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pencilman
09-23-2006, 01:47 PM
Partnerships and Credit

I need advice. A tiny spark of an idea developed in my mind when I was spending time with a friend and fellow filmmaker (at the time) about two years ago. We started talking about the idea and then quickly progressed to working out some notes in a few meetings. The idea barely developed, and it was a skeleton of a great idea that needed tons of more thought and development... i.e. a movie about four friends that end up getting an opportunity to do something special because they did something wrong (vague, I know - i don't want to post the idea here). But we don't know what obstacles those four are facing or even know the conflicts in the story.

We talked up situations and possible characters, but ultimately I was frustrated with his contribution and the progress. I would do all the typing and then most of the time we didn't see eye to eye on ideas. He wanted to write blindly without further developing the outline and thinking about the story. The writing stopped because he chose to pursue something else, but made it clear to me that he wanted to continue at a later date.

Both of us value this script, but it was difficult for me to work with him because he makes everything else his priority and things must be on his time. Also, he is a very controlling human being and in the past we have worked on other projects where full credit was not given to me. It has been almost two years, so I just went ahead and wrote it without telling him - otherwise this idea that originated in my head would never see light of day. However, he still mentions the idea with hope and excitement as he works on his projects.

I registered some of the original notes with WGA when I was working with him (my money), but in comparison to my current finished draft, there was no plot, character development, but only a vague idea with a rough outline that really didn't have any meat. We wrote about seven actual screenplay pages together.

My question now is:
If a miracle happens and I sell this screenplay, then does this person deserve any credit? Story credit? Any advice for me? How should I approach this from here on out?

This causes me much frustration because I hate conflict, but I am also an ambitious writer that does not want to let good things go to waste because of a fouled partnership.

vig
09-23-2006, 02:06 PM
don't worry about it and press on. there is probally a dozen of so different things that can happen pending on what actually happens to the script and who actually did what. feeling you do most of the work and then producing that for fact are entirely different animals and in my opinion is just hearsay until the facts are produced.

but, in reality, this life, you should write the story. the ideas that germinate from the story and the actually penning of the script is worth far more in the eyes of the court and the eyes of the people who read it.

granted the court and the people who read it are totally different entities but getting the script sold and then having to go at it in court is something i'd rather do thenn never write something i'm passionate about.

the script itself will be yours, the idea i would think would be shared with a credit, but who cares at that point? you're going to have to share the credit and maybe some of the money (pipedream), but the rest is the road you paved yourself. . .

vig

Totiwos
09-23-2006, 02:23 PM
My uninformed opinion is that this sounds like a question for a lawyer.

Have you talked to this person about how you feel?

Pull Back Reveal
09-23-2006, 02:23 PM
Sounds like the writing of Pulp Fiction. They both wound up with Oscars.

Bellabell
09-23-2006, 04:33 PM
IMO I would consider the situation a partnership where both get writing credit. I know it seems unfair, but take it as a lesson learned. Unless you both agreed he would be a consultant, then you most definately have an ugly lawsuit if the script sells.

BROUGHCUT
09-23-2006, 04:44 PM
he still mentions the idea with hope and excitement as he works on his projects.

lol. I suppose he could conceivably argue breach of contract but I can't see it getting anywhere (not a lawyer though, but really...). Completely rewrite whatever he contributed (what, four pages?!) and register the finished draft with the copyright office in your name.

If a miracle happens and I sell this screenplay, then does this person deserve any credit? Story credit?

based on what you describe it certainly doesn't sound like he is entitled to any form of credit, but do you think he deserves it?

Here's the WGA's definition of "story":

The term “story” means literary or dramatic material indicating
the characterization of the principal characters and containing
sequences and action suitable for use in, or representing a
substantial contribution to, a final script.


Any advice for me? How should I approach this from here on out?

Tell him he missed the boat. Coffee is for closers only. Which is just as well! This smilie closed a hundred deals last week and look at the state of it: :speechless:

pencilman
09-23-2006, 05:50 PM
Hey BROUGHCUT!
That was great advice. Thank you for defining story for me. :) Cheers!

joe9alt
09-23-2006, 06:17 PM
Sounds like you're looking for somebody to validate a decision you already made. If you wrote the script on your own and you know you came up with the characters and the story idea then it's yours - if he contributed then nut up, explain the situation to him and work out what type of credit/compensation he should get. As far as whether or not you have a partnership...sounds like you answered that when you wrote the script on your own. Work it out with the guy.

Jcorona
09-23-2006, 09:57 PM
If you are human and not a robot, punch 'im in the nose and move on. And don't let his blood fall on the script. That advice was free.

Thank you,

Corona

Pull Back Reveal
09-23-2006, 10:11 PM
explain the situation to him and work out what type of credit/compensation he should get.

If the script sells, that'll be a matter for the WGA to determine, you can't bargain away story or screenplay credit.

While sidetracked by the "human being" questions, I was serious about the Pulp Fiction similarities. Turned out better than it might have for both parties, with one annointed the cinematic visionary of his generation and the other getting an Oscar and some work he might not have otherwise.

Unless it's already hopelessly tangled in bad personal feelings (which it doesn't sound like, it just sounds awkward), go ahead with your eyes open to possible outcomes. Doesn't sound like you can lose.

pencilman
09-24-2006, 01:23 AM
This is a very competitive business we are working in. Many people are ruthless in their pursuit, play the Hollywood game, and my friend is one of those. I don't want to live my life with any tangled friendships or bad feelings... I want to distance myself from controlling, negative people that tend to consume my head with unnecessary thoughts of trying to work out a way for myself to be treated fairly. It takes away from my positive energy and my creativity. Recently, after a few hard lessons, I put myself in a position where I don't give people a chance to be unfair, because I remain creatively independent, to as much of an extent as possible. I have learned the hard way about trust, friendship, and people. I guess if I have future success in this industry, I should expect some hard lessons and frustrations along the way and roll with them as best possible. I need to prepare myself in a position of defense if wronged, but remain positive if things don't work out right, and always remain honest and true to myself. Maybe I'll be like Salinger and escape to the woods... of course, without the fame. I just need to find myself a great wife. :love:

joe9alt
09-24-2006, 07:32 AM
Tell him to do all the legwork in terms of marketing this masterpiece maybe as you'll be occupied with your wife search:bounce: .

BROUGHCUT
09-24-2006, 10:05 AM
If the script sells, that'll be a matter for the WGA to determine, you can't bargain away story or screenplay credit.

While sidetracked by the "human being" questions, I was serious about the Pulp Fiction similarities. Turned out better than it might have for both parties, with one annointed the cinematic visionary of his generation and the other getting an Oscar and some work he might not have otherwise.

Unless it's already hopelessly tangled in bad personal feelings (which it doesn't sound like, it just sounds awkward), go ahead with your eyes open to possible outcomes. Doesn't sound like you can lose.

The WGA determines which writers contracted by the studio deserve credit.

Totiwos
09-24-2006, 01:15 PM
I sympathize with your frustrations. They aren't just a Hollywood thing; it's a human nature thing. While I don't live in the woods, I'm 15 minutes from them. Protecting yourself is part of the business of life. It's unpleasant and unfortunate, but it's reality.

It could be that this friend isn't even aware of the conflict and the impression you've developed. Maybe he doesn't know that you're unhappy with your level of work; he could think you enjoy it. Then again, maybe he's knowingly taking advantage of you. I don't know the situation. But it seems to me that you do have an honest way out of this because of the differences in how you work. You can just tell him that you don't think your work styles mesh because you prefer to work steadily and plan out your story and he has a different style. It isn't personal; it's just an observation.

How would you feel if he took this idea and wrote it on his own? Are you willing to give that to him? "The idea came out of both of us talking, so you do yours and I'll have mine, and may the best screenplay sell, no rights to the other person."

odriftwood
09-24-2006, 01:58 PM
nut up

Okay, that is officialy my favorite new expression!

jschechter
09-25-2006, 05:47 AM
A few thoughts:

1) It's easier to agree to something in advance than to worry about litigation later.

2) The worst thing that could happen to you is that a producer/studio/agent expresses interest in your screenplay and then (as you are legally bound to do) you have to mention that there's a potential rights issue. Ooops...

3) There are two issues here...money and credit. Offer your soon to be former friend a fair share of the money and a reasonable credit. Shared story credit, you get sole screenplay credit, and offer him 25% of all revenues. If selling the screenplay helps to launch your career, the money you give up on this first sale is a bargain.

4) The bottom line -- you took an idea that wasn't yours free and clear and you wrote a screenplay based on it. That was wrong. You should have been upfront before you went too far down the road. What will happen if your friend comes back and adamantly refuses to any and all of your terms. You either have to suck it up and do what he wants or bury the script. You can't do anything without his express WRITTEN agreement and neither can he. It is in your total best professional and personal interest to make a deal and now.

TwoBitHack
09-25-2006, 07:09 AM
Seems like this project was developed and belongs to both of you and you should focus on making this work under this circumstance.

Re-engage with your partner and let him know that you proceeded and completed a first draft.

Tell him that you would like to work with him on a few more drafts in order to get this script ready for sale.

If he wants to proceed, work out a written agreement that includes a way to resolve both creative and business conflicts (if you reach a stalemate, designate a third party who can break the tie so that this doesn't end up in a drawer).

Despite your opposite styles, you both sound like you make creative contributions to the project. In the future, use this to your advantage.

If your partner doesn't outline and instead prefers to brainstorm on the fly, well, then you bring your outline to the meeting and let him work of that. Your structure might make his ideas better and his stream of consciousness plotting might inspire some better.

ylekot43
09-25-2006, 08:53 AM
The most significant problem without a prior agreement will occur in the option agreement. Any legitimate option will have a paragraph (at least) covering the writer's representations, one of which will be that the entire piece is your own work.

As such, I would try to work something out now.

In the event you can't, if you did in fact write seven pages of action and dialogue with that person, then you cannot represent that the work is exclusively yours. However many many movies have the same "skeleton" and in fact, Hollywood perpetuates the use of similar ideas and structure. So if you go back and write the script from scratch based on the vague and abstract idea, then you should be perfectly fine.

Minibrain
09-25-2006, 03:06 PM
I'm not really offering advice on the specific problem under discussion here. Other than to say -- you've got a legal problem that is actually more serious than you seem to understand.

And -- the WGA has nothing to do with credits on non-WGA projects. So, unless this is a WGA project....


But -- the advice I am going to give is that everybody should be extremely careful and wary about beginning writing projects with partners. Don't enter into a partnership lightly, or without a lot of thought.

I read stuff like this all the time on message boards dedicated to screenwriting. People seem to sorta stumble into working with a partner, or they're kinda casually discussing an idea one minute, and the next minute they've decided to start up a joint effort. Not enough hard thought goes into whether the other person has the time, ideas or talent. People wind up working with other people who won't put in the needed effort, and there's a lot of effort needed. Or they commit themselves to sharing credit with a person who doesn't share their creative vision at all.

Partnerships can work -- I'm in one. Have been for like 14 years.

But get into a writing partnership knowing that it will be as complicated and nearly as legally involving as a marriage. Getting out of it can be a big problem. You won't own as much after the breakup as you did during the partnership.

Often, after a working partnership breaks up, both writers have to re-establish themselves on the market.

Anyway, if your idea for a script is any good, and/or you're any good, then there's too much at stake to be making these decisions without serious consideration.

Of course, if the idea is crap, and/or you have no talent -- then go for it!

pencilman
09-25-2006, 03:54 PM
Thank you all for your responses. Can any of you recommend a lawyer for me? I have already drawn up a list of projects my friend and I have done and who owns what, etc. I think this legal agreement would help me clarify the rights to this screenplay that i have been discussing. If any of you have any recommendations of a good lawyer that won't charge me an arm and a leg, then please let me know. Thanks!

TwoBitHack
09-25-2006, 04:25 PM
Sounds like you are going to make a claim against some work of his now.

Kind of ironic.

ylekot43
09-26-2006, 10:15 AM
Thank you all for your responses. Can any of you recommend a lawyer for me? I have already drawn up a list of projects my friend and I have done and who owns what, etc. I think this legal agreement would help me clarify the rights to this screenplay that i have been discussing. If any of you have any recommendations of a good lawyer that won't charge me an arm and a leg, then please let me know. Thanks!


Check your PM box

pencilman
10-16-2006, 12:17 PM
thanks guys, ylekot took care of it for me

Hairy Lime
10-16-2006, 12:39 PM
Do the right thing.

Story by you & the guy

Screenplay by you

Fvck "rights" and sh!t like that. Think about honor, respect, and karma.