Sunday, June 16, 2013

Directors Are Just That

This just happened to Sylvester and me: We met a prospective director for one of our shows who suggested some "improvements" to be implemented in an upcoming production. Some of his ideas had been in our minds before, and we reluctantly agreed to think about some others. Before we even started working on the rewrite the producer informed us that the director would be entitled now to a share of the authors' copyright for their work.
Entitled? Because he made suggestions? Not at all. The Dramatists Guild of Rights clearly states that the authors own all approved revisions, suggestions, and contributions to the script made by other collaborators in the production, including actors, directors, and dramaturgs. You do not owe anyone any money for these contributions. If a theatre uses dramaturgs, you are not obligated to make use of any ideas the dramaturg might have. Even when the input of a dramaturg or director is helpful to the playwright, dramaturgs and directors are still employees of the theatre, not the author, and they are paid for their work by the theatre/producer. It has been well-established in case law, beginning with "the Rent Case" (Thompson v. Larson) that neither dramaturgs nor directors (nor any other contributors) may be considered a co-author of a play, unless (i) they've collaborated with you from the play's inception, (ii) they've made a copyrightable contribution to the play, and (iii) you have agreed in writing that they are a co-author. I dedicate this information to all colleagues reading my blog and advise them never to give in to any such unjustified demand, even if they should be blackmailed by their producer to agree.

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