View Full Version : Ought to be paid?

06-17-2004, 10:22 PM
So a very reputable production company has taken interest in a once optioned pitch of mine which has been reverted back to me. Their plan is to have me perfect my treatment and to attach an " a-list" screenwriting team to it as to then pitch the project to various studios. I am told that I would be given "story by" credit as well as an executive producer credit. I would also be collaborating in the script, but no credit there.

I have already had a conference call with the company and should be meeting with their development exec soon. I have been given extensive notes on my treatment and am to be working on it until they deem it ready to take to writers other than myself.

My question is -- being the important production company that they are, and with substantial interest in my story, shouldn't I be paid for the writing at hand?

Also, what would a standard percentage be on such a deal once other writers are involved? My manager tells me that the involvement of a-list writers would be a better chance at a sale, though I can't help but think that I should be writing my own screenplay...Right now, I'm hearing 30%, but I want more. It's my story, right?



06-18-2004, 12:04 AM
The question your asking is best for an entertainment lawyer to answer. Done deal Has a list of entertainment lawyers you can look up. I suggest that you get a query letter together to send them.

I also recommend that when you have such questions that you not resort to billboards or chat rooms because people don't take responsibility for the advice they give, where as a lawyer has to take responsibility for advice they give.


Please consult with okey dokey as to where you can find this list of lawyers that is on the done deal web site so you can begin your journey in the correct direction.

thank you

06-18-2004, 12:12 AM

I wouldn't be enthusiastic about doing free work on a treatment that would then go out to writers, but if it isn't a whole lot of work, I'd consider it.

As far as having a prodco and other writers go out with my pitch, if my reps got me a good deal, I'd sit back, let it happen, and work on something else.

I have no idea how much money you should get, though I would think it would be a separate deal from whatever it is the a-list writers will get to write the script. you might get x amount for the story and then x amount as a producer's fee, maybe wga minimum for the former and ??? for the latter.

I think maybe the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you feel like putting on the producer's hat for this project rather than staying on as the writer.

out of curiosity, was there a script written the first time it was optioned?

06-18-2004, 12:24 AM
Thank you very much-- both of you , for the great advice! There was incidentally no script the first time around, i was only 20 and knew nothing. Also happened to be very lucky... Will consult with a lawyer. Just wanted to get a few views on here out of curiosity. Again, thank you.


Hairy Lime
06-18-2004, 09:14 AM
Hindsight is 20-20, but it seems to me that it might have made sense to crank out a draft of the script while you were waiting on that option. Then when you took it out and got interest from this prod-co, you'd have a script in hand so they couldn't stick you with just a "story by" credit. You'd be working from a position of strength if they realy like the concept that much. Not that that helps you much now, but perhaps it will help someone else on the board or maybe I'm full of shite.

06-18-2004, 11:27 AM
I agree with Hairy Lime. There's no reason for you to bust your butt incorporating their notes into a treatment in the vague hopes that they can attach "a-list" writers and then sell it...giving you the "story by" bone, which will be worth little financially and nothing in terms of your future credibility as a professional screenwriter.

You have two options, both of which have been mentioned in the thread:

1) Get a good entertainment lawyer to negotiate your terms for any future sale BEFORE you write anything (definitely before you GIVE them anything). If you don't get good terms guaranteed in writing up front, it's going to be ugly.

2) Forget about wasting your time and effort on the treatment. Spec the script. If you want to be a pro writer in the long run, this is really your only option; you're not going to be in a position to use a "story by" credit--assuming you even get that--to land writing gigs. But if you sell a spec, even if the first thing the studio does is pay out your rewrite option and hire other writers to rewrite it, you'll be a sold writer and a WGA member, which looks much better on a resume. If they were at least offering to pay you for the treatment, that might be worth some thought--but since they're not, do what's ultimately going to be best for you.

Is your manager encouraging you to do all this work on a treatment, without pay, so that ultimately OTHER writers can get paid for the script? If so...you might want to find another manager, as he doesn't really seem to be looking out for, never mind fighting for, your best interests.

Best of luck whatever you decide...

06-18-2004, 11:43 AM
Purple Curtain gives great advice.

The producers are, in effect, asking you to sell off your story. Now, if you want to do that, fine. But if you want to be a screenwriter, keep it and write it yourself.

Back in the day, when we were first starting out, we got a similar offer. We turned it down. We aren't in the business of being executive producers on stuff we don't write. We're screenwriters. We kept the idea and went on. Result? Never sold that particular project. However, we worked and reworked it, saw it come close several places, gained fans through it, and later got assignments using it as a writing sample.

The producers who offered us that deal to sell it as a treatment? They'd love to work with us on ANYTHING now, but we don't work with producers at that level anymore, not unless they've somehow acquired the rights to a very hot piece of source material. And even then...

Since then, we've been hired a couple times to write scripts from treatments that were prepared by other writers. Generally we've thrown out everything except the basic concept. In the projects we've worked on, the writers were being replaced at treatment stage because nobody thought they could write the project.

You don't want people sticking you in that box -- the "not a real writer" box.

Anyway, another thing to consider is that without a script, the producers cannot promise you a story by credit. They can be contractually bound to give you an executive producer credit, but not a story by credit.

You need to have an original script in order to get that. Otherwise you can be completely rewritten and lose even that.

06-18-2004, 01:11 PM
I cannot express how thankful I am for the advice above!
My big grudge and discomfort is here -- I had decided to fire my manager at least 8 months ago. Suddenly, two months ago, I get a call from him informing me that some studios and producers are interested in my reverted pitch ( which I had NOT permitted him to pitch to anyone.)
Not only that, but I had had him write me an email expressing that we no longer had ties. My intent had always been to write the script myself and he knew that. I had been caught up on another project, being my first novel and script adaptation. My next move was this script.
So i decided to talk to the people at hand -- being he had already pitched it, but now I'm not feeling so hot about it anymore. NOT excited about getting other writers to complete my work, and NOT excited about the multiple implications.
I'm good enough to get them gaga over the very topic, but can't even write it myself?
Also, I wrote my manager a few days ago basically telling him I felt very uncomfortable about him pitching without my consent to various places and more importantly, AFTER i fired him. He seemed to take it hard, and claimed that he was " trying to help me." Can anyone here tell me what the ground rules would be on such circumstances? Doesn't seem right to me.

06-18-2004, 02:32 PM
That scenario really is best for an entertainment lawyer to deal with. Go to www.scriptsales.com, the main site, and call one of those listed there.