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Old 09-30-2006, 09:55 PM   #1
Colt45
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Default Producer screwed me... what are my options?

I recently signed an option with a producer for my screenplay... immediately after signing he wanted MAJOR changes that I did not agree with.

He sent me a treatment, which didn't work (there's a reason producers aren't writers) Not wanting to sour the relationship, I did the best I could with it, threw out what didn't work, kept what did (very little) and came up with a movie that improved upon my original script. I was happy... but he continued to push his ideas and told me to go ahead with a draft based on his treatment.

I just sent him an email, telling him I couldn't do that, and am waiting for his response.

My question is, if I went ahead and tried to self produce this, (it's a small, indie thriller) would I have to wait until the option expires (1 year)? If so, I'm pretty screwed, because it's obvious he wont pursue financing unless I rewrite, so my script will sit like a dumb sh*t for the next year, a total waste of time. I'm furious.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

Yes, he has the right to renew for two more years after the first year. OMG.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:47 PM   #3
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

I didn't get much for the option (wont say how much out of embarassment), but it was mainly because I've been trying to make this for 5 years, and another year of it collecting dust vs. having a small shot at being made? I took the option because I was sick of nothing happening with it.

The funny thing is, around the same time I came into posession of a small production cache (cameras, lights, sound, all the editing/hard drive space I'll ever need)... so now I can make this movie with very little out of pocket cost since I have all the equipment... I'm casting my actor friends in the leads, so they're cool with deferred, small film student crew, etc.

Now I have to figure out what to do with this producer. I like the idea of just bringing him on as a producer in my self made production, give him the credit just to get him off my back if he doesn't agree to release the option when I pay him back.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

I don't see where you were screwed. Did you not read your contract carefully? Put yourself in this producer's shoes for a minute. People's careers, money and reputations ride on his back. Are you sure he's not making it as commercial as possible for the distributers? To attract the right actors? At some point, you're going to have to trust the producer to make the most out of your story. After all, he's the one looking at the big picture.
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Old 09-30-2006, 11:10 PM   #5
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bellabell View Post
I don't see where you were screwed. Did you not read your contract carefully? Put yourself in this producer's shoes for a minute. People's careers, money and reputations ride on his back. Are you sure he's not making it as commercial as possible for the distributers? To attract the right actors? At some point, you're going to have to trust the producer to make the most out of your story. After all, he's the one looking at the big picture.
Sorry, that's bullsh*t... he gave me several notes about the script before we signed the option and they were VERY MINOR changes. He agreed to option the script after I made those changes. The day we sign the papers, he tells me he's going to send me some notes for changes, and it's a TOTALLY different movie he has in mind. It went from Star Wars to It The Terror From Beyond Space. Hyperbole aside, I realize he wants to make it more commercial, which is why (like I stated earlier) I went ahead and made the changes, but threw out what didn't work. But he wouldn't budge and wanted it exactly like he wrote (which doesn't work at all). I'm not stupid. I know the realities of the commercial film business. Producers by and large are scum bags, but they're needed to get your films made.

Sorry if I sound bitter, but this guy knew exactly what he was doing. Why didn't he give me those notes BEFORE I signed the option? Because he knew I'd never sign it. He's not interested in my script (which was very well received by several industry people I have no relationship with). He's only interested in his version of my script, pretty much throwing his weight around.
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Old 10-01-2006, 12:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

what r you gonna do? arrest him?
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Old 10-01-2006, 08:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

better a bad movie than no movie
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Old 10-01-2006, 08:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

I don't know if you have other screenwriting credits but if not, at least you can tell people you've been optioned (sounds good in query letters, etc.) while said producer has your script. That's meant to be a "look on the bright side of life" thought.

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Old 10-01-2006, 09:01 AM   #9
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

I agree with dpat.

I know the position you're in sucks, and I definately chuckled when I read your line about how producers shouldn't be writers.

I've been in your shoes to a certain degree. I didn't get an option, but I had a handshake agreement with a fairly well established production company that wanted me to make changes to a script of mine that I didn't agree with.

Man, I lost some serious sleep over it. I couldn't even function for a day or two until I finally wrote a long, sappy Jerry McGuire-style manifesto on why the changes couldn't be justified.

In the end, they listened. Of course, in the end, the script never sold either. Looking back, I regret my lack of flexibility. To begin, it was my first script. I was lucky just to have someone interested, and I should have been more willing to listen to their ideas if I wanted to make some money and get a credit.

How many scripts have you written, Colt? If you haven't written many and haven't sold any, I say do your best to go with this person's ideas and chalk it up to experience. A lot of us would be thrilled to be in your shoes. I've been at it for six years and have worked with different companies and had some exciting things happen, but not a dime has come my way. At this point, I would probably option my latest script for a booklet of McDonald's gift certificates.
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Old 10-01-2006, 09:33 AM   #10
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Default Re: Producer screwed me... what are my options?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colt45 View Post
Sorry, that's bullsh*t... he gave me several notes about the script before we signed the option and they were VERY MINOR changes. He agreed to option the script after I made those changes. The day we sign the papers, he tells me he's going to send me some notes for changes, and it's a TOTALLY different movie he has in mind. It went from Star Wars to It The Terror From Beyond Space. Hyperbole aside, I realize he wants to make it more commercial, which is why (like I stated earlier) I went ahead and made the changes, but threw out what didn't work. But he wouldn't budge and wanted it exactly like he wrote (which doesn't work at all). I'm not stupid. I know the realities of the commercial film business. Producers by and large are scum bags, but they're needed to get your films made.

Sorry if I sound bitter, but this guy knew exactly what he was doing. Why didn't he give me those notes BEFORE I signed the option? Because he knew I'd never sign it. He's not interested in my script (which was very well received by several industry people I have no relationship with). He's only interested in his version of my script, pretty much throwing his weight around.
If it is a breach of contract, as you described, than get yourself a good lawyer and produce it yourself, but just remember, you are taking a big risk for future work. Not many people will want to work with uncredited writers with a lawsuit. Unfortunately, you're going to have to learn to work with these scum bags for your entire career, they're the ones raising the money to pay you. I do wish you the best and hope you can resolve this.
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