Q. I just wrote a spec coming-of-age film script based on an experience from my youth. As this is based on a true story, do I need to get releases signed by individuals portrayed in the script? How is this usually handled in scripts like 'Erin Brockovich,' etc.? Thanks for your thoughts!!
Depends on how faithful you are to what happened. If people and events are recognizable, and especially if you use real names, then you'll need releases. ERIN BROCKOVICH would have needed the rights from Erin Brockovich, and releases from the main characters in the film (the lawyer she worked for, etc.). They could also use anything that was in the trial record, as court documents are automatically public domain. (I think. I'm not a lawyer.)
If you are writing a story inspired by true events, you should be okay. I doubt Richard Linklater bought the rights from his high school stoner friends to put characters loosely based on them in SLACKERS.
Also, realistically, it depends on how pissed off people are going to be. If you're really ripping someone a new one, you might want to lawyer up. THE INSIDER probably had a lawyer or two closely vetting the script.
Actually, I think SLACKER caused lawsuits because the director kept the actual names of his friends. Who are no longer his friends.
Yeah, don't do that, for example.
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