Authorship

It used to be we’d sit around as teenagers and shoot the shit about all the movies we wanted to see, all the songs we wanted sung and generally all the idealistic nonsense about ‘making our mark’ on the world that young adults are so very good at espousing.

So it’s weird now when you know creative people who not only have these conversations with you, but actually have the productivity to solidify said ideas.

Well, kind of solidify. I’m talking about writing, of course. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed things I mentioned in conversations (story ideas, scenes, plot change-ups) cropping up in different forms. I saw behind-the-scenes pictures from the set of a short film I gave notes on when it was still being drafted, and I got a little kick from realising that the author had clearly taken my notes on the theme, particularly in the last scene, seemingly to heart. This was purely from the location, so I could be completely wrong. Wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t mention this to flatter my ego, to make it seem like I’ve got far more influence than may actually be the case – merely because the question of authorship has been rolling around in my mind the past couple of days, what with my contribution to the series I wrote about yesterday and my delving into the Mad Men Season 1 commentaries in the past couple of days (is there any bigger sign of a kid who’s unemployed than the fact that he has time to listen to audio commentaries?).

The directors on that show, especially, shed a ton of light on where the creative drive is coming from. More often than not it’s Matt Weiner, and most are at pains to make this explicit. He clearly puts a lot of blood and sweat into his work, and it shows, but it’s interesting that everyone is rather modest about their own contribution. It’s only natural, I suppose, on a project with such a large cast and crew. Each mark a person makes is only a small piece of a larger work, and everyone’s pretty much okay with that. It’s a kind of relaxed authorship, and I think that’s what’s going on with me right now.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

That quote’s misattributed to Harry Truman, which is kind of funny when you think about it. But it’s true – people get bogged down in all sorts of copyright and accreditation wars when what’s important is the work.

So I’ve helped a couple people out with their stories, even generated one or two with others that they’ve gone on to make (or at least plan to) without me. So what? If my ideas are being used, that means they’re good enough to be used, and if I’m that miffed that I’m not getting the credit for them I’m probably not doing enough of my own work.

Don’t get me wrong: if someone flat out steals your story or script or song and calls it their own, you have every right to get lairy. But if they cherry-pick the best parts of something of yours that’s just okay and make something great…

…well, I think I’d be okay with them getting the credit.

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