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As the reality begins to settle in, and my thoughts begin to gather, I can only say this hits very hard.  Because i feel so much so much a part of this community, i'll try to discuss it a bit. Doing so may help me understand where i'm at, and what to do.

What i can't do, of course, is post the script online for comparison.

The most galling is that the concept of a woman warrior was used completely. While there are many examples of women fighting bravely in emergencies, to my understanding there are no native women warriors, or at least very rare. In the script, Jigonsahsee only wants to be a warrior to protect her people, but can't because she's a woman.

Thus it is very powerful when she is the first to accept the Peace of the Peacemaker, saying, "then I will be your warrior."

At the same time, Hiawatha, the real warrior, is continually struggling to embrace the work of the Peacemaker, and falls back into his own ways over and over. It is Jigonsahsee who finally makes him see.

In Avatar, the guy actually says, "I was a warrior who dreamed he could bring peace."

The key scene where Hiawatha falling off the cliff is saved by the trees was used twice in Avatar, just as in Hiawatha it opened the film, and the first act is a flashback leading up to the same scene from a different perspective. As he lays lifeless he is attacked by a panther, changed just a bit in Avatar.

What Cameron created was a different story, one i enjoyed while not being unaware of the "machinery of manipulation," words of a friend of mine.  But that he used Hiawatha to make the Na'avi a real native culture is obvious at least to me.

The concept of uniting the clans is the key theme of Hiawatha, far more developed in the script than in the oral tradition, and that's what saves the Na'avi.

The climax in Avatar is the Avatar's battle with the captain in the transformer suit, or whatever, just as in Hiawatha he finally faces the Sorcerer.

It's not blatant what Cameron took, though the scenes of speaking into the killed animals ears is taken direct, as is the line "it's a clean kill." As are the scenes of the Avatar learning to be a warrior, taken from Hiawatha's way of being in the forest. and there's more.

Not time to write more now, just an anecdote.  I spoke yesterday with my ex-wife and still friend, who of course had taken Hiawatha deep inside her.

She told me, "As i walked out of the theater, I felt as if I'd seen Hiawatha.  I didn't tell you about it, because I'd hoped you wouldn't see it."

But now I have.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 04:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PS.  In the climax scene of Hiawatha's re-awakening, he flies a giant eagle in space.  Strange, innit?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 04:24:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is as close as you say you need to document it to have any hope of getting the project funded.  This isn't something that can be done over the internet or ad-hoc'ed.  You need a professional to lay-out what you need to do.

Once you've done that you're in a position to market the script, or have the script marketed for you.  Following the success of Avatar is a wizard time to re-introduce the project.  I'm not kidding when I say "In Hollywood everybody wants to be first to be second."  An elevator speech consisting of, "It's like Avatar but ..." should, if the people marketing the script know their jobs, open doors and increases the chances of getting the script sold.  

Another thing, and this is forcibly being brought home to me (again,) you need A Player: someone with the clout and contacts such that people HAVE TO talk to him/her.  Otherwise you're going to end-up in Pre-Development Hell where nobody will commit themselves with a definitive statement just in case Money magically appears and they can grab a piece of the action without having to do anything.  (BTW, If you figure-out how to find that person ... let me know!  :-)  

Last, "Open Season" for scripts for 2011 production is about to happen.  Avatar has opened a window for your script.  Right now there should be people looking for 'The Next Avatar' and ready to buy.  There may even be people who saw the script 'first time around' and be looking for you; I've known that to happen.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 11:41:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks AT, some sage counsel.

Please remember though, i've been through Hollyweird, at sometimes pretty high levels. I do understand how it works. I've had Players behind me at times, including the producer of two of the first three Star Wars.

I've had Jon Voight (2 Oscars? but politically crazy) bow down to me in public (at the native Oscars), and have me come down to LA to discuss the script he loved, where he said he'd get it made.  (I sat next to him as he saw his work for the first time in a John Boorman film on some irish gangster.)

I'm not using this diary for advice on what to do or how to do it.  I'm using this diary to help me come to grips with what's happened.

A few days since the last update, and i'm realizing i've made a major, and i mean major, contribution to the biggest film of all time.  without credit, and of course without pay.

if you read the previous paragraph, please try to imagine what that means to me.  It took me nearly 7 years to perfect the Hiawatha script, and 11 years total of working the game.  When i say rape, i mean rape, of all the effort and inspiration it took to write something so good Cameron could copy it... i feel violated.

This diary is just to help me get my head around it, and work out my most sincere feelings in public, because however this works out, it's going to be in the public.

It's also important to get a sense of what ET people feel. Not in terms of judging whether there was indeed theft, since you can't really do that without the script. But in terms of how people perceive it when a writer says, hey, they took my idea.  We've all read about such matters before. Often, it's merely an attempt by a non-player to get some money... but sometimes the theft is real... part of the game in H'weird.

But here's a chance to watch the drama live, from someone you knew (and trusted) previously as someone knowledgeable regarding windpower.  You can help me come to grips with my role, and perhaps can help me understand what's really happening here.

let's just say i'm not letting my vision die easily.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 06:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading your comments, I can sort of see a documentary of the non-making of the film, and how several major attempts have been made over several years to make it. (Although no doubt the  last section of allegations of rape and theft of story by a major Hollywood studio would cause  lawyers involved to go white at the sign of any documentary edited final version)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 08:52:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs:
to go white

Isn't that a big part of the training at law school?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:13:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs, the doc film idea is interesting. For one, Hiawatha was always intended to have a making of doc attached, to explain the real history of the Iroquois Confederacy, and its survival today. now we can make it an action adventure doc as well.

for two, i remember being at the premiere of At Play In the Fields of the Lord.  I remember thinking the biggest Players in H'Weird had tried to make the film along its course, but it ended up being 26 years for Peter Matthiessen. i remember thinking i wouldn't survive so long, and that was for a really successful book!

it's now 21 and counting for me.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:38:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
five years to go then :)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 07:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well. There's also:

And:

James Cameron rejects claims Avatar epic borrows from Russians' sci-fi novels | Film | The Guardian

Director James Cameron is facing claims that his 3D blockbuster Avatar owes an unacknowledged debt to the popular Soviet fantasy writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

And:

Did James Cameron Rip Off Poul Anderson's Novella?

James Cameron's Avatar has been championed as an attempt at original science fiction storytelling in film amongst a sea of remakes and adaptations. But Cameron may have borrowed some of the key aspects of his tale from author Poul Anderson.

Reader Goldfarb pointed us to Call Me Joe, a novella written in 1957 by Golden Age science fiction writer Poul Anderson. Many fans of Anderson suspect that the story was an important influence on Avatar, and some are calling for Anderson to be credited on the film. And it's easy to see why.

And:

Is Avatar A Rip-Off Of An Obscure 1993 British Comic Series? « ecorazzi.com :: the latest in green gossip

When a movie reaches the height of Avatar, surely similarities to previous works will be compared. Parallels have already been pointed out between the mega box office hit and Fern Gully, Pocahontas, Halo, and Dances with Wolves. Now the entertainment website Heavy.com is making a case for the uncanny resemblances between James Cameron's Avatar and a comic book series titled Firekind.

Firekind ran weekly in 2000 AD, a British science fiction comic anthology best known for its Judge Dredd stories. Created by John Smith and Paul Marshall, the comic series features a human botanist named Hendrick Larsen who travels to Gennyo-Leil, a jungle alien world with a toxic atmosphere, large dragons, blue-skinned natives, and floating rocks.

And...

Avatar Isn't A Delgo Ripoff, But It Is A Matthew McConaughey Movie

While James Cameron's Avatar has many ardent supporters, it's unlikely that the release of fifteen minutes from the film last week had the effect Fox was hoping for. More than a few fans have decried it as, well, rather silly. Others have even gone so far as to label it a rip-off. Worse, the makers of the animated movie Delgo not only think it's a rip-off, they appear to think they may have a lawsuit.

And...

Vancouver man files first 'Avatar' rip-off lawsuit

The first claim actually comes from a Vancouver restaurant owner, Emil Malak, who says that "Avatar" bears a striking resemblance to his screenplay, "Terra Incognita," copyrighted in 1998. In Malak's story, a tree is a focal point of a community of indigenous people and contains their collective memories. His characters are odd-looking creatures, some with braided hair and others with tails. They are protecting their home planet from militaristic human intruders who want to mine precious minerals. Here's a point-by-point comparison put online by the plaintiff.

Malak says that in October 2002, he sent the script and some graphic designs to about 20 movie studios, including Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. He never got a response. Now he's suing Cameron, Lightstorm and Twentieth Century Fox in B.C. Supreme Court. Fox hasn't immediately commented on the case, filed yesterday.

So I'm guessing, odds of anything legal are not good - unless everyone gets together and tries a class action suit.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Danke, TBG.  Who woulda thunk it?  (Didn't realise there was a whole industry of this stuff on Avatar, though i've realized for two decades or more that plagiarism is Hollywood's second biggest industry.)


Should the similarities between Avatar and Call Me Joe cause problems for Cameron, it wouldn't be the first time. After The Terminator came out, writer Harlan Ellison sued the production company for plagiarizing two episodes he wrote for The Outer Limits. Even though Cameron took Ellison's ideas in a very different and novel direction, the company settled with Ellison, who is now acknowledged in the film's credits.


Literature, film and art are derivative of past efforts. The extent to which one is influenced does matter, but it's wrong to pick and chose who gets scorn and who gets praised. There's nothing wrong with seeing a great story and being inspired by it, and that is how some of the best material was created. Without that, we'd have a tiny collection of books and film.


The story with "The Terminator" is as follows. Cameron admitted in conversation that he had ripped off the plot "from a couple of Outer Limits episodes". At that point, the author of said Outer Limits episodes (Ellison) asked to be paid, and after a bit of litigation and negotiation (perhaps made unnecessarily unpleasant by the caustic personalities of both Ellison and Cameron) he was. This was perhaps entirely unnecessary, as the ideas ripped off were sufficiently generic that there is little chance Ellison would have had a case had Cameron not already admitted it. If the same has happened again with Poul Andersonm, well I hope he gets paid too.


 A lot of these plagarism charges get thrown around far too freely by fans who don't realize how easy it is to accidentally reverse-engineer another story simply by taking a story where it naturally wants to go.

Interesting that Cameron mentions Dances with Wolves as an influence, as well as admitting there were a host of SF stories which influenced him on various films.  The similarities to Pocahantas, a bit overworked comparison in my view, interests me as the star, Irene Bedard, is a friend of mine from the days of Smoke Signals. I haven't seen Ferngully (will rent it today) but i do know the producer, who was the model for The Dude in Big Lebowski.

What sets my claim apart is that most of these are from already published stories, while  Hiawatha  is an unproduced script, and to the degree there are specific elements taken, that could only come from having read the script.  or else two people having the same idea at the same time... which of course has never happened before.  :-))

As stated earlier, I'm not interested in going the lawsuit route at all.  I'm interested in seeing Hiawatha on screen.  I suppose it's time for me to reconnect with the father of the Titanic star (who introduced me to Leo at Tim Leary's wake), as he's told me Hiawatha is a great script.

and i suppose it's time to round up the native film community, from which i've been so distant since i've been focused (re-focused) on windpower here in Germany.  See what we can do now.

Remember, Wes Studi is in Avatar, and he was a colleague in arms.  Tantoo Cardinal from Dances also, and Irene as Pocahantas.

My ex told me that at least this will wake me up again, and apparently it has.  It's already been worthwhile to post here at ET, look what i've learned from TBG's links.

My first internal reaction to realizing Cameron read Hiawatha was that perhaps this will end up to be a good thing.  Wer weiss?

((Postscript:  How wide are the circles in Hollyweird?  One time i was hitchhiking at Sundance, and got picked up by Samuel Jackson. he asked my why i was there, and i told him i wrote Hiawatha. he stopped the van, turned back to look at me, and told me what a great script it was. Of course i had never sent it to him.

Jumpcut.  Jon Voight has taken me out to dinner after the rough cut screening of John Boorman's film (he had a role, and had never seen it before).  Samuel Jackson and a posse of ten are sitting at the next table, so of course he comes over to give props to the legend, Mr. Voight. But when he turns to me and says, "good to see you again" i'm particularly stunned. As is Mr. Voight.))

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:30:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me put it bluntly.

The people you need to 'sell' are the distributors.  And for them it's all about getting 'First Run' butts in seats.  If people expire when they get there .... they don't care.  The ticket has been sold.  Generally, you're selling to them at one remove via a Production company.

At any one time there are about 100,000 scripts floating around Hollywood, some of which are even competently written.  The people who are buying don't give a damn about any one of them; it's a buyers market.  They can put their money into just about any one of them and churn a profit.  The only hope you have is convincing them they will make more money with your script than any of the others floating around.  

Unless you form your own production company you will little to no say, and certainly not the final decision, in how the film is cast, made, edited, released.  You might ... MIGHT ... get to write the shooting script along with the director and producer(s) and a contract for additional shooting and ADR dialogue.  As a first time writer?  Probably not.

If you insist on being a Decision Maker during production you will be labeled a PITA and the buyers will move on -- even as I write there are established scriptwriters beavering away, word processors going hacka-hacka, doing 'The Next Avatar.'  The next Production that can grab the label should do between $200 and $300 million because that's what a 'First to Be Second' production does.  To the distributors and production companies it doesn't matter who writes the script or even what the story is: close enough is close enough and the difference can be made-up in the advertising, PR, and other marketing.  

To the distributors and production companies the fact you've written an Oscar Quality script is nice, but lagniappe.  At the same time the more-better the script is, the more powerful the story, the likely the film is to get repeat business and Word of Mouth -- The Golden Light.  ;-)

The American Film Market meeting is looming.  By what you and Sven say the script has a Real Chance of being bought -- even if only to keep it off the market.  (For that reason for God's Sakes do NOT accept an option!!1!!!!eleventyone!!!!!11!!!!! -- unless you really know and deeply trust the people in the production company.)  There will be, roughly, 20,000 'The Next Avatar' floating around, seeking $$$$.  If people in the Business have already seen, and liked, your script you've got a jump on the competition.  BUT YOU HAVE TO GET IT IN FRONT OF THEM!  AFM is the place to do it.

 

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 11:36:42 AM EST
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