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Old 10-25-2015, 06:42 PM   #1
pitchblack70
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Default Showrunner/Writer Split?

A quick legal question re: writing a TV series: I'd love it if anyone could weigh in.

A veteran of writing features solo - and once or twice collaborating 50/50 on a spec script - I'm now in development on a TV series with a writing team comprised of three people (myself included.) Since it was my premise, and I'll be generating the initial bible, I'll be the showrunner. I'm not certain yet how much each of us will collaborate re: generating actual pages...

But is there a specific rule of thumb as to who gets various compensation splits and rights? Granted, we could just hash it out between ourselves - but if there's a standard, we'd like to know. (FYI - none of us are WGA yet. Though we have indie films in production.)

Thanks and best -

Pitch.
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Old 10-25-2015, 10:32 PM   #2
jimjimgrande
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

That's not really the way it works.

A showrunner is writer/producer designated by the studio financing the series. You don't get to give yourself that title.

"Created by" credit will be determined by the WGA, when the show goes to series, based on the written material used in the pilot. There are ways it can be divvied up, if the teleplay is based on an IP, or another script, or a treatment for a series.

The best thing I suggest you do for yourselves is determine this: Who is going to get most of the credit?

Two simple versions:

"PILOT" story by you, teleplay by you, other guy, and other guy #2

or "PILOT" written by the three of you.

The first version preserves the idea that the concept of the series is yours, i.e. the IP (and you'll need written material to support this like your bible), but all of you contributed to the script. The purchase of the IP and the script could be negotiated separately.

The second version makes you all equals and you would negotiate as a single entity as it relates to the sale of the pilot. If it goes to series, you guys would likely be on your own by then to figure out what each person's deals would be on the series, unless you all agreed to continue on as a single entity.
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Old 10-26-2015, 06:33 AM   #3
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Hi Jim -

Thanks! Your reply gives me a good foundation to start with (including the understanding of show-runner itself). The three of us have agreed from the very beginning that I'll be the top of the hierarchy (though I'm of course quite respectful of my collaborators as colleagues - which is obvious, since they were more than worth bringing into the project.)

So I guess Option 1 makes the most sense.
In terms of compensation split - what's fair? At this stage, we don't know how much each will contribute re: generating pages - though I created the premise, will be the deciding factor on direction - and definitely generate the first rough version of the bible.

One of our team suggested a 40/30/30 split. Is that generally industry standard? What's the range? And/or should we wait to see who generates what before laying out compensation terms?

Thanks!

--Pitch
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Old 10-26-2015, 10:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchblack70 View Post

One of our team suggested a 40/30/30 split. Is that generally industry standard? What's the range? And/or should we wait to see who generates what before laying out compensation terms?



--Pitch
There is no standard for what you're asking.

If someone wants to buy your material, there's basically two questions - what rights do we have to buy? And who do we have to buy them from?

Legally, everyone who contributed written material has equal ownership of the script they contributed to. If you guys want to break it down into percentages, that's up to you to deal with after the fact, but to present that to anyone else would be amateurish and likely dismissed by representation.

Whose name is on the IP? Whose names are on the script?

That's the standard.
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Old 10-26-2015, 01:52 PM   #5
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

You guys can split the proceeds from what you sell however you want.

What titles you get on the show, and what compensation you get, depends on what you can negotiate, and the reality is that if you guys are selling it to a network NONE of you will be the showrunner. They'll bring in somebody with more experience, somebody they trust.

(And there's nothing wrong with that. Many, many shows aren't show-run by their creators, particularly when the creator has limited experience in television, but also when the creator is a feature person).

I would say there are three real pieces here:

1) Getting paid for the script/bible. You agree on a split between the three of you.
2) Getting paid for the rewrites commissions by the studio/network. They will assume the same people who wrote the script are doing the work, so you guys will have to figure this out in a way that's mutually palatable but also okay with them.
3) Getting paid for the ongoing show.

Generally, you're all going to get the same title, but I've seem titles offered for a first timer everywhere from co-producer for two years and then nothing, to co-exec-producer for the life of the show. (That's on top of the WGA-mandated created-by credit).

But the network may decide they're better off without you. The showrunner could think you're a jerk. You could even end up in an arbitration for the created-by credit if they showrunner does a pass.
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Old 10-26-2015, 05:24 PM   #6
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Even if you agree that you are at the top of the ladder between the three of you -- it ultimately comes down to what the studio, network, and contracts decide. Writers are usually given titles which ranks them and if they (studio/network) want to bring in a showrunner they'll do it and hand him/her the reins to the show.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:14 AM   #7
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Hi Jim, Ronald and Ducky -

Thanks for the input! I completely understand that titles, and compensation after the fact would be dictated by the purchasing studio.

My question was just whether there was a specific rule of thumb for agreed upon split between the three of us, and how it was usually decided (after all, one wouldn't want to sign a collaboration agreement dictating a hard-and-fast 30/30/30 split, if there's a chance that one person will contribute almost zero to the pilot script and bible.)

Or vice versa - if one person ends up doing all the work, one wouldn't want them to only get 30% on a sale.

But perhaps that's just a matter of crossing one's fingers, and hoping that all three collaborators will agree on the split being fair when all is said and done - so be it.

Hate to do that - OTOH, we're three honest people, so perhaps it's not a bad assumption.

Cheers and best,


--Pitch
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Old 10-27-2015, 03:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

It's still all contractual.

The show I work on the creator wasn't involved in the making of the show and he still gets an EP credit and plenty of money per his contract.

I wouldn't do anything based on a verbal agreement or "we decided to split evenly" because that will come back to bite someone in the butt. People are honest until money is involved...
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Old 10-28-2015, 09:22 AM   #9
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Hi Ducky -

Thanks again. Is there anything that you contractually recommend before writing commences, and the actual writing participation rate shakes itself out?

Thx!

** I agree - if anything ever ends up causing potential disputes between decent people, it's money...

Best,

--Pitch
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Old 10-29-2015, 07:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: Showrunner/Writer Split?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchblack70 View Post
Hi Ducky -

Thanks again. Is there anything that you contractually recommend before writing commences, and the actual writing participation rate shakes itself out?

Thx!

** I agree - if anything ever ends up causing potential disputes between decent people, it's money...

Best,

--Pitch
Are you being paid to write? If so there should have been contracts drawn up already with lawyers and business affairs.

Are you just trying to decide between the three of you what is what? You'd have to probably pay a lawyer to draw up the paperwork but there would be a conflict of interest so you would each need one and they would negotiate with each other depending on your request which sounds like a pain.

You said you're developing this -- is it for free as of right now? If so I doubt any paperwork is considered and you won't get the company to do any unless there's money involved I imagine.
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