Today’s Boston Globe has a story that should chill the heart of anyone hoping to break into Hollywood by writing a screenplay.
Maybe you’ve seen last summer’s acclaimed movie Stolen Flowers, starring Bill Murray and directed by Jim Jarmusch. I saw it on DVD, and enjoyed it very much. But perhaps all is not as it seems, where the creative origin of the movie is concerned. So claims author Reed Martin, who is suing the film’s producers as well as his former agent, who Martin says shopped around his screenplay for years before abruptly and inexplicably dropping the project. The movie, according to Martin, bears way too many similarities to his screenplay to be a coincidence. According to the Globe:
“When Reed Martin saw “Broken Flowers,” he wasn’t laughing or applauding. Martin, a freelance journalist and adjunct professor of film marketing at New York University, left the theater with a knot in his stomach.
Virtually all the film’s characters, scenes, and sequencing were his creation, or slight variations thereof, Martin concluded, from the ex-girlfriend who talks to cats to the pink envelope that propels Murray’s odyssey.”
It’s not just an idle or frivolous claim, or so believes John Marder, a top Los Angeles attorney specializing in entertainment copyright and contract law, who filed suit on Martin’s behalf. Martin registered various early drafts of the screenplay with both the Writer’s Guild and the U.S. Copyright Office, so he should have plenty of evidence to support his claim.
This will be an interesting one to watch. But sobering, very sobering, if you were thinking of writing a screenplay on spec and shopping it around.
Tomorrow, something cheerier—my first guest book review!
P.S. If you liked the “N.S.A. Wiretapping” I mentioned in the entry below, there are more Walt Handelsman animations where that one came from. I especially liked “No Place Like Home.”