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Old 01-09-2019, 04:32 PM   #11
jmpowell7
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

Thank you.
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Old 02-12-2019, 11:22 AM   #12
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

I've had quite a few offers to work together on this "great" idea a friend or stranger had.
The offer I accepted a) was within my general wheelhouse/sensibility b) was interesting c) was from a person I respected and I knew had a lot of skills/abilities and d) I knew the person had great contacts. Most of all, you have to really believe it can/should be a good movie and be passionate enough to want to see it through.
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Old 02-12-2019, 04:59 PM   #13
JoeNYC
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

Quote:
Originally Posted by LauriD View Post
He said that he had a "great idea" but that he knew that his own screenwriting skills were lacking. … he wanted to find someone who believed in his idea as much as he did (and wouldn't expect to get paid for helping develop it). … How valuable is a "great idea" as currency, when only one collaborator is doing the bulk of the writing? When presented with an "opportunity" like this one, how would you approach it?
I agree with the other members’ opinions on this topic.

If I spent a year researching, outlining, writing, rewriting and more rewriting, etc., where the supposed “collaborator” only provided the concept, I wouldn’t agree to an equal writing credit and a 50-50 split of the sale price.

Let’s assume a person does indeed have a unique, killer high concept that after being perfectly executed major studios would go into a bidding war for.

In this situation, the concept does have value. It’s a commodity offered for sale. How much value depends on the marketplace, where a writer is willing to offer some value in exchange for the right to execute the idea.

For example, a contract between the parties (seller of concept and writer who executes it) stating a flat fee of 10% of the screenplay’s sale price. No percentages of residual fees, etc.

The concept guy might say I want to collaborate equally on writing the screenplay with the writer for credit and 50-50 split. This is fine if he can deliver. You find this out by looking at samples of his writing in the same genre of the concept, i.e., action, comedy, etc.

If his level of experienced is lacking, where in order to have a winning execution you know it’s all gonna be on you, then it’s no collaboration. 10%, or I’m not interested. Maybe the concept and the writer’s passion to write it might be worth 20%, whatever.

There are other problems to consider.

Yes, a story idea isn’t copyrightable, but the concept guy could say there was an implied agreement where if he revealed the concept to you, it was understood that he would be compensated if the writer executes and sells a story based on his concept.

So, if you receive his e-mail with his concept (paper trail) and don’t agree it’s a killer, high concept, where you inform him you’re not interested in writing it, but five years down the road you happen to sell a script somewhat similar to his concept, then expect a lawsuit.

Why do you think studios, producers, etc. don’t want to receive queries/loglines from non-professional, non-represented writers? If these concepts were up for grabs because they’re not copyrightable, then the industry wouldn’t have any fear.

There’s no copyright issue if there’s no implied agreement for compensation if used. Just a coincidence that two independent writers came up with the same story idea.

Since a killer, high concept idea is so rare, so difficult to come up with, I suggest not to bother entertaining someone’s offer of looking for a writer for his killer, high concept. This person will actually believe his story idea is a killer, but the odds say it’s not, so it’s best not to jump into that quicksand.

There was a thread called “Open Query letters to Michael B.” Michael was a DD member and a working professional manager. For a fun demonstration, he agreed to look at the other members posted loglines and point out the ones he felt could be commercially viable enough where the industry could be interested.

There were a hundred loglines posted before he stopped the demonstration. Out of the hundred, he spotted only one that was of interest. In my opinion, I spotted two. They were commercial, but not killer, high concepts.

If anyone is interested to view the thread, the following is the address, or search the name of the thread I mentioned:

Messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=69713

In all my years here on Done Deal looking at loglines posted in the logline forum, I only came across a killer, high concept once, where I said, “wow, I wished I came up with that idea.”

Some might say, it’s subjective whether or not it could have been truly a killer, high concept. No, it was. Everyone agreed the concept was a killer and told the writer to delete it from viewing eyes, which he did immediately.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 02-13-2019 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:28 PM   #14
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeNYC View Post
If I spent a year researching, writing, rewriting and more rewriting, etc., where the supposed “collaborator” only provided the concept, I wouldn’t agree to an equal writing credit and a 50-50 split of the sale price.

For example, a contract between the parties (seller of concept and writer who executes it) stating a flat fee of 10% of the screenplay’s sale price. No percentages of residual fees, etc.

If his level of experienced is lacking, where in order to have a winning execution you know it’s all gonna be on you, then it’s no collaboration. 10%, or I’m not interested. Maybe the concept and the writer’s passion to write it might be worth 20%, whatever.
To paraphrase Sir Ben - No, no, no, no, no, no. Why is everyone giving up any portion of their writing fee to non-writers? If someone gives you a concept that you execute, they are not a writer and not entitled to your writing fee. They are a producer and will negotiate their own fee.
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Old 02-12-2019, 11:25 PM   #15
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

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If someone gives you a concept that you execute, they are not a writer and not entitled to your writing fee. They are a producer and will negotiate their own fee.
This hypothetical discussion isn't about "entitlement." This is about an agreement for an exchange of goods/services.

We're talking hypotheticals where each person has something of value that each other wants and an agreement must be made for an exchange of goods/services.

I doubt that -- hypothetically -- if someone has a valuable killer, high concept idea, he's not going to relinquish it for a vague possibility of a producer credit and fee, but let's say he's willing to have an agreement where he's attached as a producer. This attachment might complicate a sale where an industry producer is put off about having another producer attached to the material.

If a writer believes passionately about this story idea where he MUST write it, then he must make an offer that will close the deal be it a producer's credit and fee, money up front, or money on spec of a sale.

If a percentage of a writer's fee offends you, Northbank, then a writer could offer him money up front, i.e., $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 whatever the amount that each party is satisfied with in order to complete an agreement and proceed. In the old days, sometimes major studios would spend $50,000 just to buy a story idea from a writer.

Now, in my opinion, it being a speculative endeavor, the safest, and the more prudent way to proceed is to come to an agreement on a percentage of the screenplay's sale price.

The killer, high concept story idea opens the industry doors and its execution makes the sale.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 02-13-2019 at 12:03 AM.
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Old 02-13-2019, 11:49 AM   #16
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

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Originally Posted by JoeNYC View Post
I doubt that -- hypothetically -- if someone has a valuable killer, high concept idea, he's not going to relinquish it for a vague possibility of a producer credit and fee, but let's say he's willing to have an agreement where he's attached as a producer. This attachment might complicate a sale where an industry producer is put off about having another producer attached to the material.
This happens all the time. There are producers who generate projects by having rights and they partner with bigger producers. If they are new/inexperienced/whatever then they tend to get bumped down to Exec or even Co-Producer, it's all negotiated.

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If a percentage of a writer's fee offends you, Northbank, then a writer could offer him money up front, i.e., $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 whatever the amount that each party is satisfied with in order to complete an agreement and proceed. In the old days, sometimes major studios would spend $50,000 just to buy a story idea from a writer.
Wow, now writers have to spend up to $50k for the opportunity to write a spec. Jesus wept.
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Old 02-13-2019, 03:22 PM   #17
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

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Wow, now writers have to spend up to $50k for the opportunity to write a spec. Jesus wept.
No need to be disillusioned, Northbank. If you read my post carefully, I never said, "have to."

In this hypothetical scenario, where a writer is passionate to write someone's killer, high concept, various options were mentioned that were available to secure the right from the creator to execute the concept.

No writer has to do anything he doesn't feel comfortable doing.
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Old 02-14-2019, 11:57 AM   #18
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Default Re: Partnerships, collaboration, "great ideas," and writing for free

hear hear. I have been on both the receiving end of indecent unpaid proposals and I have also toyed with the idea of wrangling a collaborator in and working on spec.

there's a difference between two writers collaborating vs a director or producer looking to team up with a writer. many times directors are desperate to develop an original idea they've had and they seek out experienced writers who can transform their 2 am napkin farts into a tome.

here are some basic guidelines I've set myself. bearing in mind i'm wga so there are things I theoretically shouldn't even consider.

- if a producer or a director come to me with an idea and they ask me to write it on spec, it's a non-starter. I HAVE to get paid. "oh but we'll take care of you once it's set up, it's a great opportunity, we'll bump up your backend"... BULLSHIT. no way. if they can afford amazing Herman Miller chairs (they can) then they can afford to pay me.

- if a FRIEND or someone I know comes to me with an idea, that's a whole different story because I know they most likely don't have $$ to pay me scale. the thing is this: if you are getting paid to write, it's not your project. that's why specs are a double edged sword. you slave over them for free, but they're YOURS.
the moment you and your buddy go to XYZ producer with the idea and he throws a little sexy money at you, that producer has you by the huevos. he's now a shareholder in the project. most likely he is the majority shareholder: he owns it.

that's why Alexander Payne's biggest advice to directors is "don't get paid to write the movie you want to direct".

it's a very tricky thing. as a writer/director here's what the ideal scenario would be, in my opinion:

1) I have a "great idea". I don't want to write it alone. SO I call a trusted collaborator/friend. Or I do some research and find someone whose work I admire and who I want to enlist on this journey.
2) We discuss options.

Either:

- we pitch it to the people we would LOVE to work with and who can pay us. The dream companies who we would want to get in bed with from start to finish. maybe we write a treatment, or put a lookbook together. nobody gets paid. it's free work but it's not writing-the-script-for-free kind of work. and the "vision" (ugh) is very clearly laid out . This scenario requires very strong contacts at the dream companies. And it requires that they already know what the idea is. In other words; they should absolutely LOVE the idea and be ready to rock n roll, assuming the script turns out really good. I know people throw fake enthusiasm around a lot in this business: but honestly if I pitch something terrific to someone and they truly respond to it, I KNOW. they email and ask for updates. they speak to my agents about it. they bring up actors they can totally envision in the roles.

so you're not saying to the potential collaborator "come with me on this blind journey through the night". you're telling them "here are the GPS coordinates. here's the car. get in, drive with me, and I am confident we'll get to this beautiful place".

- I, as the originator of the project, believe in my idea enough that I pull out a couple grand from my savings account and I hire this person to write MY idea. could be the treatment. could be the script itself. point is, I am respecting their time and understanding that everybody's gotta pay rent. this is obviously not something anybody can do, but at the same time we throw money around for much dumber things and pay people a lot more to do a lot less. So it's not that absurd.

- we write the entire thing on spec, start to finish, as co-writers, and take a gamble on ourselves and our time hoping that it sells and we retain control of how it turns out.

I haven't cracked the code yet. But as I get older, and my writer friends start having kids, dogs, mortgages and "real life" stuff hit them, I think it's important to be realistic.





Quote:
Originally Posted by LauriD View Post
I recently had what turned into a rather heated discussion on Twitter with a writer who was looking for someone to "collaborate" on a script with him. He said that he had a "great idea" but that he knew that his own screenwriting skills were lacking.

I suggested that he hire someone to help him, and directed him to this site, among others. He took umbrage at this, and said that he wanted to find someone who believed in his idea as much as he did (and wouldn't expect to get paid for helping develop it).

So I was wondering where other people draw the line between partnership/collaboration (good) and unpaid development services (bad). Or is it more of a spectrum?

I've written about screenwriting teams:

https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/...dshed-partner/

I also used to maintain a thread on the Amazon Studios forum with more than 1000 writing "gigs" that were basically "I've got a great movie idea. Write it for me for free and we'll share the profits."

What's a legitimate request for collaboration/partnership, and what does each party have to bring to the table?

On the other hand, what's a request for free writing services?

How valuable is a "great idea" as currency, when only one collaborator is doing the bulk of the writing?

When presented with an "opportunity" like this one, how would you approach it?
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