I was starting
was Albee's "Zoo Story". I had been in it at school and decided
to film it.

I thought about the what if. And at that age I figured if it was great I
would figure something out. Well, like most of my films, it wasn't great.
But I learned so much. I had a story and characters and good dialogue
so I was free to concentrate on directing. Not all directors are writers.

Excellent points, Bill. But there is always another side that first timers
can explore. And adapting a one-act play can really help an aspiring
director learn about the process of making a movie. And THAT can
be used to further a career, too.

My next one was "Waiting For Godot".... Wanna take a guess on how that
turned out?

nothing_glory
10-29-2008, 02:48 AM
Heh, well I can only guess rik. I completely 100% expect this first film to be utterly horrible, this is why I assumed I'd be safe since it won't have a wide audience. I also think one-act plays are a good place to start [in fact it might have been an old post of yours that I got the idea from? Like I said I've been reading a mind numbing amount in the past week]

I feel like I could possibly be a writer AND director, but nothing can be said for sure yet since this is something thats remained solely in my head for the last five years. There are tens upon hundreds of pages of ideas, sloppy screenplays and scripts, etc on my hard drive and I think my biggest hurdle today is my lack of screen writing skills - I have a basic idea of how to do it correctly, what is expected, all of that. Its just difficult for me to translate the colors in the water into a properly formatted screenplay. Making sense? :hmm:

Anyway, to Bill - of course I yearn to flex my own creative muscles in my premier film, its just the confidence factor. However, while taking a break this evening (in between writings and editing this play script) I scratched down an idea, a simple plot line really. Three hours later and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna jump into this movie idea this week.

Here's the deal- I have until Saturday to give back a loaned camera, and I'm really wanting to at least get the raw materials by then so that I can do post-production next week. After careful consideration and lots of painful decisions, its apparent that I'll only have a six or eight minute film on my hands with my limited time period with this wonderful camera. So I've decided this time to pass "Heart In The Ground" which would have been a fifteen to twenty minute film to be good, and go forward with this original idea of mine since it can be done in six minutes or so. And of course the friend who loaned me the camera is also a creative type, he even wants to make films himself. So I have an ongoing opportunity to use the camera in the future. I just wanted to take advantage of being able to work on my own film by myself without the pressure of collaboration. Unfortunately I have no equipment of my own- unless you can count the Brain!- so I'm having to rely on my friend for camera use as well as computer editing/production. Sorry for the rambling, I guess I'm hoping for more advice...

citychik
11-10-2008, 03:14 AM
...I also think one-act plays are a good place to start...

I feel like I could possibly be a writer AND director, but nothing can be said for sure yet since this is something thats remained solely in my head for the last five years. There are tens upon hundreds of pages of ideas, sloppy screenplays and scripts, etc on my hard drive and I think my biggest hurdle today is my lack of screen writing skills - I have a basic idea of how to do it correctly, what is expected, all of that. Its just difficult for me to translate the colors in the water into a properly formatted screenplay. Making sense? :hmm:

...while taking a break this evening (in between writings and editing this play script) I scratched down an idea, a simple plot line really. Three hours later and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna jump into this movie idea this week. Learning how to properly format a screenplay will help your writing because it is a good lesson in discipline. I especially like knowing that one page (properly formatted) equals approximately a minute of screen time. Who knows how long your movie will be if you don't take advantage of this one basic guideline?

We all have limitations, and as artists we must find "freedom within the harness," as one of my former teachers used to say. You can download a screenplay template for free from Microsoft's website and load it into Word, make some macros and learn the format. Or get the trial version of Final Draft. Start reading about writing screenplays, and then write (using your template). Remember that action drives the drama. Make sure there is plenty of white space on your pages. You should be aware that you will rewrite, rewrite, rewrite - each rewrite is a lesson in keeping only what is essential.

Anyway, regarding adapting plays, why not look for stuff in the public domain? Take a Greek myth or an act from Shakespeare and modernize it for your short film - then you don't have to worry about copyright infringement if you do decide to put it up on YouTube or show it off somehow.

:)

barnaclelapse
11-20-2008, 12:18 AM
It seems like a lot of filmmakers get their start doing odd adaptations of established work.

I like the idea of doing something public domain, because that really puts you in the free and clear, but if you're just doing this as an exercise of sorts, then I say go for it.

Really, it's whatever gets your feet on the ground.