Precaution to take before writing a Biopic or a various

Précaution à prendre avant d’écrire un Biopic ou sur un fait divers

Write a Biopic on, or on facts the real


Today we are going to discuss a subject, that is, income regularly on the comments and emails we’ve received : How to write on someone’s life or a story.

  • What are our rights ?
  • The protection of the private life
  • the rights and remedies of the personality about which you write ?
  • Can you write on any of the world ?
  • Should we have to pay rights or have permission from the person on which we want to write etc…

In short, many questions remain often unanswered. We will try to answer all of these questions knowing that if in doubt it is always best to go see a lawyer. Tell you one thing, if a producer is interested by the story you have written, he will make sure by consulting a lawyer that he is not likely to have legal problems, which gives you the ability to write what you want…

Here are the basic precautions to take into account :

We would like to thank Cinéfan for his question and for having managed to wait until today to have all (we hope) the answers to his questions :

“Is that, if we are writing a biopic/biography or a film based on

a true story, the steps are to do ? By this I mean the

level of people who are mentioned in the scenario, their agreement

etc… “

Tom has often said, for inspiration, nothing better than to make use of what surrounds us : The stories, the characters, the situations that are unfolding under our noses and which are an inexhaustible mine ofinspiration.

Sometimes, we read a story, or a friend tells a story that happened to someone and tons of images come to us in the head…And say : “it would make a super movie !” or ” a super short film.” But can we build or tell this story without the permission of the real protagonists ?

1) The privacy

Everyone has the right to respect for his private life. What happens in family stays in family or in the private circle…

To say things as they are : This is not so simple ! The life of a public person (an artist, a politician etc) also has the right to respect for his private life…except that this concept of private life…with a status of public life knocks against. In addition, it is also hindered by the freedom of expression of everyone.

To put it simply, a public figure has the right to have a private life but she can’t object to what you write on it or him. As if the person is deceased, his successors may not oppose to the fact that you want to write about the life of thing or something.

OK…we can write about someone or not ?

Actually if there is a dispute, the personality or his successors in title may apply to the court…and the judge will decide on a case-by-case basis.

Here is what was said in the text of laws and courts : ” the principle of freedom of expression implies that the author of an autobiography to recall his memories, to evoke those who have shared its existence and make a judgment on their behavior when it does not exceed the limits beyond which the damage is clearly intolerable for those they pertain to or relate to “ (TGI Paris, Ord ref. December 12, 1987 Bourillot and Jancou c/ Mercier and Editions of Career).

But you know that already, to write a story you need characters…and the characters (real or not) must necessarily have a past…a life that is ” private “. Therefore, it is difficult to write about a real person without addressing his private life. It is as if you were doing a film about Madonna without talking about his private life…! This is ridiculous, what interests the viewers it is the destiny of Madonna, of course, but especially the way in which she (and her entourage) has lived things. You can be sure that in his close entourage Madonna has had betrayals, sorrow of heart, sensitive moments in his life…not the address to post the scenario and the film would be completely null, especially if this allows us to capture and understand which is actually Madonna.

2.) Use elements that are free of rights

This concept may seem nebulous but it is very simple. You can write about a character, his life, but you can’t use items subject to the copyright. For example, if you write on Madonna, as you can tell his life, but you can’t use his songs or books that he or she or a third person has written. Unless you make the acquisition of the rights to the film…

And then, inevitably, the note may be salty !

Ditto if you are inspired by a biography written by a third party or the personality itself. You will not be able to use/ cite this biography without acquiring the rights.

3) demonstrate objectivity

Invent moments of fiction in the life of someone to fill in the blanks is a possible thing…but it can be dangerous. Just like the word a fact which has been reported to us and not to verify the information.

But above all, it is not necessary that the person you tell life to go against you for infringement of his honour or his reputation. The members of his entourage can also go against you for the same reasons.

In 2015 Yona Brant, the niece of Mike Brant (with his father) is outraged in the face of a Biopic in preparation on the life of his uncle : Mike Brant.

You can find the article here : http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/1365745-mike-brant-etait-mon-oncle-son-biopic-est-mensonger-une-honte-pour-notre-famille.html

Ditto for authors who have written a book about DSK. It has not appreciated and has made a complaint.

4) Write about an ongoing court matter

Why ? Simply because there is the presumption of innocence ! Imagine if Vincent Garenq for “Presumed guilty” had not expected that the trial is completed !! Already the police (the justice) had done enormous damage

In short, you will have understood, it is possible to write on that you want by taking a few precautions. It reminds me of a short film from 1997 (I think…or 1995) directed by Laurent Bachet : ” everyone goes down “ with François berléand with his.

I just found the link (1997), even if the format of the picture is a bit old, the topic is unfortunately still topical , and will surely make you think, especially as it is inspired by a true story…

Here is a second example ofa true story. It has been narrated on the social networks by a user and imaged by a director. Watch only if you’re amateur (eur) horror film. It is also a good example of the short with an open end !

In Conclusion

What you must remember is that the person that inspire you or that you tell the life can recognize even if you change the appearance or the names…It can recognize even more so if the situation or the story you tell is identifiable by his relatives or his exceptional character. Even more if the person is a public figure.

Be aware that the prosecution can go to the euro symbolic of several tens of thousands of euros.

You have 3 solutions :

  • Writing with the consent of the person
  • Take the risk while being careful not to libel etc…
  • You ask if the person or the situation that you inhale can hurt you or not…and obviously change the names, the places, the time.

So much for the article on : precautions to take before writing a biopic or various facts.

Please do not hesitate to ask us your questions or comments below this article.

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The team of How to Make A Movie


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