I got a letter from James Hadley Chase today.
Well, obviously I didn't actually get a letter from the real James Hadley Chase (since he's been dead for two decades) but I did get emails from his estate lawyers and his publishers giving me their blessing to make use of Hadley Chase-related materials in TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN.
This probably doesn't mean much to anybody else but me, of course. But considering the fact that I have been trying to keep my head above the torrents of despair since yesterday afternoon, this cheers me up considerably.
As I said in a previous post that TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN could be described as a cross between James Hadley Chase and Amos Tutuola, and I wanted to spell that out explictly in a scene or two in which the protagonist Boy is pictured reading one of the Corgi Hadley Chase paperbacks that were really popular in Nigeria in the 1980s (perhaps later I'll talk a bit more about all the pop cultural references that helped shape the movie).
For some reason, James Hadley Chase has never really been a popular author in the United States (if you look him up in the Internet Movie Database you'll find that while his novels have been adapted for the screen in the Soviet Union, Italy, France and other countries, it's barely been noticed by American filmmakers. Apart from in the Large Print (ie "Geezer") section of the otherwise extensive Boston Public Library, you can't even find any of his books in English. You find them in Polish and Russian and Japanese, though.
Hadley Chase was particularly popular throughout Africa and i think that for Africans of a certain age, there's something incredibly nostalgic about seeing the racy covers of the old Corgi paperbacks that were the first "adult" novels that most of us read once we had graduated from Enid Blyton and the African Readers Series and stuff like that.
Thing is, as you may or may not know, when you use someone else's work or image or intellectual property in your own work you need to obtain permission. Unless you just happen to love going to court for the ambience, of course. You want a character to recite a few lines from a Sonia Sanchez poem? You better pray that Sonia lets you do that. You want a character to whistle "Crazy in Love" while cleaning the bathroom? If Beyonce says no, that character is gonna be whistling dixie. You want a Pam Anderson poster on the wall of college dorm. Only if Pam says it's okay.
By all means, always ask for permission. It's not that hard to do most of the time. I work in publishing (for the next couple of days, anyway) and we get permission requests all the time for our books. We pretty much clear all of them as long as they're not portraying our products in a negative manner. But you have to apply early because it sometimes takes up to two months to get a go-ahead.
Usually, Denis would be the one to handle this since he's the paperwork wizard, but since he's in Nigeria it fell upon me. Well, tried to do it two months ago, but I was unsuccessful because the books I wanted to use (there was also a Mickey Spillane one) were so old that they weren't even on the publisher's list any more.
So I just gave up and decided not to use them at all. They're not really important to the actual story anyway... They're just... local color.
Then last week, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of using them again, got my grind on and was able to find out who to talk to. And the parties in question were gracious enough to get back to me in a speedy fashion, so now I'm in the clear.
(I probably would have used them even without the permission, though I must strongly caution aspiring filmmakers to never, ever do this. You'll end up losing the beautiful footage you worked so hard to shoot and end up with shit like this:
I apologize for subjecting you to such a horrible song and video, but did you see the picture of Al Pacino as Tony Montana 1:31 in? No, of course you didn't see it... Because that's what happens when you don't have permission to use someone's image.)
Anyway... Like I said, I'm pretty sure nobody gives a shit about this except me (I doubt even my producers share my obsession these dumb, trivial details) but if my calculations work out, when you see it on screen "who feels it knows it."
(Now if only I could get Lamont McLemore and the folks at Drum Magazine to answer my letters...)
By the way, this is the Mickey Spillane book I wanted to use. For various reasons, I've opted not to even bother requesting permission from him (I hear he's a bit of a hard-ass).