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View Full Version : What exactly is an Open Writing Assignment (OWA)?


LauriD
01-27-2011, 02:48 PM
I was just checking out a site called "It's on the Grid" www.itsonthegrid.com (http://iotg.force.com/Home), which offers a 3-day free trial.

Among other things, it lists OWA's. But I'm confused: some of the OWA's have writers listed, others don't.

So what makes an OWA "open"? Are these writing assignments that reps can submit their clients' work for, or are these just projects in development, or ???

jtwg50
01-27-2011, 02:56 PM
OWA's are the stock and trade of agents and managers. That's where a lot of assignment work comes from, especially now that traditional pitches are almost obsolete (or competitive, with multiple writers being asked to pitch the studio for the same project). All of the major agencies have a dedicated team that does nothing but track and pursue OWAs. Jason at IOTG is doing a good job, but his list (he even admits) is not complete or 100% current. That's because the big agencies are to OWA what the CIA is to national secrets. They try to nail them for clients before anyone else is even on the scent. And every now and then, a new writer with a GREAT writing sample or two lands one of the assignments. But it's rare.

Todd Karate
01-27-2011, 03:06 PM
The way less confusing answer:

OWAs are projects they (producers/studios) are actively seeking writers for. So yes, to both of your questions.

The writers listed have previously worked on the project.

Todd Karate
01-27-2011, 03:13 PM
Let's say that a writer who has sold a spec or at least has a couple of "GREAT" writing samples lands an assignment. How much is the 'standard' fee for a first timer?

http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/contracts/min2008.pdf

SoCalScribe
01-27-2011, 03:13 PM
Let's say that a writer who has sold a spec or at least has a couple of "GREAT" writing samples lands an assignment. How much is the 'standard' fee for a first timer?

It depends on the assignment. Assignments can be drafts, rewrites, polishes... all with varying degrees of existing input or material. Anything from, "We want to write a script about a kidnapping" to "Here's a script we love. Punch it up a little."

If it's a WGA signatory entity that's employing you, here are the minimums.

http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/contracts/min2008.pdf

If it's not a WGA signatory entity that's employing you, anything goes as long as you both agree to it. :)

UPDATE: Todd beat me to it, by a few seconds. ;)

LauriD
01-27-2011, 03:15 PM
Let's say that a writer who has sold a spec or at least has a couple of "GREAT" writing samples lands an assignment. How much is the 'standard' fee for a first timer?


I'd assume that by taking a risk on a newbie the buyer would be looking for a deal: e.g., WGA scale.

EddieCoyle
01-27-2011, 07:10 PM
Looks like an interesting site and concept. I'd like to know more. Big question: let's say an unrepped writer with some great samples sees an OWA that he/she would be perfect for. What are the chances one can simply contact the studio, producer, et al directly and compete for the assignment? Guess it might not hurt to fire off an email or two to whatever contact is given, but is it realistic to expect to compete without the intermediary of an agent/manager?

JeffLowell
01-27-2011, 07:18 PM
I think it would be very hard to cold call an OWA. If you've got a relationship with a producer, then sure.

EddieCoyle
01-27-2011, 07:36 PM
Yes, Jeff. That's more what I meant. Not an out of the blue I saw this on some site and want to submit (though it would be interesting if that works and seems like something the site is setting up a bit). But more of a situation where an assignment is out there, you see someone you know or have a relationship with producing, and then drop a line. Guess the worst they could say is we're only taking it through repped writers. I'd be interested to see some feedback from folks who've tried the service.

SoCalScribe
01-27-2011, 08:15 PM
Looks like an interesting site and concept. I'd like to know more. Big question: let's say an unrepped writer with some great samples sees an OWA that he/she would be perfect for. What are the chances one can simply contact the studio, producer, et al directly and compete for the assignment? Guess it might not hurt to fire off an email or two to whatever contact is given, but is it realistic to expect to compete without the intermediary of an agent/manager?

In my experience, even if you know where to inquire, getting a writing assignment as an unknown writer (not necessarily unrepped) is very, very difficult. Since the money for assignments is typically paid half upon commencement of a writing step and half on delivery of the step, most companies don't want to take the chance of paying someone who can't deliver... and it's much, much easier and more efficient for them to give the assignment to a writer they know (either personally or by reputation) than to read a spec and then hope that translates into a successful writing assignment.

Remember that the quality of the writing isn't the only thing that gets a writer an assignment. You have to be a good writer, but you also have to work well with the company and their executives and notes, write for a deadline, etc. A good spec only addresses the quality of the writing issue. The company has no way of knowing if you spent six weeks, six months, or six years writing it... and they have no idea what you'll be like attitude-wise when you take their instructions, execute those notes, and get feedback on that execution.

It's easier for them - when it comes to an assignment where they're paying something up front - to go with a writer they're familiar with... or that people they know are familiar with. Which is not to say that unknown writers don't ever get assignments... it does happen... but it's all dependent on what the assignment is. An assignment for a couple grand to polish and punch up the comedy in a low-budget script that is otherwise ready to go... sure. An assignment to write Marvel's next franchise superhero project... not so much. :)

EddieCoyle
01-27-2011, 08:23 PM
True thoughts, SoCal. Won't argue with them. But will say upon a trip to LA a few years back met with an exec at a studio and he was bitching about how they just paid some writer six figures (maybe he was exaggerating) for a draft of something that sucked. I agree it's a long shot, but maybe an unknown at a lower amount is a risk some might take given the situation. But I totally agree they'll almost always want to work with someone known.

LauriD
01-30-2011, 01:29 AM
I also just heard that maybe only about 20% of the listings on the "Grid" site are accurate at any give time. Assignments may have already been made, projects may be dead, etc. There are a LOT of listings, and things change so fast it would be hard for any site to keep up.

My fantasy du jour is getting the "Outlander" gig. :)

LauriD
01-30-2011, 01:33 AM
Remember that the quality of the writing isn't the only thing that gets a writer an assignment. You have to be a good writer, but you also have to work well with the company and their executives and notes, write for a deadline, etc. A good spec only addresses the quality of the writing issue. The company has no way of knowing if you spent six weeks, six months, or six years writing it... and they have no idea what you'll be like attitude-wise when you take their instructions, execute those notes, and get feedback on that execution.



So is the bottom line that you need to sell a spec first, then prove that you can take notes, rewrite, be good in a room, etc., with THAT script before anyone's going to give you an assignment?

I do know of someone who got a rep and an adaptation assignment (for a movie that opened at #1) off a script that did well at Austin, but I assume this is the VERY rare case....

BattleDolphinZero
01-30-2011, 09:29 AM
I also just heard that maybe only about 20% of the listings on the "Grid" site are accurate at any give time. Assignments may have already been made, projects may be dead, etc. There are a LOT of listings, and things change so fast it would be hard for any site to keep up.

My fantasy du jour is getting the "Outlander" gig. :)

The gird is pretty inaccurate. I got yelled at when I brought it up to my reps. And then I got shown how inaccurate it was when they went through the first 5 projects showing me who'd been hired on them months ago.

Even the OWA list that the big agencies use is slightly "off." I saw Safe House as an OWA and that sh!t was going into production.

Lastly, I agree with everyone else, going after OWAs seems pretty futile if you've got no track record.

SoCalScribe
01-30-2011, 09:32 AM
So is the bottom line that you need to sell a spec first, then prove that you can take notes, rewrite, be good in a room, etc., with THAT script before anyone's going to give you an assignment?

I do know of someone who got a rep and an adaptation assignment (for a movie that opened at #1) off a script that did well at Austin, but I assume this is the VERY rare case....

The bottom line is that - in most situations - in order to be considered for major writing assignments, you need to be a known writer (to those industry people) with an established reputation of being able to write at a professional level. Maybe that means having sold a spec or two... maybe that means doing other, lower-profile writing assignments first... maybe that means networking and meeting a rep who has access to those people and is familiar enough with your work to believe you can do it. There are many paths to getting there... but the place you want to get is where the people doing the hiring know who you are. :)