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Old 02-01-2020, 09:32 AM   #1
Jai Brandon
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Default A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

I posted this over on SS, figured I’d post it here as well:

I had a lower level Hollywood producer reach out to me after finding my horror on Coverfly. Told him it wasn’t available to pitch (the rights are exclusive to a contest for 90 days after it placed 3rd), at which point he asked if I’d be interested in rewriting a biopic (on spec) for a musical icon. Told him to send me the script and I’d see if I could help. Well, I checked it out and sadly that thing’s in for a page one rewrite, it’s extremely sloppy and factually inaccurate. I told him I couldn’t do it for free. I also gave him notes on where the problem areas were and things I’d immediately remove. He responded with “it all sounds good, let’s chat over the phone.” Spoke to him last night for an hour, careful not to give away any ideas that have been swimming around in my head since researching the singer’s life. I was feeling good about the call until the end when he said “I have no money to give you.” And just like that, all those feel good vibes and preliminary ideas deflated like a balloon. “Did you pay the other writers to write the script you sent me?” He did. “You must have been incredibly disappointed.” He was. Said he spoke to Geoffrey Fletcher (the writer of Precious) about coming on as a writer and/or director. Geoffrey’s interested, “but didn’t want to rewrite the script without getting paid.” Well, yeah, that’s kinda the idea. The WGA minimum for a rewrite is a little over $23,000. Im not in the union, so I couldn’t realistically expect anywhere near that amount, however, to offer zero for a page one rewrite that’s being written completely on spec, is It just me, or is that not insane? He says he realizes the amount of work that goes into writing, but thinks it’s just a matter of time commitment. I should’ve asked him, “would you ask an experienced mechanic to rebuild your car for free?” #wheretheydothatat?

If anyone is interested in this “opportunity,” PM your contact info and I’ll pass it along to him. He’s especially interested in writers of color since the singer is African American, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:05 AM   #2
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jai Brandon View Post
He says he realizes the amount of work that goes into writing, but thinks it’s just a matter of time commitment.
I'm continually astounded by people who think all you need to write is some free time on your hands, you know, an hour or two here and there, and bingo -- a stellar script magically materializes through your typing fingers, no thought required.

You'd think he'd realize -- with that sucky script he just paid for -- that it's not just a time commitment.

Good for you for telling him no.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:26 AM   #3
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

A pre-WGA writer is almost never going to get WGA minimums for these kind of gigs. But no legit producer should ever expect to get a writer of value for free. If they don't have $5,000 to throw your way for a rewrite gig, they probably can't get the movie made anyway so no sense wasting your time either.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:33 AM   #4
Jai Brandon
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Agreed on all counts. The singer is Marvin Gaye. And I found many other biopics had already been attempted, but were shut down for one reason or another. His kids are very protective of his legacy and litigious to boot. Even if the script came together and was great, Dr Dre owns the film rights to the music (he wants to make a biopic), so if it’s not going through him it’s probably a lost cause anyway. Sorry for the rant, I just don’t like people trying to get over on us creatives.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Quote:
Originally Posted by figment View Post
I'm continually astounded by people who think all you need to write is some free time on your hands, you know, an hour or two here and there, and bingo -- a stellar script magically materializes through your typing fingers, no thought required.

You'd think he'd realize -- with that sucky script he just paid for -- that it's not just a time commitment.

Good for you for telling him no.
Personally, I've never known a writer who did one of these freebies that got a damn thing out of it. Unless producers have skin in the game, the writer means nothing because they invested nothing in them and that's ok because the writer didn't think enough of their ability to expect to be paid anyway.

I agree. Good for the OP for turning this down. Absolutely the right thing.
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Old 02-01-2020, 12:08 PM   #6
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jai Brandon View Post
I was feeling good about the call until the end when he said “I have no money to give you.” And just like that, all those feel good vibes and preliminary ideas deflated like a balloon. “Did you pay the other writers to write the script you sent me?” He did. “You must have been incredibly disappointed.” He was. Said he spoke to Geoffrey Fletcher (the writer of Precious) about coming on as a writer and/or director. Geoffrey’s interested, “but didn’t want to rewrite the script without getting paid.” Well, yeah, that’s kinda the idea. The WGA minimum for a rewrite is a little over $23,000.
What I noticed is that you don’t say whether he said how much he paid those writers. $100? $500?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeBanks View Post
A pre-WGA writer is almost never going to get WGA minimums for these kind of gigs. But no legit producer should ever expect to get a writer of value for free. If they don't have $5,000 to throw your way for a rewrite gig, they probably can't get the movie made anyway so no sense wasting your time either.
⇧⇧⇧ This, and...

Quote:
Originally Posted by EdFury View Post
Unless producers have skin in the game, the writer means nothing because they invested nothing in them and that's ok because the writer didn't think enough of their ability to expect to be paid anyway.
⇧⇧⇧ ... more importantly, this, too.
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Old 02-01-2020, 03:50 PM   #7
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Do not do it.

It's a fool's game.
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Old 02-01-2020, 04:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

I just wanted to mention, that if you are a good writer and you have a spec that someone really wants to make, you can absolutely negotiate guild minimums without being in the guild, even if the prodco is NOT a signatory.

It may not happen often, or much at all, but it does happen.

Maybe this isn't the right project right now, but if you ever do consider rewriting on spec in the future, a few things you might consider when negotiating your contract in lieu of being paid upfront: an entertainment lawyer can help you with the terms.
  • You own the rights to your rewrite.
  • Producer will submit a weekly (or whatever you feel is reasonable) list of submissions including the parties name, phone number, company and email address.
  • You will be attached to the project as the writer. and shall be compensated for your writing services and shall receive credit in accordance with WGA guidelines. Your credit, fees, and writing steps shall be negotiated in good faith by you and the Third Party. It is acknowledged and agreed that Producer shall be attached to the Project as its Producer and shall be compensated and receive commensurate credit. Such credit and fees shall be negotiated in good faith by Producer and the Third Party.
  • Producer shall attempt to negotiate and conclude an agreement with a Third Party which is acceptable to you and Producers. An agreement may not be concluded, nor may your rights in and to the Screenplay be disposed of in any way, without yours and Producers’ approval and express written consent
  • Producer negotiates with, submits or introduces the Screenplay to a Third Party but are unable to conclude an agreement which is acceptable to you and Producers, you (including but not limited to your licensees, assigns, successors, etc.) shall not independently enter into an agreement with such Third Party in connection with the Project or the Screenplay for a period of Thirty six (36) months unless Producers remains attached as Producers of the of the Project and Producers has negotiated and executed Producers’ deal with such Third Party.
  • Ask the producer what he thinks the budget will be? Before you talk about anything else.
  • Once you have the minimum budget, tell them you want 2.5% ($XXX) of the bonded budget. With a ceiling of 2.5% ($XXX) of what the budget might go up to... and what you feel is fair.
  • You could also include a one time buy-out amount, if the parties did not want you to be involved in the go-forward project.

So if the budget is $5 million and it might go to, say, $10,000,000. That means the FLOOR is $125k and the CEILING would be $250k. That means that if the budget ever exceeds $10million the highest you will ever be paid is $250k. That's just an example, I have no idea what the budget would be.

I think you said that the work was a "write for hire, correct?" Which means you'd share the copyright with the producer if he agreed to that and you'd most likely have to share credit with the first writer.

With how difficult it is to get paid for writing or even paid for an option, you might consider an alternate way to get paid. I'm not saying "do this," I'm saying it's not necessarily a "pay me now or I walk."

In the end, you'd have another sample you could show to represent your work and you'd be getting your name out there. If you tell him what you want in lieu of getting paid up front, he will either negotiate with you or he will walk. If he walks you just saved yourself a headache.

Most of all, does it light a fire in you?

I am not a lawyer and I am not dispensing legal advice.

Just a few things to consider. It all depends on how comfortable you feel and how much trust you have for the producer.

Whatever you do, don'f burn the bridge, you never know where they will be in 5 years.

Good luck Jai.
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Old 02-01-2020, 06:21 PM   #9
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

There's no use overthinking this situation, and no danger of burning bridges if you politely decline and move on. And I wouldn't help the guy find other writers, who might resent you if they get into a bad situation.

No money, no honey. That's it.
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Old 02-01-2020, 06:25 PM   #10
Jai Brandon
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Default Re: A Page-One Rewrite for Free??

Thanks, finalact. Definitely some helpful advice in terms of what a lawyer should negotiate. He sent me the script without an NDA, so nothing has ever felt “by the book” with this guy. He also made the same comment about “if the script doesn’t go anywhere, at least you’ll have another strong sample.” I was a bit put-off by that. He did say he wasn’t going to try to talk me into it if my heart wasn’t in it, so its a done deal. Moving on. If he comes up with fair compensation for my time and skills in the future, which I doubt, then I’ll return to this thread with the good news.

Makes sense about other writers, dc. None have submitted contact info anyway, don’t think many are interested in slaving over another person’s project for free.
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