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norskviking
02-11-2013, 04:16 PM
Hello,
My writing partner and I have completed several drafts of an idea that was proposed by a producer that we have worked with in the past. Her concept was very simple in its premise. My partner and I have spent the last year doing the script, where this producer had only given feedback ONCE. It's been registered with the WGA to credit myself and my partner, but not her.
Now she's raising hell demanding that we give her a 'story by' credit and to contact the WGA and have it fixed. Her original idea / treatment does not remotely come close to what we have now and she never registered nor published anything on her end it prior to our own registration... as the writers.
My initial reaction is to say no to the credit. Partially because I resent her wanting any credit from our hard work, but most importantly, to protect our rights as writers with this original screenplay. Am I right, wrong, or somewhere in between? Any advice would be great.

SoCalScribe
02-11-2013, 04:37 PM
Hello,
My writing partner and I have completed several drafts of an idea that was proposed by a producer that we have worked with in the past. Her concept was very simple in its premise. My partner and I have spent the last year doing the script, where this producer had only given feedback ONCE. It's been registered with the WGA to credit myself and my partner, but not her.
Now she's raising hell demanding that we give her a 'story by' credit and to contact the WGA and have it fixed. Her original idea / treatment does not remotely come close to what we have now and she never registered nor published anything on her end it prior to our own registration... as the writers.
My initial reaction is to say no to the credit. Partially because I resent her wanting any credit from our hard work, but most importantly, to protect our rights as writers with this original screenplay. Am I right, wrong, or somewhere in between? Any advice would be great.

You should consult an attorney. You're in a very gray area right now where the person wanting credit is the person who provided you with source material from which to write your script. Even if the finished form is drastically different than the original, if this producer can point to a document and communication (like emails) where it seems as if you were being given source material to use, that's a really dicey proposition. You specifically mention "her original idea / treatment" which makes me think you were provided with some form of written documentation upon which you were instructed to base your script. (Please correct me if I'm wrong on that.)

There are guild rules governing producers who are seeking writing credit... but in a situation like this where you have someone claiming ownership of underlying material for your script, you definitely want to seek advice from an attorney rather than an internet message board about how to proceed.

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 04:42 PM
And while the guild has rules, the guild won't get involved in this, because the writer isn't WGA, I assume. It's something that has to be worked out, or else the producer will reappear later and screw the whole thing up if the script gets traction.

norskviking
02-11-2013, 04:44 PM
The Producer came up with the premise, I never once used the very loose notes as a guide. The producer literally did no work. She is going to be a producer and actress in the project but characters, themes, dialog, it's all myself and my partner. She's demanding that I change the credit with the WGA, is that common? I'm not trying to be difficult, I just want credit where it is due. She's an inexperienced producer so I can only guess that she's assuming she gets a credit.

SoCalScribe
02-11-2013, 04:49 PM
The Producer came up with the premise, I never once used the very loose notes as a guide. The producer literally did no work. She is going to be a producer and actress in the project but characters, themes, dialog, it's all myself and my partner. She's demanding that I change the credit with the WGA, is that common? I'm not trying to be difficult, I just want credit where it is due. She's an inexperienced producer so I can only guess that she's assuming she gets a credit.

My point, though, was that if she did provide you with notes, the idea itself in written form, etc. she may have a claim. I'm not saying that she'll win, necessarily, but there is enough gray area here that she could be a thorn in your side every time something gets going with this project.

That's why you should seek the advice of an attorney and figure out your options. An attorney is best qualified to tell you what course of action to take, including ignoring her, buying her out, reaching some kind of a settlement agreement, etc. There is no hard-and-fast "here's what you do in this situation and then you'll be okay" advice on an issue like this. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to get an attorney who understands these credit issues and have him or her apprise you of your options.

ScriptGal
02-11-2013, 05:29 PM
Most producers wouldn't ask for credit. Coming up with movie ideas is part of the job of being a producer.

But, sadly, yours is behaving badly. Yes, you can consult a lawyer, but maybe a cheaper compromise could be this: Story By: all three of you, Screenplay By: you and your partner? It's not perfect, but sounds like she would be hard-pressed to say you two didn't contribute to the story. And a lawyer might very well cost more than the 1/3 share of the story by credit if/when the film gets made.

I agree with the others that you want to solve this ASAP because otherwise it will haunt you and the project. And I think anyone looking at those credits knows who really wrote the screenplay.

Manchester
02-11-2013, 05:38 PM
Just a hypothetical.

Let's say the script's produced, it make piles of cash... and then this other person files suit - claiming to be the original "story by" person, and maybe some sort of oral or implied agreement. And let's say that... after some drawn out proceedings... She loses. Great!

And yet... Who pays the attorneys who did all the work defending against this lawsuit?

[insert Jeopardy Theme music here]

Well, I dunno, but - Could be the OP and the co-writer. Especially if (just as an example) these two writers hadn't informed the producers about this potential liability.

And so... Even if this other person's claim is bunk, if the script does get some traction, you're gonna have to disclose this (and deal with it at some point) - or, take a real crapshoot.
__________

Note: My post is a mere add-on to the others' sound advice in this thread, such as SoCalScribe's.

Racoon
02-11-2013, 05:45 PM
That is why I only work from my own ideas never anyone elses. But yeah talk to an attorney and see what he says.

Racoon

JeffLowell
02-11-2013, 05:45 PM
The Producer came up with the premise, I never once used the very loose notes as a guide. The producer literally did no work. She is going to be a producer and actress in the project but characters, themes, dialog, it's all myself and my partner. She's demanding that I change the credit with the WGA, is that common? I'm not trying to be difficult, I just want credit where it is due. She's an inexperienced producer so I can only guess that she's assuming she gets a credit.

Is she meaningful as an actress?

I know this isn't your question, and I don't want to be a bearer of bad tidings, but if she's not an A-list star actress, you now have a meaningless producer and a meaningless actress attached to your script, which is going to make it damned near impossible to sell.

Ronaldinho
02-17-2013, 12:21 PM
Just a hypothetical.

Let's say the script's produced, it make piles of cash... and then this other person files suit - claiming to be the original "story by" person, and maybe some sort of oral or implied agreement. And let's say that... after some drawn out proceedings... She loses. Great!

And yet... Who pays the attorneys who did all the work defending against this lawsuit?

[insert Jeopardy Theme music here]

Well, I dunno, but - Could be the OP and the co-writer. Especially if (just as an example) these two writers hadn't informed the producers about this potential liability.


Well, here's the thing.

Generally you do have to disclose potential liability when you make a sale, you have to sign something saying that you're warranting that you own all rights, etc etc. And if you're lying, then they can refuse to protect you in court.

But otherwise, they do. The prodco/studio generally protects you against this sort of charge, so long as you declared everything up front.

The way this situation would normally resolve is that a (normal) producer would simply be attached as a producer to the project, and if you set it up elsewhere they'd still be attached. Now, they might be completely marginalized - have no authority, nothing like that, but they'd generally get invited to the meetings and get to offer their opinion - but they'd get a credit if the movie got made, and some small chunk of cash.

NOBODY CARES what the registration at the WGA says. It's irrelevant. That she's demanding you change it is sort of, huh? What?

I'm not sure having a deadweight producer attached will kill the project (I've set up projects that had empty producers on board, just because they were involved at some point in the process). On the other hand, having her attached as an actress is tough, because if she's not worth the right amount of money she'll have to be bought out and that can kill your project.

And the fact that she's such an amateur probably means that she's not worth a lot of money.

I would definitely talk to a lawyer about what you need to do to protect yourself going forward. Sometimes it can be as simply as creating a paper trail that says, "You were not involved in the writing process in any way, certainly not in the way that meets the WGA guidelines for a story by credit. Our understanding has always been that you were attached as a producer and actress" but I am not a lawyer and you should talk to someone who knows the real details.