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View Full Version : Ever read a WGA writer contract?


Carlton Redford
01-02-2007, 01:23 PM
Here's a good one written by a top entertainment attorney. You'll learn a lot about what an entertainment attorney can negotiate for a WGA writer client.

Even in a non-WGA contract situation where you have much less leverage, reading this example can illuminate writer-beneficial things you can ask your attorney about.

http://www.secinfo.com/dsPav.v11.a.htm

-- Carlton

EJ Pennypacker
01-02-2007, 02:21 PM
I want that lawyer. lol.

Seriously, many thanks Carlton. An interesting and educational read.

EJ

ylekot43
01-02-2007, 03:06 PM
I would never recomend that client sign that contract -- chances are you wouldn't see anything past the option money in it.

BROUGHCUT
01-02-2007, 03:21 PM
handy link, always interestig to see real contracts.

I've only cast an eye over it but looks like an option at WGA scale with some monkey points thrown in? Maybe I'm missing something.

At such time as Three Million Dollars ($3,000,000)
("the Triggering Amount") is received by or credited
to the Producer of the Picture from the exploitation
of the Picture throughout the universe in all media,
whether now known or hereafter devised in perpetuity
("Producer"s Gross"), Owner shall be paid $50,000, and
an additional $50,000 for each additional $1,000,000
in Producer's Gross received by or credited to
Producer after the Triggering Amount.

Producer's Gross is not studio gross/box office.

It's gross minus the studio's distribution fee and payments to first-dollar gross players.

I think it can be much more eroded than that even?

jimjimgrande
01-02-2007, 03:24 PM
what would you have done differently ylekot43?

BROUGHCUT
01-02-2007, 03:43 PM
A set-up bonus if option rights are transferred to another studio and higher renewal fee? I don't know, seems pretty standard.
Blood and Bone Productions, Inc. CA Subsidiary of Celebration
International
Pictures to hold screenplay
Options
which is inturn a subsid of "Film and Music Entertainment, Inc.'

ylekot43
01-03-2007, 08:28 AM
what would you have done differently ylekot43?


This is NOT a writer friendly contract!!!!!

Off the top of my head:

First off: "The purchase price for the Screenplay shall be
One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) which sum shall be paid
on the first day of principal photography of the Picture." ------- you only get paid here IF the movie gets made. Even then, the very next paragraph contains a different purchase price and further defers payment until after the producer recoups his "actual cost of production" (needs further defining) -- the writer here might not see a dime from a fully produced motion picture!!!!.

Second: The bonus provision is a mess and does not define "net" v. "gross"

Third: Where are the rewrite and polish provisions?

Fourth: Where is the chapter 7 theatrical release exclusion?

Fifth: There is no statement that the contract may not be modified orally.

kidcharlemagne
01-03-2007, 11:40 AM
I assume yl is a lawyer.

This echoes my recent experience where I negotiated a contract for an assignment and I picked up a lot of points that were either unclear or not in my favour. The lawyer agreed with me on what I'd spotted but he picked up stuff I never would have thought of. It pays to get a good lawyer.

ylekot43
01-03-2007, 12:16 PM
I assume yl is a lawyer.

This echoes my recent experience where I negotiated a contract for an assignment and I picked up a lot of points that were either unclear or not in my favour. The lawyer agreed with me on what I'd spotted but he picked up stuff I never would have thought of. It pays to get a good lawyer.

I'm a contracts lawyer that reads any option agreement I can get my hands on. I've done them for a few small prod. co.s and some writers. Trust me when I tell you that the ones for the Prod. Co.s are a lot different.

BROUGHCUT
01-03-2007, 04:23 PM
hey ylekot

I didn't realise this earlier but it's not the full option contract, but an extension. Although the original is probably just as screwy.

Does seem inconsistently written:

Upon payment of the Purchase Price set forth below, Owner hereby assigns to Purchaser all right, title and copyright throughout the Universe in and to the Screenplay

it ties rights assignment to physical payment (a good thing), but then says payment will only occur at the start of principal photography...

The purchase price for the Screenplay shall be
One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) which sum shall be paid on the first day of principal photography of the Picture. If payment is not made on or before expiration of the Option, all rights in and to the Screenplay shall remain vested in Owner and
any rights granted to Purchaser hereunder shall revert to Owner.

so they don't intend to exercise the option before principal photography, but must exercise the option within 6 months in order to commence photography? Maybe less than ideal but that seems pretty tight? I have no idea though.

Still, it's a little better than the contract below this!! (same co different writer):

http://www.secinfo.com/dsPav.v11.b.htm


If Purchaser elects to exercise the Option, Purchaser shall
serve upon Owner written notice of the exercise thereof by
addressing such notice to Owner at its address as specified in
Paragraph below and by depositing such notice, so addressed by
certified mail, return receipt requested with postage prepaid, in
the United States mail. The deposit of such notice in the United
States mail as hereinabove specified shall constitute service
thereof, and the date of such deposit shall be deemed to be the
date of service of such notice.

c. If the provisions of this Agreement require that all or any
part of the purchase price be paid upon the exercise of the Option,
then such amount, less the sums paid to Owner hereunder in
connection with the Option and any extension thereof which may
be credited against the purchase price, shall be paid to Owner
concurrently with the exercise of the Option.


--The rights transfer occurs when the option is exercised in writing and the purchase price is tactfully separated from the act of exercising. Is it correct to say they could exercise the option in writing, not pay, but still have a legal claim to the script, as non-payment is a different issue?

Hey, I wonder if the managers over on the artful writer blog who don't need transactional attorneys would have picked up on the things ylekot has pointed out?

ylekot43
01-04-2007, 08:51 AM
That is exactly the problem. Their rights vest as soon as they exercise the option by merely giving written notice in that situation. And this standard contract always has a provision later stating that at no time will you seek any injunctive relief during the course of production. This means that while you may win eventually in a courtroom, you have to go through an entire lawsuit to get paid and can't do much about it while YOUR movie is being made -- nightmare.

Unfortunately, the above type of option contract is the one you see most often (from my experience anyways) -- and the one writers sign most often.

Minibrain
01-04-2007, 03:17 PM
Of course, there are writers who choose not to option their material...at least not without guaranteed rewrite steps included for WGA-plus payments.

I'm not a big fan of optioning material to companies who just want to shop it around, but who don't have funds for active development or production.

The idea of not getting paid anything until start of photography? That's just wacky.

ylekot43
02-16-2007, 10:01 AM
Bump.


I was recently PM'd about reviewing an option agreement fo a fellow DD'r.
Unfortunately I was tied up in court for a few days and couldn't respond right away. I didn't hear back from the writer and am concerned that they didn't use an attorney.

As you guys can see from this post, there is a rediculous amount of problems with most option agreements.

Whether you guys use me as your option attorney or not is not really my concern. BUT, PLEASE at least use AN attorney.