Month: June 2013

Author Everett Robert!

I stopped by Rhonda Laurel’s blog today to talk about Tom Sawyer, the writing process and more! Check it out Author Everett Robert!.

The Issues With Rights

A good friend of mine posted a video on Facebook the other day of a group called String Theory Quartet. They describe themselves on their Facebook page as:

A string ensemble at Cornell University dedicated to playing your favorite nerdy TV, movie, and game themes as well as music by popular artists.

Which makes them awesome. What makes them even better is that they are AMAZING at what they do. The video that introduced them to me was their melody of music from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, which I consider to be one of the best musicals of the past decade. They did an amazing job rearranging the music and paying tribute to it in their own manner.

After viewing the video, YouTube suggested similar videos, many of which were “live on stage” recordings of various people doing Dr. Horrible. This disturbed me. Not because the productions were bad (that I don’t know I only briefly watched one, I turned it off before the first song, but I’ll get into that in a minute), but because the productions were, essentially, illegal. You see, the rights to Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog have not been released for general use.

From the Dr. Horrible website:

Sorry to say: At this time, no license requests are being reviewed or granted with respect to performances of Dr. Horrible. We appreciate all the enthusiasm and support, but for now we are not licensing it.

Additionally, no rights to Commentary! The Musical are available to license.

If and when this decision is reversed and we once again will license the rights to perform Dr. Horrible, we will post that
information here for you. In the meantime, thanks you for caring enough to even find your way to this page to read this. You are awesome. For realzies.

– J,J, M & Z

I would love to direct a stage show based on this musical. I was watching it just the other day with my brother and told him that I would love to cast him as Captain Hammer. But again, the rights aren’t available.

What am I getting at here? Well, the one production I started to watch said in the description that:

The show became one of the most successful in the history of the [theater name removed–ER], and earned critical praise from many of the local critics.

The YouTube video also begins with an ad and has three ad breaks in it. Meaning that the poster is generating some revenue from people watching the video. Joss and Jed Whedon, however, are not receiving any monetary compensation from this company for their work however.

Now the Whedon brothers are both very successful and a few dollars they would earn from selling the rights, they probably don’t miss. But that isn’t the point of this. The point is, as a theater producer you don’t have the right to make money off of something you don’t own. What you are, in fact doing, is stealing the creators’ work for your own profit.

I’m a playwright and it scares me to think that one day I’ll get a Google Alert message that someone is doing one of my plays and I will have no knowledge of it and get no compensation for it. I am not a multi-millionaire that may or may not notice the lack of money from this production coming into my pocket. But it doesn’t matter if I am or not, the rights are mine (and my publishers) just as the rights to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog belong to the Whedons. And if you want to use our work and use our rights, you  need to pay. As one of my idols Harlan Ellison says in the documentary, Dreams With Sharp Teeth,

“I don’t take a piss without getting paid for it.”

Later he says:

And the problem is, there’s so god damn many writers who have no idea that they’re sposed to be paid every time they do something, they do it for nothing! Gllg, Gllug! They’re gonna look at me! I’m gonna be noticed! Hhh-hhh! Hhh-hhh!

Hey I’m guilty of this as well. I’ve said “I need to build up my name” or “think of the free publicity”. Yeah I’m still trying to collect on what was promised me from the last free show I did. You  gotta pay the writer, pay the writer, pay the writer, PAY THE WRITER! Did I say that enough times? How about once more?

PAY THE WRITER!

Okay, end of rant, catch my breath.

And for those wondering what Joss Whedon thought of String Theory Quartet’s use of his music? Well he tweeted this:

So I’d say he’s okay with what they did.

Write Seriously and Seriously Write: A Richard Matheson Obit

There are three writers I look up to more then any others. Three writers who I believe straddle the “penny a word” pulp fiction writers of the past with the writers of today. Writers who not only wrote seriously but seriously wrote. They were and are men that wrote anything and everything. Short stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, crime fiction, westerns, sci-fi, horror. men that it was and is hard to pigeon hole their genre but are discernible by their style.

Harlan Ellison.

Elmore Leonard.

Richard Matheson.

Each of these men are radically different. Harlan is known for his nuclear temper, Matheson by his even handedness and Leonard somewhere in between.

Sadly, we have lost Matheson this week.

Richard Matheson wrote everything; screenplays, westerns, crime dramas. He was one of the original writers on The Twilight Zonewriting one of it’s best known episodes “Nightmare at 20,000 feet”. he wrote the 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories. Works of his that were adapted to the big screen include multiple versions of “I Am Legend”, “Steel”, and “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. He was the creative force behind the classic Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within”. As I said above, he was part of a group of writers who seriously wrote and wrote seriously, something that I feel is missing today.

When I talk to writers today, many of them are waiting for that JK Rowling/Stephanie Myers/EL James deal to come along. Write a handful of books and make millions. (This isn’t a dig at those writers, but rather at our perception). Matheson, like other writers of his era did and those remaining do, looked at writing as a full-time job, because it was. They had to write something every day and something sellable every day because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be able to support their family.

It’s a lesson I know I could learn from, to look at my craft not as a hobby, but as a way of life. The bills don’t take a day off just because the muse has.

This blog has taken a much different turn then I intended, so I’m going to just finish by saying, “Thank you Richard Matheson.” thank you for the stories, thank you for the words, thank you for being an inspiration.

Breaking News!

Important news in the world of Arts Advocacy. Tonight I received an email update on a vote that took place tonight (June 24, 2013).

This evening, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment, by a vote of 67-27, to the comprehensive immigration bill currently being considered on the Senate floor. Tonight’s vote was on a bipartisan amendment that included a broad set of provisions. One of the provisions included in this amendment was sponsored by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and is known as the Arts Require Timely Service (“ARTS”) Act!

The ARTS Act seeks to improve visa processing for foreign guest artists preparing to perform in the United States. Americans for the Arts and many others, especially those in the performing arts, have been working on this key legislation for years as a part of Arts Advocacy Day, and you can read more background about it in American for the Arts Issue Brief here.

The inclusion of the ARTS Act provision is an important step forward to ensuring efficient and reliable processing of nonprofit arts-related visa petitions. With the adoption of this bipartisan amendment, final Senate passage of the immigration bill is more assured and scheduled for this Thursday. Soon, the U.S. House of Representatives will begin drafting their version of an immigration bill, and Americans for the Arts and others will continue to work to get the ARTS Act included in the House legislation as well. You can take two minutes to write your members of Congress in support of this legislation now.

Please help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. If you are not already a member, you can play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today — it’s free and easy to join.

I urge my readers to take action, write, tweet, post on Facebook. But support this. Visiting artists can introduce us to and teach us new things just as we can introduce them to and teach them new things as well. Our arts community needs to be a global one and this is a step in the right direction.

Blogging Is Weird

Until yesterday, I hadn’t blogged in weeks. A strange combination of not enough time, nothing to say and a general lethargy had kept me from blogging. I wanted to blog, I knew I needed to, but I just had no urge. 

To be fair, it wasn’t just my blogging that has suffered lately. Almost all writing has been down. I’ve entered a few contests, but most of what I’ve been writing has been on the editing stage of things; tweaking an old script, cutting here, adding there. I’ve had ideas but no real drive to write.

Then I had an accident at work and have been unable to work for the past couple of days. I found myself with time on my hands. And, I still didn’t write. Until yesterday. I was going through my Kindle, looking for something to read when I saw that I had finished Crystal Smith-Connelly’s latest short play collection Never Trust An Angel And Other Plays several days prior. I had reviewed her previous work, For I Am Zeus, and knew I should review her new work as well.

The words seemed to flow out of my fingers, opening a well-spring that had seemingly been dammed up. 

No, I didn’t sit down and write the next great Neil Simon comedy or Eugene O’Neill drama. I didn’t instantly become Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter or Lanford Wilson. But I had ideas and a drive to write.

Born out of a review of a play I liked but didn’t love.

So yeah, blogging is weird.