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mcdsd1
12-02-2013, 05:46 PM
My writing partner and I wrote a screenplay that was optioned by a small Canadian production company. We are first time writers without representation so we were excited for the interest. We agreed on receiving 2% of the locked budget as final payment. We didn't negotiate more for rewrites. We've done about 4 or 5 rewrites over the last 3 years.

They hired a director and I was told that he did a pretty big rewrite on it. They are saying it needed to be really condensed to maintain a micro budget. We should get his version shortly. Now they are about to move into the funding stage. They have access to a government backed agency that invests in film that might be able to finance the majority of the small budget, however they require the major players to be Canadian, including the writers. We are American, so he asked if we would be willing to accept a "Story By" credit in lieu of "Written By" credit. We would get paid the same, and he said he would also look into giving us an "Executive Producer" credit on it as well. He said he would post "Written By" for imdb and vouch for us as we seek representation.

I am trying to figure out all of the drawbacks of this scenario. I'm assuming that this will hinder our ability to get in the union as well as alter royalties. We've worked hard on the screenplay and I have a good feeling we will be really bummed about the changes once we read them and now we have the issue with a possible credit change. I know I should contact an entertainment attorney. I know how hard it is to get a movie made right now and I know that we have very little leverage. I just don't want to get completely bent over.

Ronaldinho
12-03-2013, 09:25 AM
This is easy for me to say, because it's not the difference between me getting a movie made and not, but:

I would never accept a lesser credit than I was entitled to without a fight. I'm WGA now so it's not exactly relevant, but if I wasn't I would demand a clause in my contracts that said I had to be awarded credit based on WGA guidelines.

Credit matters.

Now, the bigger concern I have is that I think your producer is being slightly dishonest.

Now, understand, I am not an expert in Canadian finance rules, so I could be wrong here, but what I thought the system was that you had to have a certain number of points to be considered a Canadian production, and you got points for the writer, director, star, producer, and maybe a few other people.

They don't ALL have to be Canadian. Just enough of them have to be Canadian. So if the director, producer, and star are Canadian, I'll bet it doesn't matter what you are. Do your research though, because I could be totally wrong here.

If it is the case, however, and they don't otherwise have enough points, you have some significant leverage. And I'd certainly be curious why I was the one who had to accept a lesser credit, rather than one of those other people.

So there are a couple of issues here:

The first is if you're entitled to credit in your contract, regardless of the work the director did. I think it's reasonable to ask the producer for a copy of the script the director did before you make a decision but it may not matter. Does your contract say that you get credit? Does it say that the producer decides? Before you get in a fight about this, understand your legal position.

Second, while it will affect residuals (if they're part of the deal, or, I think, if it gets picked up by a signatory distributor), it won't affect getting into the WGA. You'll get into the WGA when you sell something to, or get hired by, a WGA signatory.

Third, it may make it marginally harder for you to get work/an agent/etc in the U.S., but only marginally. Being able to say, "I wrote a film starring X," is better than "I have a story credit on a film starring X." But ultimately you're going to need a new script which is going to do most of the talking for you.

Fourth, I'd be mildly annoyed if they approached a massive rewrite and didn't keep me involved, although who knows, sometimes you burn out at that point.

Fifth, if the producer knew he was going Canadian for his financing when you started, and only raised the issue of credit now - well, did he not know the rules?

Sixth, if you do accept a lesser credit (and damn straight get that E.P. credit) know that you're far from the first writer who has made this particular bargain. I think it happens a lot more than is generally admitted. However, if your legal position is solid, this is not a change you make to your contract for free. You are giving the producer something extremely valuable (the ability to get the film made) which comes at a real financial cost to you (residuals are real money). It's not a question of you getting paid the same - it's a question of you getting paid MORE.

If your contract is solidly in your favor here, though, you're wrong to say that you don't have leverage. You have a ton of leverage. You can say no. Just because you don't want to fire the bullet in your gun doesn't mean you don't have it.

Do your research. Understand your contract. Understand the Canadian rules. Then make a decision.

finalact4
12-03-2013, 10:49 AM
This is easy for me to say, because it's not the difference between me getting a movie made and not, but:

I would never accept a lesser credit than I was entitled to without a fight. I'm WGA now so it's not exactly relevant, but if I wasn't I would demand a clause in my contracts that said I had to be awarded credit based on WGA guidelines.

Credit matters.

Now, the bigger concern I have is that I think your producer is being slightly dishonest.

Now, understand, I am not an expert in Canadian finance rules, so I could be wrong here, but what I thought the system was that you had to have a certain number of points to be considered a Canadian production, and you got points for the writer, director, star, producer, and maybe a few other people.

They don't ALL have to be Canadian. Just enough of them have to be Canadian. So if the director, producer, and star are Canadian, I'll bet it doesn't matter what you are. Do your research though, because I could be totally wrong here.

If it is the case, however, and they don't otherwise have enough points, you have some significant leverage. And I'd certainly be curious why I was the one who had to accept a lesser credit, rather than one of those other people.

So there are a couple of issues here:

The first is if you're entitled to credit in your contract, regardless of the work the director did. I think it's reasonable to ask the producer for a copy of the script the director did before you make a decision but it may not matter. Does your contract say that you get credit? Does it say that the producer decides? Before you get in a fight about this, understand your legal position.

Second, while it will affect residuals (if they're part of the deal, or, I think, if it gets picked up by a signatory distributor), it won't affect getting into the WGA. You'll get into the WGA when you sell something to, or get hired by, a WGA signatory.

Third, it may make it marginally harder for you to get work/an agent/etc in the U.S., but only marginally. Being able to say, "I wrote a film starring X," is better than "I have a story credit on a film starring X." But ultimately you're going to need a new script which is going to do most of the talking for you.

Fourth, I'd be mildly annoyed if they approached a massive rewrite and didn't keep me involved, although who knows, sometimes you burn out at that point.

Fifth, if the producer knew he was going Canadian for his financing when you started, and only raised the issue of credit now - well, did he not know the rules?

Sixth, if you do accept a lesser credit (and damn straight get that E.P. credit) know that you're far from the first writer who has made this particular bargain. I think it happens a lot more than is generally admitted. However, if your legal position is solid, this is not a change you make to your contract for free. You are giving the producer something extremely valuable (the ability to get the film made) which comes at a real financial cost to you (residuals are real money). It's not a question of you getting paid the same - it's a question of you getting paid MORE.

If your contract is solidly in your favor here, though, you're wrong to say that you don't have leverage. You have a ton of leverage. You can say no. Just because you don't want to fire the bullet in your gun doesn't mean you don't have it.

Do your research. Understand your contract. Understand the Canadian rules. Then make a decision.

Wow, what great advice, Ronaldinho. I'm thankful you posted.
FA4

mcdsd1
12-03-2013, 12:33 PM
Ronaldinho, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Your advice helps a lot. Our original agreement is as sole writers. This came up yesterday, so my head is swimming and I am asking myself some of those same questions you brought up. We will take the time to understand our options. Thank you for your feedback.

LMPurves
12-03-2013, 01:27 PM
As a partner in a Canadian production company and as someone who deals with Canadian funding agencies just about on a weekly basis, I can answer this.

A production must score 6 out of 10 content points, with most funding options requiring 8 out of 10 points to be considered Canadian.

The points are awarded as follows:

Director 2pts
Writer 2pts
Lead actor 1pt
Second lead actor 1pt
Art department head 1pt
DP 1pt
Composer 1pt
Editor 1pt

Also, either the director or writer MUST be Canadian and 75% of renumeration must be paid to Canadians.

If your producer hasn't even applied for funding yet, he/she is in for a looooong wait. I've been waiting 3 years for the paltry 225k I need for one of my projects. If all goes well, I might actually get it in 2014. Four years after my original application. Lol!

Good luck to you :)

mcdsd1
12-03-2013, 10:41 PM
As a partner in a Canadian production company and as someone who deals with Canadian funding agencies just about on a weekly basis, I can answer this.

A production must score 6 out of 10 content points, with most funding options requiring 8 out of 10 points to be considered Canadian.

The points are awarded as follows:

Director 2pts
Writer 2pts
Lead actor 1pt
Second lead actor 1pt
Art department head 1pt
DP 1pt
Composer 1pt
Editor 1pt

Also, either the director or writer MUST be Canadian and 75% of renumeration must be paid to Canadians.

If your producer hasn't even applied for funding yet, he/she is in for a looooong wait. I've been waiting 3 years for the paltry 225k I need for one of my projects. If all goes well, I might actually get it in 2014. Four years after my original application. Lol!

Good luck to you :)

Thank you LM. That is helpful. I'm not sure if there are multiple avenues of backing. The producer has used this form of funding before. He said they contacted him for more projects. He made it sound like it would happen in the next few months. We will continue to research and ask questions.

LMPurves
12-04-2013, 12:50 AM
Thank you LM. That is helpful. I'm not sure if there are multiple avenues of backing. The producer has used this form of funding before. He said they contacted him for more projects. He made it sound like it would happen in the next few months. We will continue to research and ask questions.

That sounds very promising.

Good for you!

mcdsd1
12-04-2013, 11:19 AM
As a partner in a Canadian production company and as someone who deals with Canadian funding agencies just about on a weekly basis, I can answer this.

A production must score 6 out of 10 content points, with most funding options requiring 8 out of 10 points to be considered Canadian.

The points are awarded as follows:

Director 2pts
Writer 2pts
Lead actor 1pt
Second lead actor 1pt
Art department head 1pt
DP 1pt
Composer 1pt
Editor 1pt

Also, either the director or writer MUST be Canadian and 75% of renumeration must be paid to Canadians.

If your producer hasn't even applied for funding yet, he/she is in for a looooong wait. I've been waiting 3 years for the paltry 225k I need for one of my projects. If all goes well, I might actually get it in 2014. Four years after my original application. Lol!

Good luck to you :)

Thank you LM, that is helpful. The producer utilized them for a previous film and the approached him for another project. It sounds like it would happen within months. Not sure if there are multiple options for funding or how it quite works. I'm going to do research on it and continue to ask questions.

Craig Mazin
12-08-2013, 01:07 AM
Sounds like a total bullshiit move to me. No fuucking way. If you feel the director deserves to share writing credit with you, share it. But give him sole screenplay by and take a back seat with the lesser story credit just cuz?

Nope.

CameronAlexander
12-08-2013, 01:24 AM
Ronaldinho (http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/member.php?u=9004) -- you always post good stuff man.

mcdsd1
12-10-2013, 12:37 PM
Sounds like a total bullshiit move to me. No fuucking way. If you feel the director deserves to share writing credit with you, share it. But give him sole screenplay by and take a back seat with the lesser story credit just cuz?

Nope.

Thank you Craig. Our attitude is similar to your response at this point. We've been working on it for close to 5 years now, and we wrote a pretty good script. We were really disappointed with the changes which were mostly dialogue and tone geared towards ramping up the hate and vulgarity. We made pretty detailed notes for the producer, expressing our concerns with the revision. We are waiting to hear back. There isn't much money involved, so all we really have is a credit.

wcmartell
12-11-2013, 06:57 PM
I thought the director only got 1 point, but I'm not Canadian.

Writers get 2 points because 1 is for story and the other for screenplay.

The problem is that the film won't be made unless they make their points, so it's often not something that can be negotiated. They like to keep the actor points open for stars who may not be Canadian.

The offshoot problem of this are Canadian "fronts" who get writing credit on lots of screenplays actually written by US writers in order to get the points to get the film made. There was some big scandal about a decade ago where it was discovered that a bunch of Canadian writers just got credit, but didn't do any actual writing.

I was approached by a producer years ago who bought a script from some Canadian writer who had written a string of great films... only to discover the writer was just a front for those good scripts and the producer had bought a script actually written by the credited writer... which sucked. He wanted me to fix it for $ and no credit, but I told him the only thing he could salvage from the script was the title and maybe the basic idea. The script was a mess. Producer was unwilling to pay what I wanted... so I'm sure he found someone else. At the time, a friend told me about a lawyer who could hook me up with dual citizenship for a price.

There *are* Canadian stars, and I believe there's a deal where stars from all of the other countries with similar systems count as Canadian (kind of a swap). Have they cast leads, yet? Maybe you can get both credits if you can convince them that Canadian stars are the way to go...

Bill

mcdsd1
12-11-2013, 08:11 PM
I thought the director only got 1 point, but I'm not Canadian.

Writers get 2 points because 1 is for story and the other for screenplay.

The problem is that the film won't be made unless they make their points, so it's often not something that can be negotiated. They like to keep the actor points open for stars who may not be Canadian.

The offshoot problem of this are Canadian "fronts" who get writing credit on lots of screenplays actually written by US writers in order to get the points to get the film made. There was some big scandal about a decade ago where it was discovered that a bunch of Canadian writers just got credit, but didn't do any actual writing.

I was approached by a producer years ago who bought a script from some Canadian writer who had written a string of great films... only to discover the writer was just a front for those good scripts and the producer had bought a script actually written by the credited writer... which sucked. He wanted me to fix it for $ and no credit, but I told him the only thing he could salvage from the script was the title and maybe the basic idea. The script was a mess. Producer was unwilling to pay what I wanted... so I'm sure he found someone else. At the time, a friend told me about a lawyer who could hook me up with dual citizenship for a price.

There *are* Canadian stars, and I believe there's a deal where stars from all of the other countries with similar systems count as Canadian (kind of a swap). Have they cast leads, yet? Maybe you can get both credits if you can convince them that Canadian stars are the way to go...

Bill

They haven't cast anyone yet. I believe they are looking to soon. They have thrown out names, both American and Canadian for the leads. You might be right, that they asked us in case they get a 'name' American actor. I'll ask them about the point breakdown. As it is right now, we aren't going for it.

LMPurves
12-13-2013, 10:43 AM
They haven't cast anyone yet. I believe they are looking to soon. They have thrown out names, both American and Canadian for the leads. You might be right, that they asked us in case they get a 'name' American actor. I'll ask them about the point breakdown. As it is right now, we aren't going for it.
I am glad you made the decision to say no. I didn't say anything before because it is not my business, but...

I think your producer is bullsh!tting you.

I've worked in the canadian indie market for 4 years and what your producer said about the funding agency asking him for another project DOESN'T happen.

Not unless the company is big and established like Lionsgate or Brightlight. Those companies get an envelope every fiscal year to be used to make movies at their discretion. The amount they get depends on how well previous projects have done in the theaters.

For the rest of us? We fight for the leftover money for our smaller projects. And let me tell you, the competition is fierce. They might have enough funding left over for, say, 100 movies to be made, but they they get thousands of applications. And out of those thousands of applications, the ones that score 10 out of 10 content points bump to the top of the list and will get looked at first.

Sounds like the producer wants to make you and your partner invisible to better his/her chances of getting funded. If it were me, I'd call him/her on it face to face and see the reaction. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong, but I kinda doubt it.

A dear friend of mine got her funding a couple years ago. The movie did really well and made a nice profit. Not only did the two agencies who funded her film NOT approach her for more projects, she is currently in the battle to get funding for her next project(s).

Bill -- all the agencies I deal with award 2 points for the director.

The Calculator
12-13-2013, 10:51 AM
Ronaldinho (http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/member.php?u=9004) -- you always post good stuff man.

And you're a helluva soccer player too!