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Old 01-07-2012, 08:18 PM   #1
Mintclub
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Default Working with a production company on spec?

Hi everybody,

First time poster, long time admirer.

I was hoping a few of you kind ladies and gents might be able to offer me a little advice?

Over the past few months a script of mine has generated a decent level of success in screenplay comps. I entered it into arguably the main three or four (based on Done Deal debates etc) and it had the good fortune of placing as a finalist, winning in another and just this past week recieved an honorable mention too.

Through some of the contest coverage, an upcoming producer at a major production company reached out having come across the logline. I passed on the script and he came back extremely enthusiastic, leading to a positive conference call with both him and another exec; where they expressed an interest in working together on the screenplay (along with the head of development) When the material is in its strongest place, they aim to package, find studio financing and then a theatrical release. 3500 screens to be precise.

I know that sounds a tad far fetched but the company generally do movies with budgets of well over 50 million dollars.

Also, I have to stress, they've been absolutely brilliant and nothing but supportive during this process. Really great guys to work with.

Here's where I'm confused though. It's my first polished script and I'm aware that new writers often work for free, implementing notes etc. However, they've not at any stage mentioned contracts. Their track record is exceptional and very early on told me, when the script's in its best possible shape, they'll happily put it into the right hands; helping me find representation.

I guess what I'm asking here is, is this a regular occurrence? Do prod co's develop and drop projects with unrepped writers often? At what stage do conversations about contracts pop up?

They've given an awful lot of time and thought to the work and we've had weekly conference calls since the beginning.

I do have a few managers reading my work at the moment based on this past week's contest success and so I'm hoping that at the very least it might lead to a conversation about this situation.

Any thoughts, guidance or dvice would be greatly appreciated and HUGE thanks for reading to end... It was verbose, I know!

Last edited by Done Deal Pro : 01-09-2012 at 07:07 AM. Reason: Fixed font size.
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Old 01-08-2012, 08:01 PM   #2
jtwg50
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Hi, Mint. I'm an agented screenwriter who has also been an every-issue writer for SCRIPT for the last 18 months. Here's a link to my current article in the January-February issue (the last one in print before it goes online only). It's a slightly different take on your topic, but it addresses the basic underlying question very well. The real lesson is from the great Dan Petrie, Jr. and his proteges Brian Pittman and Rachel Long.

http://www.scriptmag.com/features/la...irst-assigment

And to address your question more directly, based on my experience and that of many others here, definitely be open to working for nothing upfront IF you feel you have a good relationship with and trust the prodco and/or producer. Like it or not, that's how an awful lot of the new writers who do break in get started -- me included. And as for the contract, don't push that too hard until you at least have finished a draft that meets with their approval and enthusiasm. Once you get to that point, a legitimate entity should have no problem with giving you a simple (on spec) contract that spells out basic terms. And yes, at that point they can/should also be willing to introduce you to potential reps. But all you really need at that point is a good attorney, who takes only 5% instead of 10% to finalize the deal.
But congrats on getting this far, which already separates you from a large percentage of the aspiring writers out there. And trust your instincts at every juncture and act accordingly. Here's wishing you much suucess. And welcome to DD.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:34 AM   #3
Mintclub
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Thanks JTWG,

Great article, very insightful. I really appreciate the advice. (God knows I've needed it!)

I saw an earlier post of yours regarding holding out for the right representation and that's very much where I am at the moment. I recently turned down a manager (Well thought of, reps a couple of DD'ers) as it didn't feel right, and as I'm very much learning as I go, it's made things a little tricky when seeking some guidance.

Cheers for the help with this and wishing you much success too.

Last edited by Done Deal Pro : 01-09-2012 at 07:46 PM. Reason: Fixed font size.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Best of luck, Mint. It sounds like you're off to a great start. Please continue to post and let us know how it goes.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:58 AM   #5
MJ Scribe
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Great article JB. Didn't know writing assignments overwhelmed spec sales by that wide a margin... and it was a great to read the reference to PJ's writing assignment. Especially after that year she had. Way to go!!
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:30 AM   #6
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Hi Mintclub,

If I read your post correctly, you've been working with the company on your original script - the one that has done well in contests, correct? If so, keep in mind that the "no contract" thing works both ways; without a contract, you still own/control the script, which is no small issue.

So, as long as you think their notes and involvement are improving the script, it's probably a win-win situation. But although you like these guys and I'm sure feel loyal to them, if you get more requests to see the script from other reputable producers or production companies - send it. Without a contract you have no guarantee that the current company is serious (as nice as they may be.)

And feel free to send the best draft (even if that is the one that you've polished with the company's assistance.) They haven't paid to take it out of the marketplace, so don't take yourself out. The sweetest words to a writer just may be "bidding war."

Good luck!

Amanda

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mintclub View Post
Hi everybody,

First time poster, long time admirer.

I was hoping a few of you kind ladies and gents might be able to offer me a little advice?

Over the past few months a script of mine has generated a decent level of success in screenplay comps. I entered it into arguably the main three or four (based on Done Deal debates etc) and it had the good fortune of placing as a finalist, winning in another and just this past week recieved an honorable mention too.

Through some of the contest coverage, an upcoming producer at a major production company reached out having come across the logline. I passed on the script and he came back extremely enthusiastic, leading to a positive conference call with both him and another exec; where they expressed an interest in working together on the screenplay (along with the head of development) When the material is in its strongest place, they aim to package, find studio financing and then a theatrical release. 3500 screens to be precise.

I know that sounds a tad far fetched but the company generally do movies with budgets of well over 50 million dollars.

Also, I have to stress, they've been absolutely brilliant and nothing but supportive during this process. Really great guys to work with.

Here's where I'm confused though. It's my first polished script and I'm aware that new writers often work for free, implementing notes etc. However, they've not at any stage mentioned contracts. Their track record is exceptional and very early on told me, when the script's in its best possible shape, they'll happily put it into the right hands; helping me find representation.

I guess what I'm asking here is, is this a regular occurrence? Do prod co's develop and drop projects with unrepped writers often? At what stage do conversations about contracts pop up?

They've given an awful lot of time and thought to the work and we've had weekly conference calls since the beginning.

I do have a few managers reading my work at the moment based on this past week's contest success and so I'm hoping that at the very least it might lead to a conversation about this situation.

Any thoughts, guidance or dvice would be greatly appreciated and HUGE thanks for reading to end... It was verbose, I know!
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Old 01-09-2012, 11:24 AM   #7
JeffLowell
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScriptGal View Post
But although you like these guys and I'm sure feel loyal to them, if you get more requests to see the script from other reputable producers or production companies - send it. Without a contract you have no guarantee that the current company is serious (as nice as they may be.)

And feel free to send the best draft (even if that is the one that you've polished with the company's assistance.) They haven't paid to take it out of the marketplace, so don't take yourself out.
I respectfully disagree.

We've got what sounds like a very legit production company who found a script by an unrepped/unsold writer. They think they can set it up with some work. They're investing their time to help get it in shape. On top of that, they're being decent by not having a contract - if it isn't working out, both sides can shake hands and walk away without encumbrances.

If they found out that the writer was still sending it to other producers while they were working on it with the writer, it would blow apart the relationship.

If the OP agrees to this partnership, he's got to see this through before he starts sharing it with other people. It's like living with a woman and cheating on her - "but we don't have a marriage certificate!" isn't really going to work.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:10 PM   #8
Geoff Alexander
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I respectfully disagree.

We've got what sounds like a very legit production company who found a script by an unrepped/unsold writer. They think they can set it up with some work. They're investing their time to help get it in shape. On top of that, they're being decent by not having a contract - if it isn't working out, both sides can shake hands and walk away without encumbrances.

If they found out that the writer was still sending it to other producers while they were working on it with the writer, it would blow apart the relationship.

If the OP agrees to this partnership, he's got to see this through before he starts sharing it with other people. It's like living with a woman and cheating on her - "but we don't have a marriage certificate!" isn't really going to work.
Yes, plus one on this, big time. OP, do the work (if it makes sense to you creatively), and respect their time and energy. Don't send it to anyone else, that's a great way to destroy your relationship with this production company.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:43 PM   #9
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

This is one of the best ways to break into the business this way, OP.

I have a buddy who is in your exact same situation. What you are going through is totally normal. There are no contracts. Don't worry about it. This is a very common path.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:38 PM   #10
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Default Re: Working with a production company on spec?

That word "encumbered" -- is there a chance that the prodco could claim some ownership over the work in the future if they end up passing? Whatever ideas they claim originated with them ... can that sour the milk?
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