The Amazon fan fiction proposal started me thinking. All good art is inspired by every influence in an artist’s life, but sometimes you are so captivated by another person’s creation that you feel the need to create something from it.
Amazon is only making a limited proposal, for three tv shows that I’m not a fan of: Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl. They hope to ad many more, to encourage legitimize fan fiction and frankly, own it.
When I was little, I made mix tapes. They were other people’s songs, but putting them together in my own sequence to tell a story and to evoke a mood was creative. (Kids, there were these things called cassette tapes- I would actually hold my cassette player up to my record player or my radio and press record…) Now I still make playlists, finding the exact right songs to put together to express my mood, tell a story or send a message.
I feel especially guilty about my love of fan videos. Fan videos are scenes from shows and movies set to music. (Kids, music videos once played on MTV, when it used to stand for music television, instead of something else). There is a great debate about what is agreeable usage. The song is copywritten, the show/movie is copywritten. Does cutting and editing and adding music make a new artistic work, or is it just stealing? I’d say it’s both. I desperately want to make a fan video of the show Once Upon a Time, using the music from Into the Woods, a musical by Stephen Sondheim. They would work perfectly together.
Is Cosplay stealing? If you dress up like your favorite character, are you breaking copyright laws? How about making collages from cut up magazines? Making parody songs using known songs? Performing scenes from your favorite movie? Drawing your favorite character?
I really appreciate the artists who give permission, who say that it is allowable to use their works to inspire more creativity. Fan fiction should be a work of tribute and should not be used to try to make money off of someone else’s work, or pass it off as your own. It can be a stepping off point, when you insert your own ideas into an established structure. I once wrote a story that had both Marvel and DC superheroes in it, but I also created my own characters as well, and I found, coming back to it, that I could pull the “celebrities” out and still have a good story.
A great read that talks about this is “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Cleon. Here’s a sample of what he’s saying:
Talk about your fan art with me!