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bortus 03-01-2012 09:34 AM

Re: Consulting on a Major Studio Project
BTW -- Does anyone know if there's a way to flag a thread for deletion? Even though we haven't used names, I'd be more comfortable if this thread was deleted from the forum.

Happy to exchange PM's with anyone who wants to keep the discussion going.

emily blake 03-01-2012 10:14 AM

Re: Consulting on a Major Studio Project
Normally you'd PM a moderator or administrator, or just say within the thread that you'd like it deleted and hope one of us notices, but in this case, I'd advise against it. This thread could provide a lot of help in the future for someone who finds him/herself in your situation. I think it's better left as it is, since as you say, it does not name any names.

Richmond Weems 03-01-2012 12:52 PM

Re: Consulting on a Major Studio Project
I agree with Emily. These are the kinds of threads (basically, the ones I don't ever post in 'cause I don't know sh!t) are invaluable.


SCanfieldfilms 03-02-2012 02:58 PM

Re: Consulting on a Major Studio Project
I was in a somewhat similar situation quite a few years ago. I had a social friend that asked for some "consulting" help on a few projects he was developing at a major prodco, for a major producer, at a major studio.

I went, getting paid cash on a daily basis (basically a glorified per diem) for about a week. The general NDA I signed (we worked on 4 projects) was too vague, and I knew he was pitching these outlines (basically my words written down by him) to his boss (the major producer) and the creator of one of the stories (a major creative force in town) and claiming them as his ideas.

So even though I was sitting next to a WGA writer (a complete idiot that has since been trashed around town) and his brother (a nobody, don't ask lol) all day, in a major prodco office on a studio lot at 20 years old, I sensed that a few things were bound to happen:

1. I would never get paid anything but cash payments from the story exec I was working with (in retrospect, I'm now quite sure the money came directly from his pocket, and I'm sure people like Jeff will say "DUH!").

2. I would never receive any kind of credit, not even consulting, as the major producer was unaware for the most part of what I was doing there (to be fair, he's been losing his mind the past 30 years, but everyone just thinks he's hilarious) and I didn't think the general NDA would hold up later.

3. Even if the movies were made, and I told people that I worked on them, they would never believe me, since I had no credit, no official check, and no acknowledgement of my involvement from the producer.

I'd say he was fairly unscrupulous, as I knew what he was doing with the ideas. For a week, it was totally worth the experience, if I had spent any more time on it, I'd be pissed.

However, I saw it turning into years of underpaid work with no credit, for a producer that didn't know how to do his job (as I was doing it for him at 10% of his daily pay, which was **** as he was new). I saw it as a bad situation and quit.

Two weeks later, he was fired, and hasn't gotten anything close to his old job since (it's been 7 years now). I'd like to think it's because he didn't have my consulting, but he was such a tool, who knows for sure.

I haven't heard any movement on any of the projects since that time, although I'm quite confident Sony bought one of the stories just to shelve it as they had a major movie in development with a major star.

To me, that's the moral of the story. If you know what you're getting into, by all means, go by whatever agreement you are comfortable with. If you don't know, you better get some terms you like or the experience better be well worth it. If you can even tell anyone about the experience, that is. Without a credit, or a specific contract, it's hard to prove you had the experience.

So here I am, spec'ing away 7 years later. Still happy with my decision at the time. Then again, I kind of always knew the story exec was an idiot, so that was what turned the tide of my decision to stay or go. Oddly enough, I spec'ed a script for the same guy about a year later (don't ask, I can't remember why either) and he agreed to pay me. I got half and never heard from him again, and upon demanding payment, got a threat. So it's all who you deal with.

If you trust the people you're working with, that's what is important, in my opinion.

DavidK 03-08-2012 03:46 PM

Re: Consulting on a Major Studio Project

Originally Posted by bortus (Post 790387)
All of that said, I do think the best way forward is via good business relationships up the food chain, rather than litigation at the bottom. We have opportunities in that regard so that's how we'll likely proceed.

I've just noticed this interesting thread. What you say above is significant. A lot of people have had similar experiences with their first industry involvement where they have had 'casual' (non-contractual) input on a project which they later feel has been inadequately acknowledged or remunerated. But as you observe, when you try to redress this situation you are immediately faced with a delicate balancing act - you want to exert some pressure to achieve fair compensation and credit but you don't want to burn any bridges.

The problem with following a litigious path is that while it probably doesn't matter if you don't do any more business with the unscrupulous party, you don't want to be remembered by the studio as the person who took your previous 'friends' to court. If you have ongoing interests in the industry, whatever action you take you want the studio producers to remember you as the consultant who provided excellent input and was good to work with. Whatever steps you take to secure credit and/or compensation, do so in a professional and reverential manner without appearing hostile, keep it low-profile and diplomatic and try to get a feel for when it's a good time to pull back. As someone else said, it might be something to chalk up to experience in the interests of your future career path.

I have a hunch you've already thought about all of this so take it for what it's worth, but put yourself in the in-house producer's shoes and imagine how they'll perceive any action you take and remember they won't want to be caught in the middle of a dispute between you and the outsiders. Beyond that, it's a question of evaluating the advice you're getting from your attorney. And good luck. It would be interesting to hear the outcome.

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