I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle based on the novel by Dodie Smith Book and lyrics Teresa Howard music Steven Edis

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Tomorrow I am going to watch the last preview of BIRDSONG with Steve. We are bringing the Literary Executor of the Dodie Smith Estate, and his wife, to see the show as well. I am really looking forward to seeing Birdsong, which will be a fascinating example of how you adapt a book, with hundreds of characters, into a play. The choices you have to make when adapting something are vast. Although you have the basic structure of the story before you, what you choose to take from it, and what you create to embellish it, can make or break an adaptation. Collaborating with Steve on those choices, in the early days of adapting I Capture the Castle, was so helpful for me. You can get too precious about certain scenes in the story, which might not help to move the action forward, and collaborating on this before you even start the dialogue really makes an enormous difference.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Cult of Beauty at the V & A

The Blue Silk Dress by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1868)
I learned today that in April 2011 the V & A will be hosting the first ever major exhibition devoted to the "Aesthetic Movement" of the late 19th Century - including a large section devoted to the Pre-Raphaelites.  The exhibition will run until July 2011.  It looks at the artists who placed "beauty" above everything else.  The show will bring together 300 objects, including 60 paintings, to celebrate the British movement that flourished between 1860 and 1900 including works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne Jones.

This emerging interest in the Pre-Raphaelites is very good news for our musical POSSESSED, which tells the story of the love triangle between Jane and William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti during the Aesthetic period.

Stephen Calloway who is the co-curator of the exhibition says that "In times of austerity fantasy always seems to be the thing, but I think it's particularly interesting at the moment because people, I suspect, are becoming rather tired of ugliness and things which are not well made and art that isn't well drawn".   I think he must be remembering William Morris's words "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful".

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Joseph Millson) and Jane Morris (Anna Francolini) at Kelmscott Manor,  in a scene from POSSESSED (Oxford Playhouse)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Adaptation and Biography Rights for Musical Theatre Writers

I seem to have been answering a lot of questions lately about rights.  Having let on to the BML Librettists Workshop that I had been a literary agent in my past life, writers without agents have been turning to me to answer questions about rights.  Many of them don't have an agent, and without one, it is difficult to see your way through the rights forest.  Even with one, you begin to realise nothing is clear cut.  It is hazy, there are no set answers about how much options cost or how you go about securing them for an adaptation or a bio-pic musical.   Musical theatre writers often use films or novels as the basis for a musical, but most of them don't know where to start to get the ball rolling.  When I was an agent this was never something I had much to do with but as a writer I have been involved with two projects where I have had to navigate the  adaptation rights wilderness and it continues.

One thing I learned yesterday -  if there's only one book about a historical character and this is your source material you have to go to the agents representing the book writer for permission.  If you use any quotes from the biography you will have to negotiate a deal with the agents for permission to use those quotes.  You will have to submit your libretto and lyrics to the agent so that they can check it for quotes.  But there is no real answer as to how much that will cost you - a lot depends on how well known both the author and the subject of the book are and how many quotes you use.

In November I am hoping to answer some more important questions about rights and also about getting an agent at MMD, along with agents Nick Quinn from The Agency and Mel Kenyon from Casarotto Ramsay.  It promises to be a very interesting evening.

If anyone reading this blog has any pressing questions about right please forward them to me as a comment and I will put them on my list to ask the agents in November.