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Old August 11th, 2008, 09:37 AM   #1
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Buying rights

I recently saw a play I would like to produce, possibly with a short film adaptation. I'm wondering how to go about buying rights to the script. Does anyone have any idea about how to go about securing the rights from the writer? Perhaps an example of a contract? Anything to watch out for? Thanks to everyone who posts!
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Old August 11th, 2008, 10:21 AM   #2
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The play has a 'publisher' - find out the name of the publisher and contact them regarding the film rights.

If the play DOESN'T have a publisher - that is, some small play that was locally produced, then contact the author of the play, and inquire about the rights - if they are available.
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Old August 11th, 2008, 05:43 PM   #3
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Actually the film rights are often not administered by the same company that administers performance rights (commonly referred to as the publisher), although this company ought to be able to put you in contact with the playwright's agent (or the estate of the playwright if deceased).

Also it would be extremely rare to be able to purchase the rights to a play, although an option can usually be taken on one. This ensure's the playwright that if the production does not come to fruition during the prescribed period it can still have a chance at being produced for the screen.

Some playwrights will not allow their plays to be used onscreen, whereas others may write for both mediums (Aaron Sorkin comes to mind). So another thing to consider is that very few plays are ready to be shot as-is. Plays are structured very specifically for their locale(s) etc. With the flexibility of film and its ability to cut quickly from location to location the pacing may need to be altered by rarranging or resetting scenes. Also some things play well on the stage but not on the screen and vice versa. So all this means that an adaptation will have to be written. Who will write it? The playwright? A screenwriter? If a screenwriter will the playwright approve it? Who will pay for it?

In any event, be prepared to pay lot$ and lot$ of money for a film option, unless it's a work by an unknown author looking to get produced on a small scale.

Performance rights for a play are much more affordable because of the ephemeral nature of live theatre. Film rights will cost much, much more because films do not get remade very often. For some reason people don't seem to want to see multiple versions of a screenplay, yet play can have many simultaneous productions and revivals in many cities all over the world.

It's an exciting prospect to do an adaptation, but don't expect it to be easy!

Just out of curiosity, which play are you considering?
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Old August 15th, 2008, 09:37 AM   #4
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Thanks for the help! I'll let you know what the name of the play is...once I've finished working things out with the writer!
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