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Old 09-13-2006, 01:41 PM   #1
Copywriter2
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Default Freebies that resulted in $

Just curious to see how many of you have done either free assignments and/or rewrites of your own scripts for producers that have resulted in some kind of payment. I'm not talking about deferred payment. I'm talking about when a producer says "I like your script, but have some notes." No pay or commitment whatsoever.

I personally have done numerous freebies over the years -- and none has resulted in anything positive. No money and no production. Just a lot of spinning wheels. Any contrasting stories?
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Old 09-13-2006, 01:59 PM   #2
ylekot43
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Four words -- "Show Me the Option"

I don't see how it could ever hurt to look at someones notes though.
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Old 09-14-2006, 04:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Did my fair share coming up. Two that are mentionable. Neither paid me directly in the long run, but one was a key part in acquiring me future works for my next two jobs/sales. The other thus far has done nothing for me. But, I look back at it as a positive experience. Of course at the time, and the months/years immediately following I had another idea of what it was. But now, I've heard so much about it happening all over town, that I've come to realize it's a norm, and in a lot of ways, it felt like a prerequisite to the bigger fish.
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Old 09-26-2006, 02:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

It is interesting. And that's why I posed the question. As I said, I've been doing this a long time and never had a paycheck come as a result of any kind of freebie. Writers should beware of free options and producers asking you to rewrite your screenplays for free. If they're serious, they'll pony up with some hard cash.
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Quote:
Originally Posted by ylekot43 View Post
Four words -- "Show Me the Option"

Five words: "then they own the rewrite"

If the notes improve the script and there's no significant upfront money on offer "free" may be best.


edit: okay it's possible to work for free under an option but that is very screwy because they effectively control your additional work at no extra cost for the duration of the option.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

I’m new to the business end of this but I’m compelled to give this a whirl.

I wrote a script recently that I marketed the hell out of. I got it into a lot of hands and it got some attention from various industry folk but no offers to option and the agency coverage I had on it advised to consider me as a writer but to pass on the script. Then I got it into the hands of a produced screenwriter who’s been working for several years now…a guy who wrote a film there is already Oscar buzz about. He emailed me back saying he liked the work and felt it was the best pre-professional script he’s ever read but that it needed something extra to get to that next level.

After some time passed to allow both of us to consider all factors involved, we made a verbal agreement that he would come onboard as producer. I received no upfront option money and no guarantee any would come in the future.

But we did go to work in tandem in terms of brainstorming for a rewrite that would get the script to the next level. This guy read the script multiple times and then we talked for several hours on the phone, going through the whole thing almost page by page and identifying areas where the drama could be enhanced. It was a positive collaborative experience and it was made clear up front that I was the writer and I would be the ultimate judge on the direction of the rewrite. I rewrote the script after this conversation, turning in a new draft about a week after. The guy LOVED the rewrite. Everybody I have shown it to has LOVED the rewrite. He showed the original draft to his Big 5 agent who gave him detailed notes and is now showing the rewrite to her again in the hopes that she’ll either fully sign on or at least help get it to directors.

This guy also passionately recommended me to the Sundance Lab, speaking personally to the director over the phone and just got the script in the hands of an up and coming manager. Most recently he made a call to a contact at another Big 5 agency who’s aware of his work as a writer and that contact agreed to do all he can to get the script to a star that the agency reps. He now owes that guy a favor…he put himself on the line for me and my script and I fully trust that he will continue to do so. He has also told me that he won't ask me to sign anything since he can't offer me any money at the moment and will understand if I sell to a prod co that comes along with a big dollar option offer.

Regarding money, his lesson to me from the start has been, “it’s your job as a writer to get paid by producers, not the other way around.” When money for his “option” on my script comes up, he says he will be honest with me about it and he will give me what he can when he is able to do so. I believe him and frankly, the above work he’s already put into the script is worth more to me than a few grand now.

So I’d have to say at this point I’ve rewritten my script for free and it’s been well worth it. Would I do so under normal circumstances….probably not….but after speaking with this person and getting to know him a bit I grew to trust him and felt his belief in the material was genuine and so far I am very happy with my decision regardless of whether or not he ever gives me any option money.

Has my free work on the script resulted in actual cash for me....not yet...but I feel like it's putting me on the map which in terms of my longterm gameplan means more than money.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:46 AM   #7
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Quote:
Originally Posted by BROUGHCUT View Post
Five words: "then they own the rewrite"

If the notes improve the script and there's no significant upfront money on offer "free" may be best.


edit: okay it's possible to work for free under an option but that is very screwy because they effectively control your additional work at no extra cost for the duration of the option.
A good option has reversion clause which occurs in the event no payment is tendered for the rewrite (which I make payable upon commencement of principal photography as opposed to upon completion of the rewrite -- less guaranteed money but protects your right to later shop the script if the movie isn't made and the option has expired) It is the consideration paid for the rewrite that creates a work for hire scenario and vests rights in the prodco.
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Last edited by ylekot43 : 09-28-2006 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 09-27-2006, 07:45 PM   #8
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Cotton, that's a great story and I wish you well. Actually, I had a similar experience with a well known producer. He spent a year giving me notes while I worked on a rewrite. He sincerely wanted to set the movie up, but he ended up moving to another company and they weren't looking for this type of project. But I ended up with a great script that won a major contest and was recently purchased. So although I wasn't paid by this producer, his role was worth tremendous amount

With that said, writers need to be very selective when agreeing to work with a producer, writer or agent for free. For every writer and producer like we were lucky enough to find, there are hundreds of others who will waste the writer's time -- without improving the script.

Again, best of luck and keep us posted.
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Old 09-27-2006, 09:03 PM   #9
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Having a produced screenwriter with a great reputation work with you on your script isn't the same as working for free for a producer.

In this situation, you're taking advice and notes from somebody who probably knows a lot about writing a decent script.

With producers -- that's often not the case.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Freebies that resulted in $

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minibrain View Post
Having a produced screenwriter with a great reputation work with you on your script isn't the same as working for free for a producer.

In this situation, you're taking advice and notes from somebody who probably knows a lot about writing a decent script.

With producers -- that's often not the case.
I feel ya, Mini, and I agree pretty much. I definitely wouldn't advise anybody to jump in bed with the first person that says they're a producer. I just wanted to point out that there certainly are situations where it can be very worthwhile.

I'm not countin' my chickens yet or anything but I certainly feel good about things.
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