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View Full Version : What's kosher when it comes to producer notes/rewrites?


Concord
03-28-2013, 10:27 AM
A producer wants to option a script of mine and wants one set of rewrites based on his notes-- but he doesn't want to give me his notes until I've signed the option papers.

Is that standard procedure? I mean, what if he wants me to do something egregious like turn my hero into a Nazi or something? An absurd example, but you get the point.

I've got the question in to a lawyer, but I wanted to do some research here as well.

Thanks for any input.

SoCalScribe
03-28-2013, 10:47 AM
A producer wants to option a script of mine and wants one set of rewrites based on his notes-- but he doesn't want to give me his notes until I've signed the option papers.

Is that standard procedure? I mean, what if he wants me to do something egregious like turn my hero into a Nazi or something? An absurd example, but you get the point.

I've got the question in to a lawyer, but I wanted to do some research here as well.

Thanks for any input.

It's a little backwards from what's standard (usually producers and companies are trying to figure out how to get free work out of you before they commit to a signed contract ;)), but there's certainly nothing wrong with it. The honest truth, though, is that if the producer wants to option your script and then pay you to do a page one rewrite on the thing or drastically change some significant aspects of it... that's the business. It's his money and his project (at least while it's under option); if he want to completely change directions, it's his right to do so.

I'm actually going through this process right now with my writing partner. We wrote a solid romantic comedy that manages to avoid a lot of the common cliches in the genre, and the company that optioned it just commenced us on a rewrite where their notes basically involve making changes that bring those cliches back into the mix and make it more of a generic and predictable romantic comedy. But that's what they want and that's what they're paying for, so that's what we're going to give them.

This is why it's important to make sure you're happy with the money you're being paid for each step of your deal. It's much easier to accept the fact that you don't agree with - or even like - the notes you're being given if you're being compensated for doing the work. Because you can argue your case and make your point and strenuously object to notes you don't like, but ultimately, it all really comes down to two choices. You can make the changes they want, or you can watch as they either kill the project or hire someone else to make the changes that you won't. At the end of the day, once the person with the money has made up their mind, they will either get the project they want or will stop paying for its development.

Geoff Alexander
03-28-2013, 11:51 AM
A producer wants to option a script of mine and wants one set of rewrites based on his notes-- but he doesn't want to give me his notes until I've signed the option papers.

Is that standard procedure? I mean, what if he wants me to do something egregious like turn my hero into a Nazi or something? An absurd example, but you get the point.

I've got the question in to a lawyer, but I wanted to do some research here as well.

Thanks for any input.

That's ridiculous, I would never agree to that if I were you. He needs to give you the plan, and that includes creative, before you lock up the material. Seriously stupid.

LateNightWriter
03-28-2013, 12:03 PM
Agree with Geoff. That would send up a red flag for me.

Late Night Writer

ATB
03-28-2013, 12:20 PM
Better question is 'should you option anything to this guy?'

Who is he. Does he have any pull/clout. Is he paying or not?

Assuming all of that passes the test for you, then yes, this is stupid. Tell him you'll need to see/hear his notes before you sign anything. Need to see if you're seeing eye-to-eye creatively.

If he refuses... walk.

night fugue
03-28-2013, 01:03 PM
Like many producers, this one has the cart before the horse. An option agreement specifies all the terms of the purchase of your screenplay, including rewrites. The producer has to actually exercise the option and purchase the script before you do any rewrites. At that point, the producer has paid for the rights to your contractual rewrites as well as to your original screenplay.

If you do rewrites during the option period and then the producer does not exercise the option, the producer may try to lay claim to the new version even though he did not purchase the rights to the underlying material. He won't be successful, but who needs that headache?

It's just one more instance of a producer trying to get as much free work as possible.

SoCalScribe
03-28-2013, 03:27 PM
If you do rewrites during the option period and then the producer does not exercise the option, the producer may try to lay claim to the new version even though he did not purchase the rights to the underlying material. He won't be successful, but who needs that headache

The producer actually would have a claim to the new version, since it would have been written as a contractual step under the option/purchase agreement as a work for hire. In a situation where revisions are performed and the option is not exercised, the producer or company has what's called a "sterile screenplay," or a version script that they own but can't do anything with unless they go back and secure the underlying rights again.

Manchester
03-28-2013, 03:44 PM
The producer actually would have a claim to the new version, since it would have been written as a contractual step under the option/purchase agreement as a work for hire. In a situation where revisions are performed and the option is not exercised, the producer or company has what's called a "sterile screenplay," or a version script that they own but can't do anything with unless they go back and secure the underlying rights again.
I'm sorry. We were looking for "cottage cheese". The answer was: "cottage cheese".

BACK TO SCENE

It's just that your answer's so spot on and concise, it's like a game-show answer (in a good way). And thus, my above tangent about a dairy product. (Or, it may be a touch of Firesign Theatre coming on.)

Ronaldinho
03-29-2013, 10:31 AM
The producer actually would have a claim to the new version, since it would have been written as a contractual step under the option/purchase agreement as a work for hire. In a situation where revisions are performed and the option is not exercised, the producer or company has what's called a "sterile screenplay," or a version script that they own but can't do anything with unless they go back and secure the underlying rights again.

At one point when I negotiated a fairly unfavorable option extension, we stuck a clause in that all rewrites fully reverted to us if they didn't exercise the option.

Which may have ended up making it an extremely favorable option extension, depending on how the next couple of months go. :)

SoCalScribe
03-29-2013, 10:57 AM
At one point when I negotiated a fairly unfavorable option extension, we stuck a clause in that all rewrites fully reverted to us if they didn't exercise the option.

Which may have ended up making it an extremely favorable option extension, depending on how the next couple of months go. :)

That's always a great ask in a negotiation. Especially if they're already low-balling you on everything else. If you get to keep the changes and you believe they're actually making the script better, you're really helping everyone involved (yourself included)! :D