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Old 06-06-2010, 06:59 AM   #1
Why One
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

I'm no expert in the process, so I'm wondering...

Say you take a few generals at some reputable prodcos, and the prods rattle a few movie ideas at you -- movies that they want as part of their development pipeline and hope to take to the studios.

You come back, pitch your take on it, and they flip for it. They ask you to write a treatment. Or possible the first draft. Will you be paid for the work?
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:14 AM   #2
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by Why One View Post
I'm no expert in the process, so I'm wondering...

Say you take a few generals at some reputable prodcos, and the prods rattle a few movie ideas at you -- movies that they want as part of their development pipeline and hope to take to the studios.

You come back, pitch your take on it, and they flip for it. They ask you to write a treatment. Or possible the first draft. Will you be paid for the work?
If this isn't an open writing assignment, more than likely, no.

In the studio system, producers (even those with first look deals) do not have money to pay writers. Only a handful of producers have a discretionary fund. This is why they try to get writers to work on spec.

If you write a spec for a producer with a discretionary fund, chances are they aren't going to pay you once the work is done. The only way you'll get paid is if they set it up. They'll take the script out, if people pass - it's done. No reason to tap into their discretionary fund.
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by Why One View Post
I'm no expert in the process, so I'm wondering...

Say you take a few generals at some reputable prodcos, and the prods rattle a few movie ideas at you -- movies that they want as part of their development pipeline and hope to take to the studios.

You come back, pitch your take on it, and they flip for it. They ask you to write a treatment. Or possible the first draft. Will you be paid for the work?
If it's a reputable prodco and you're taking generals then coming back and pitching and they flip for it? ummmm yes. That I believe IS the process for getting assignments so I think we can safely assume contracts will get drawn up shortly thereafter before you start your work. Otherwise I would venture to guess they're not "reputable" prodcos. Now you may not get full on money but you should AT LEAST get some option money for a draft.
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Old 06-06-2010, 10:38 AM   #4
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

Cool, thanks for the answers.

So there is a distinction between being asked to work on spec and an assignment.

I figure if it was an adaptation of some kind, then it's obviously an assigment -- an open assignment being some kind of owned property with a proposed development slate. But what if it's a concept? The producers have an idea, and you pitch back to them your take on the idea, hitting the plot points etc. And they ask you to write it. Is that classed as writing on spec, or an assignment?

In which case, paid or typically unpaid?

Last edited by Done Deal Pro : 06-07-2010 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:53 AM   #5
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by dirtbottle View Post
If it's a reputable prodco and you're taking generals then coming back and pitching and they flip for it? ummmm yes. That I believe IS the process for getting assignments so I think we can safely assume contracts will get drawn up shortly thereafter before you start your work. Otherwise I would venture to guess they're not "reputable" prodcos. Now you may not get full on money but you should AT LEAST get some option money for a draft.
Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing here because I think some of your assumptions are wrong.

New writer goes in for a general meeting (with a studio based producer - they're legit) based on reading a sample the exec read, liked, and more than likely passed on.

Exec asks what the writer what he is working on next. Writer tosses some ideas around. The exec says we have some ideas we like. They toss their ideas (it can even be a book, a comic, an article, etc. - but aren't set up at the studio).

Writer sparks to one of those ideas. Exec says, why don't you come up with some ideas and come back. Writer goes off, writes a treatment or comes back with a take.

At this point, a few different things can happen.

A. The exec says, this is great - go write it on spec.

B. Let's go pitch this to the studio. (But if you don't have real buzz around your sample or have sold work in the past - they're probably not going the pitch route.)

C. Let's say it's a producer with a discretionary fund and they love your take, but you refuse to write it on spec. They end up deciding to pay you out of their discretionary fund to write it. (Checks from discretionary funds still come from the studio - not the prodco's bank account.)

But let's say, the writer doesn't get to pitch to the studio or is able to squeeze the producer for discretionary money and they go off and write it on spec.

Writer hands in the spec a couple months later. Producer can either say, this wasn't quite what we had in mind, but thanks for your time. (They can even get a different writer to try to write it. They could have several writers writing the same thing.)

Or... you hand in the spec and they producer says, I love it. Producer takes it out to the town and tries to sell it. Producer has all territories exclusively.

If it sells - awesome. You just sold a spec. Producer is attached to produce. (Your check comes from the studio.)

If it doesn't sell - you just did all that work for nothing.

Okay... that's usually what people are talking about in regards to taking a general meeting and "being offered" to write on spec.

Sometimes in generals, an exec will spark to one of your ideas. They'll ask if they can develop the idea with you. In this case, you're still writing the idea on spec, but you own it. All the producers are getting is the opportunity to have the script tailored the way they want and the chance to have all territories when the script goes out. This can be a great way to build a relationship. And again, you own the script.

Now, open writing assignments - or OWA's.

When a producer has an OWA, they usually make a list of 30 writers they want to go to. Those writers are on all levels of the food chain. They start off with the A list guys and work their way down.

The producer sends those writers' agents the material for the job (script to be rewritten, book, comic, foreign movie, etc).

Some of the writers are unavailable and some won't be interested. The producer then finds out who is interested and who they can afford before narrowing the list down to about 5-10 who they actually want to meet and hear a take from.

A writer goes in, gives a take to the exec - exec loves it. Writer has to come back and pitch the producer. Producer loves it. Producer takes the writer to the studio. Writer has to pitch the studio exec to get the job and be approved.

(This is just a generalization, but hopefully gives people the basic idea.)

Sometimes, once in a very, very blue moon - you'll have a general. The exec loves you. Loves your writing. You have some heat. Exec has a project that is all but dead. They tell you it's an OWA that hasn't been cracked yet. Why don't you come back and see if you can crack it. That is a real job.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:00 PM   #6
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by Why One View Post
Cool, thanks for the answers.

So there is a distinction between being asked to work on spec and an assignment.

I figure if it was an adaptation of some kind, then it's obviously an assigment -- an open assignment being some kind of owned property with a proposed development slate.
Depends if it is set up at the studio or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Why One View Post
But what if it's a concept? The producers have an idea, and you pitch back to them your take on the idea, hitting the plot points etc. And they ask you to write it. Is that classed as writing on spec, or an assignment?

In which case, paid or typically unpaid?
This is writing on spec. It's unpaid. (See example A from my previous post.)

Is this similar to bram20's situation?[/quote]

This is exactly Bram's situation from what I can tell. He is being asked to write on spec for no money.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

Awesome! Great posts mrjonesprods!

It'd be cool to see more info on these sorts of things on the forums.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by mrjonesprods View Post
Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing here because I think some of your assumptions are wrong.

New writer goes in for a general meeting (with a studio based producer - they're legit) based on reading a sample the exec read, liked, and more than likely passed on.

Exec asks what the writer what he is working on next. Writer tosses some ideas around. The exec says we have some ideas we like. They toss their ideas (it can even be a book, a comic, an article, etc. - but aren't set up at the studio).

Writer sparks to one of those ideas. Exec says, why don't you come up with some ideas and come back. Writer goes off, writes a treatment or comes back with a take.
So in this scenario, what does one do when they don't get back to you? I wrote the first five pages of the treatment and they said send it on over and we'll take a look! So I did. Nothing. I kept writing anyway and sent over some more pages. Nothing. So I just finished the thing and sent it over and so far, nothing. Do I call? Wait? Email again politely? Call the manager in? What's the protocol on that? Is this normal?
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:38 PM   #9
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by emily blake View Post
So in this scenario, what does one do when they don't get back to you? I wrote the first five pages of the treatment and they said send it on over and we'll take a look! So I did. Nothing. I kept writing anyway and sent over some more pages. Nothing. So I just finished the thing and sent it over and so far, nothing. Do I call? Wait? Email again politely? Call the manager in? What's the protocol on that? Is this normal?
Personally, I'd follow up with an email. I'm in a situation where I'm speccing for some producers. I'd sometimes send "checking in" emails to ask where we are with it after submitting a draft. They always reply with an update.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Producer wants me to write script for free???

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Originally Posted by emily blake View Post
So in this scenario, what does one do when they don't get back to you? I wrote the first five pages of the treatment and they said send it on over and we'll take a look! So I did. Nothing. I kept writing anyway and sent over some more pages. Nothing. So I just finished the thing and sent it over and so far, nothing. Do I call? Wait? Email again politely? Call the manager in? What's the protocol on that? Is this normal?
Anytime you turn something in, you should have your agent or manager follow up a week later. But in the future, you should wait to hear back from the execs before you continue working. It would suck if they suddenly lost interest and you did all the work for nothing.

Also, if you do decide to work with a producer on something, make sure you talk to your reps about it and formulate a strategy beforehand.
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