This past week I went through an ordeal that could’ve been prevented. However, due to multiple reasons, namely my own arrogance, an ordeal transpired and now a friendship that I highly valued is on the rocks. Sharing this so that others won’t commit a similar mistake.
First, some background, one of my writer friends is an amazing writer and she was kind enough to share with me one of her short stories. I loved it. Afterward, whenever a filmmaker wanted to shoot a short film, I would pitch her story, hoping that they’ll like it and that they’ll make her story come to life. I wasn’t interested in writing her story, if the filmmaker was interested, I was going to connect them. However, since I couldn’t go into too many details about the story, the filmmakers ended up passing on it.
Then, an opportunity arose where I could submit a short script for consideration to be made. The opportunity was time-sensitive however, less than 24 hours and due to certain requirements, I had to be the one to submit it.
By now, I had multiple options going forward:
- Write an original script and submit it (safe)
- Get my friend’s permission to adapt her story, adapt her story, and then submit it (still good)
- Adapt my friend’s story but don’t submit it until I get her permission (somewhat okay)
- Adapt my friend’s story, submit it, and then withdraw it without informing her (not great, but not the worst either)
- Adapt my friend’s story, submit it, and then tell her about it (probably the worst possible option)
Guess which brilliant option I went with?
I messaged my friend, and being the polite person she is, she basically asked, “Who does this?”
I apologized profusely, took the script back, and then started to think — Why? Why did I do it?
I wasn’t trying to steal her credit, as I clearly wrote that it is based on her short story. I wasn’t doing it for the money either, there’s no cash prize and if you think a short film can make money, then film financing might not be for you.
This was the first time that I’ve done such a thing and I’ve been thinking about it and I arrive at the conclusion that it’s because I was emotionally invested in her story. I wanted her story (any version of it) to be recognized and so I adapted and submitted an adaptation of it. There wasn’t enough time to inform her and so I submitted it first.
But why did I tell her? I could’ve withdrawn the script and not informed her about it. So why did I tell her?
Arrogance, I think. Deep down, I wanted her to thank me for championing her work even though I knew that I should have asked for her permission. She went ballistic (rightfully) about my action and I immediately took back my script. I have been apologizing since.
In order to prevent a similar problem from cropping up, I think it’s best to remember that:
- You shouldn’t be arrogant and expect that others will appreciate you adapting their work without their permission
- More importantly, you shouldn’t be emotionally invested in someone else’s work to the point that you’re no longer rational about it. It's akin to enrolling someone else's child in a play without informing their parent that you enrolled them. It doesn't matter whether or not the play is good or that you were doing it out of good intention, what matters is that it's not your child. The parent, not you, gets to choose what they want for their child.
I knew better but I was blinded by my emotional investment in the story that I was jeopardizing my friendship. Ironically, it was my good intention (and arrogance) that caused the problem.
I have never written fan fiction nor been emotionally invested in someone else’s story to the point of adapting it (that’s how amazing of a writer she is) and so this is new to me.
This has been an eye-opening experience that I hope people who read this won’t repeat or experience it themselves. It's not a good feeling, trust me.
Friendship is much more valuable than story.