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cmmora
04-17-2013, 04:26 PM
I have a low-budget spec feature that a small company wants to film. They are in talks with a director to take on the project. This director has read my script and said that he CANNOT work with the script in its present form. He will only take the gig if the script is changed to follow the treatment he has written for my script.

I don't know how extensive the notes/treatment is since he is still in talks with the production company on his own agreement. Another of his demands is that he get writing credit on my script.

As to the script, the company still has not given me an offer, but that did not stop them from asking me to meet this guy and talk about the rewrite and credit split. Which the director does not want to do until he gets his agreement finalized.

Is it normal for a director to come in and make whatever suggestions and demand credit? I'm sure in the industry any goes, as long as we all agree. I don't know how extensive the changes are, he may want a page one rewrite. I don't know yet.

If their offer comes back low, and assuming that I would take it, then I am inclined to not let go of any credit. If their offer is high, I may think about it.

Having been the writer and director on the feature I am working on now, I have not had to deal with an outside director.

I know all will say to get a lawyer. I kind of have one. I have spoken to her and she has given me great advice for free. But she is pricy, as she is from one of the top firms in L.A., and she has suggested that the deal outline should already be in place then she will step in. Even offering to actually write the contract the company would give me since she could do it faster than the usual back and forth that would happen if two lawyers had their way.

So, it looks like I will need to have the framework already in place before I bring her in.

But this credit thing really got my head spinning, since this is a low budget movie, I'm probably not going to get a lot of money out of this and now this guy comes in and wants a cut of my credit.

Any advice would be appreciated.

SoCalScribe
04-17-2013, 05:02 PM
I would take a cue from the director and tell this company that you're happy to sit down and talk with the director, but you're not committing to anything until you fully understand the scope of the changes the director wants and have an deal in place for your script.

I would also make it clear that even if the project is not a guild project, you want to observe the widely-accepted industry standards for determining writing credit. So if he's just going to hand off a treatment or a list of changes he wants implemented, that's story credit assuming they're significant enough changes. If he is actually going to write the pages with you, that's writing credit. I would make it clear you're not willing to give him an unearned writing credit just because he provided some notes and feels like he wants one.

stainjm
04-17-2013, 05:26 PM
I would take a cue from the director and tell this company that you're happy to sit down and talk with the director, but you're not committing to anything until you fully understand the scope of the changes the director wants and have an deal in place for your script.

I would also make it clear that even if the project is not a guild project, you want to observe the widely-accepted industry standards for determining writing credit. So if he's just going to hand off a treatment or a list of changes he wants implemented, that's story credit assuming they're significant enough changes. If he is actually going to write the pages with you, that's writing credit. I would make it clear you're not willing to give him an unearned writing credit just because he provided some notes and feels like he wants one.


Sounds smart - especially if it's low budget I would be conservative. Story credit, maybe. Writing credit, no.

cmmora
04-17-2013, 05:38 PM
I would take a cue from the director and tell this company that you're happy to sit down and talk with the director, but you're not committing to anything until you fully understand the scope of the changes the director wants and have an deal in place for your script.

I would also make it clear that even if the project is not a guild project, you want to observe the widely-accepted industry standards for determining writing credit. So if he's just going to hand off a treatment or a list of changes he wants implemented, that's story credit assuming they're significant enough changes. If he is actually going to write the pages with you, that's writing credit. I would make it clear you're not willing to give him an unearned writing credit just because he provided some notes and feels like he wants one.

This is exactly what I told the company about having a deal in place before I make any changes. If he wants credit in any form, it better be from something that enhances the story.

Thanks SoCalScribe and Stainjm

wcmartell
04-17-2013, 07:01 PM
Say that you will need co-directing credit - you have directing experience. The director will be working from your screenplay (or whatever that is left of it) and that means much of what the director will do comes from your work... so you need to be credited for that.

- Bill

cmmora
04-17-2013, 07:07 PM
Say that you will need co-directing credit - you have directing experience. The director will be working from your screenplay (or whatever that is left of it) and that means much of what the director will do comes from your work... so you need to be credited for that.

- Bill

Beautiful, Bill. Beautiful. Hmmmm...

EscapeFL
04-18-2013, 08:32 AM
ha! this just happened to me too. the film just wrapped, this week, so i obviously went along with the deal to get my first produced feature credit. (although, I have sold a few others, not yet produced).

i have sole "screenplay by/written by" credit. two other guys will be credited for "additional material". one of them is the director.

i look at it as a small price to pay. in fact, it doesn't bother me at all, as they still used my original script. i physically made the changes to the master file and returned it to them with each update. no worries... gotta start somewhere.

there are plenty more from where this script came from and i laugh since i would have considered it "not my best work", but together we made it work... that's what this business is all about. next time, i will have a little more leverage.

good luck!! and hoping for the most benevolent outcome,

Bill WiggleArrow
04-18-2013, 09:16 AM
It's not a new phenomenon, directors wanting writing credits. Some of the biggest names in the industry have hired writers on the understanding that the director will ultimately get a screenwriting credit. However, the cases I know about happened years ago (different writers guild back then) and were big paydays for the writers, so it wasn't so hard for them to agree to the idea. Maybe it still happens now...

The only harm I can see from doing a meeting before there's any deal whatsoever is that the director/producer can pump you for ideas, dump you, then write something similar but not similar enough to get sued. That's not likely to happen, but it does happen.

tony6pack
04-18-2013, 10:33 AM
If their offer comes back low, and assuming that I would take it, then I am inclined to not let go of any credit.

I have a question about credits. You mentioned low budget / small company. I assume therefore it's wga non signatory. With wga signatory company, the drafts will be compared and then credit will be assigned fairly it would seem. But with a non sig gig, I'm wondering how credits are assigned? By contracts both parties sign?

"I am inclined to not let go of any credit" -- what's preventing them from changing anything they want after you sell or option this? If they make enough drastic changes, couldn't they give credit to whoever they want once you sell/option this to them? Once material is optioned/ sold, can't they fire you and bring on whoever they want and in the process, credits may change? Or is it contract specific? I'll admit I have 0 experience with this but wondering about it.

Bill WiggleArrow
04-18-2013, 11:05 AM
Tony6,

A lot of what you mention should be explicitly spelled out in the writer's contract with the producer.

If there's no contract yet, things can indeed get sticky.

ComicBent
04-18-2013, 11:08 AM
My thinking as a nonprofessional who has been watching this stuff for a long time ...

First, Martell's idea is really cool. But I don't know if you can pull that off. If you think you can, go for it.

It seems to me that you have three considerations:

(1) Getting paid.
No need to explain this point.

(2) Getting your name as a credit of any kind.
If you think that this could lead to some more work, some networking, some future relationships, then the compromise of letting him horn in on the credit may be well worth it.

I don't think that this really takes away very much from you. I think most people who matter anyway know that the director rewrites some things (or somebody besides you does some rewriting, credited or otherwise).

(3) Edit to add a third consideration.
Don't let them legally encumber the script so that you cannot do something with it if they fiddle around and then drop the project.

SoCalScribe
04-18-2013, 11:21 AM
I have a question about credits. You mentioned low budget / small company. I assume therefore it's wga non signatory. With wga signatory company, the drafts will be compared and then credit will be assigned fairly it would seem. But with a non sig gig, I'm wondering how credits are assigned? By contracts both parties sign?

"I am inclined to not let go of any credit" -- what's preventing them from changing anything they want after you sell or option this? If they make enough drastic changes, couldn't they give credit to whoever they want once you sell/option this to them? Once material is optioned/ sold, can't they fire you and bring on whoever they want and in the process, credits may change? Or is it contract specific? I'll admit I have 0 experience with this but wondering about it.

On non-signatory projects, writing credit is determined at the producer's discretion. Some non-signatory writer agreements will simply state that in the contract (i.e. that credit is at the producer's sole discretion), while other non-signatory agreements will specify the credit the producer has agreed to give a writer. Needless to say, the latter is much more advantageous to the writer.

The one good thing about the OP having not signed his agreement yet is that his credit provision hasn't been negotiated either. So he can take this meeting with the director (for which he's under no obligation to provide material or agree to anything) and then will have a better idea about what kind of credit to ask for when it comes to his own contract. If the director is completely unreasonable or clearly just wants a vanity writing credit, the OP can dig his heels in and refuse to sell the script at all unless he's happy with his writing credit.

EscapeFL
04-18-2013, 11:22 AM
@ComicBent! your third point is VERY IMPORTANT. I have a couple of those skeletons in my closet. Sold, but not produced. It's a waste of time and creativity. One should always make sure there is a "turnaround" clause if nothing happens within a specific time frame, if possible.

SoCalScribe
04-18-2013, 11:27 AM
@ComicBent! your third point is VERY IMPORTANT. I have a couple of those skeletons in my closet. Sold, but not produced. It's a waste of time and creativity. One should always make sure there is a "turnaround" clause if nothing happens within a specific time frame, if possible.

As long as you're negotiating, I'd start by asking for a reversion. It's a much better (i.e. cheaper and less arduous) situation for getting your rights back than turnaround. Either way, though, I would fight hard for at least one of those two concessions. Without them, as EscapeFL mentioned, the company can just buy a project and have it sit on a shelf forever. And in those situations, hopefully the purchase price is worth it because that's all that's likely to ever happen with that project. ;)

ComicBent
04-18-2013, 12:03 PM
I really appreciate the comments by EscapeFL and SoCalScribe, who obviously have real experience, whereas I can only look from the outside.

cmmora
04-18-2013, 01:20 PM
Great advice from all of you, very helpful. Yes, since I have not negotiated my fee or my credit clause, I have a little bit of room to get what I think is fair.

EdFury
04-18-2013, 05:04 PM
I have a question about credits. You mentioned low budget / small company. I assume therefore it's wga non signatory. With wga signatory company, the drafts will be compared and then credit will be assigned fairly it would seem. But with a non sig gig, I'm wondering how credits are assigned? By contracts both parties sign?

"I am inclined to not let go of any credit" -- what's preventing them from changing anything they want after you sell or option this? If they make enough drastic changes, couldn't they give credit to whoever they want once you sell/option this to them? Once material is optioned/ sold, can't they fire you and bring on whoever they want and in the process, credits may change? Or is it contract specific? I'll admit I have 0 experience with this but wondering about it.

I'm going to assume from the original post that this is not a WGA signatory film, too. In that case, SoCalScribe is right on the money again. It ALL depends on what you as the writer negotiate in your contract. You can ask for sole writing credit, doesn't mean you'll get it. You can ask for guaranteed writing credit, but that can mean you'll have to share if someone else does rewrites. It rests on who the producer decides to credit along with you and it's their decision. You do have options. It all depends what you're willing to call a deal breaker with the producers. If you're willing to walk away from the contract over it. The trick is.... you have to really be willing to walk away and you have to understand that they may wave goodbye as you do it. For an independent, you should never agree to anything but a guaranteed writing credit of some kind because you probably aren't going to get paid a whole lot and that credit can become a very important calling card for you.

And to answer the other question.... there is nothing to keep them from extensively changing it after it's sold, even after they have agreed to give you credit. They own it. It's like selling a car. Once you've sold it you can't stop the new owner from painting flames on it even if it was a car you treasured and loved. So yes... they can bring in anyone they want and change anything they want and the writer has no say. None. You've agreed on your price to let them do that.

In the last twelve months I've done page one rewrites on two scripts I did not write, both for the same production company. And both finished scripts bore zero resemblance to the original scripts. Same theme. Some character names remain the same, but all the dialogue and most of the story elements are different. I didn't do this in a vacuum... these were based on reams of notes from the production execs, the producers, and the director and then them letting me have a lot of freedom in the way I implemented them. Now.... both films are shot. One was released last year and was a pretty big success and the writing card reads the original writer's name first and then mine... the second is shot and will come out end of the year sometime... same deal... the original writing team first, then me. And again, no resemblance to what they wrote, but first credit as laid out in their contracts.

And believe me I am absolutely sure that when a couple of the original scripts I have optioned make their way toward production that other writers will most likely be brought in to rework my stuff too. It's not a one way street.

scripto80
04-21-2013, 12:02 PM
Ugh, sorry. Things DON'T have to be so freaking difficult all the time. Also, from what I've seen, it seems like the more credit and ego issues there are at the beginning, the more problems there are down the line in terms of collaboration, creativity, and productivity...ultimately leading to delays and possibly even development hell.

Look, nothing is ever perfect, but you should at least feel good about some part of the process. Maybe you love the money, maybe the synergy, or maybe something else. But you should be ok with SOMETHING. Some part of it needs to feel right, whether it's in your head, heart, or bank account. So just try to get all the info you can from everyone, see what your gut says, and then make your decision accordingly.

Good luck!

cmmora
04-21-2013, 12:48 PM
Thanks for everyone's great advice. I'll just have to see how it all shakes out. But I will go in with an open mind. I'll just have to get used to the prospects of getting rewritten, since this is the norm.

But all good. Just pretty cool to just have to worry about such 1st world problems.

cmmora
05-15-2013, 01:08 AM
I just spoke with the producers. They have another director that has almost signed. The previous Director who wanted credit backed out of the deal. Now this new director has said pretty much the same thing. If he writes more than 30% of the new version he wants some kind of writing credit. I have not spoken to this director or know what he wants to change, is he writing pages, etc. So this is one issue.

Another issue is that they came back with my offer and, needless to say, it was extremely low. So low that it is downright insulting. The sound person on set would make more money than me.

I'm not sure what I am going to do. I sent them an email requesting that they re-evaluate their offer. We'll see.

stainjm
05-15-2013, 07:13 AM
Some people may not like this (?) but maybe you could do something where you take their low option only if you retain full writers credit?

Then again, if he/she rewrites you, you may not want to have your name on the final product....

SoCalScribe
05-15-2013, 11:05 AM
Another issue is that they came back with my offer and, needless to say, it was extremely low. So low that it is downright insulting. The sound person on set would make more money than me.

I'm not sure what I am going to do. I sent them an email requesting that they re-evaluate their offer. We'll see.

Why did you ask them to re-evaluate their own offer rather than just making them a counter of your own?

cmmora
05-15-2013, 01:27 PM
Why did you ask them to re-evaluate their own offer rather than just making them a counter of your own?

Very good point, I should have made a counter offer.

As it turns out, they called me today and made me another offer which I have accepted in principle. Waiting for the offer to come to me in writing.

michaelb
05-15-2013, 01:29 PM
Very good point, I should have made a counter offer.

As it turns out, they called me today and made me another offer which I have accepted in principle. Waiting for the offer to come to me in writing.

Why don't you have an attorney doing this for you?

Why don't you lave credit determination to the WGA arbitration process?

cmmora
05-15-2013, 01:40 PM
Why don't you have an attorney doing this for you?

Why don't you lave credit determination to the WGA arbitration process?

I'm not WGA and this is not a WGA project.

I have been in talks with an L.A. Attorney from a well known firm and since I am a nobody (she didn't say this, but it was obvious), it would be a fee based arrangement. Something that I cannot afford, I wish I could. Last time I talked with the attorney, she gave me free advice on what to ask for. Once I get the contract then she would go over it and I would pay her hourly.

SoCalScribe
05-15-2013, 01:47 PM
I'm not WGA and this is not a WGA project.

I have been in talks with an L.A. Attorney from a well known firm and since I am a nobody (she didn't say this, but it was obvious), it would be a fee based arrangement. Something that I cannot afford, I wish I could. Last time I talked with the attorney, she gave me free advice on what to ask for. Once I get the contract then she would go over it and I would pay her hourly.

Find a way to pay the hourly fee. Or negotiate something with her that you can afford. Or find another attorney with financial terms you can accept. The last thing you want to do is enter into an agreement without an attorney to represent you. I know it costs a bit of money now... but it will likely save you (or prevent you from losing out on) a whole lot more money in the long run.

cmmora
05-15-2013, 01:54 PM
Find a way to pay the hourly fee. Or negotiate something with her that you can afford. Or find another attorney with financial terms you can accept. The last thing you want to do is enter into an agreement without an attorney to represent you. I know it costs a bit of money now... but it will likely save you (or prevent you from losing out on) a whole lot more money in the long run.

:thumbsup: I agree.

JackMarchetti
07-28-2013, 01:24 PM
Tony6,

A lot of what you mention should be explicitly spelled out in the writer's contract with the producer.

If there's no contract yet, things can indeed get sticky.

If you're operating outside the WGA then does it really matter if you throw the directors name on it? At that point it's just ego and vanity and really has no meaning as far as back end points or your purchase price.

As long as your purchase price, and any profit participation are thoroughly fleshed out in your option/purchase agreement and not at all tied to the eventual writing credits than you should be fine.

Jim Mercurio
08-01-2013, 03:46 AM
http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/credits/screenscredits_manual10.pdf

use the credits guide as a guideline. Or even cut and paste language from it into the contract. A director or producer has to have changed 50% of the script before receiving credit. The spirit of it is fair. It should be MUCH harder for a director to get a writing credit on a film. They may change 40% of the script in cosmetic ways but that is their job. See if the contract can state that credits will be determined by the WGA process even if it's not a WGA film. It might be difficult to create that process or decide on who will arbitrate but it's a good sign if they are even willing to include language that defines it this way.

Also, if it's a low budget movie, receiving sole writing credit or receiving it as a production bonus is a way I have protected writers' credits in the past. And although the co-directing idea is tough, you could have a bare minimum credit like story by or shared screenplay credit such that you never get worse than that. Or become a co-producer. Or put in a clause that says if you don't get shared screenplay credit or more you get co-producer credit.

Just some thoughts.

Jim

cmmora
08-01-2013, 09:15 AM
Thanks for all of the advice.

cmmora
08-11-2013, 06:25 PM
Well, after many months of going back and forth. The Credit issue is all worked out. Compromises on both sides were required, but at the end I think what everyone got is fair.