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04/15/2008: Places, Everyone!
I love it when people write in with concerns I never would've thought of. We all know the frustration of having some question that everyone else seems to know the answer to, so it's never even discussed in the books.
Gentle Reader Carrie writes in with one of those questions. She asks:
After reading about copyrights regarding song lyrics not long ago, I got to wondering if there might be any copyrights associated with place names? For instance, let's say San Francisco. Is there process I would need to go through to use a certain place in a script, or would it be okay to just plunk a story down in the middle of any given town?
Plunk! Plunk away! You can set your show anywhere you want, without fear of legal problems. From San Francisco to the Pope's bedroom, you can use it all without fear.
Your main concern about setting should have to do with (imaginary, for a spec script) shooting expense. I mean that if you had a big exterior shot in which your actors have to interact with some big iconic piece of the landscape that cannot be recreated on a soundstage, that you might have a problem. For example, if your script called for your hero to blast through the canals of Venice on a jet ski, well, that sounds a bit pricey and it might be off-putting to a reader looking to see if you can write to a TV-sized budget.
The only other setting problem I can think of regarding locations is that U.S. network television has been traditionally wary of shows set overseas, but I'm not sure that should stop you from writing a London-set spec pilot (or wherever), if you've got a seriously brilliant idea. Just be aware of the bias because, again, it might, might, make a reader peg you as unsophisticated in terms of the preferences of the market.
Lunch: avocado, lettuce, tomato on olive bread. Too much mayo, but good.