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Old 12-19-2016, 01:48 PM   #1
LiteBrightWrite
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Default Writing on Spec Question

I've been approached by a well known producer to write a script on spec.

I know what the spec process is and while I don't like the idea of writing for free until the producer can find funding and sell the script to a studio before I get paid, I understand that's just how things work. I have a question: Should there be some sort of written agreement in place?

Again, while I am new to screenwriting and I am getting great responses from many industry execs for my work. However, my biggest fault is that I am not familiar with what I need to do to protect myself in this process. I do have management but I'm not entirely sure his allegiance is to me or the producer.

Any suggestions?
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Old 12-19-2016, 01:57 PM   #2
Levenger
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

If you're not sure of where your manager's loyalty lies get a new manager.

And yeah, it happens. I've worked for producers for free and not **** came of it but wasted time and a spec I can't really take elsewhere. Do it if you think it's worth the opportunity, but for my money I'd rather write my own idea and have more latitude to take it elsewhere.
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Old 12-19-2016, 02:46 PM   #3
docgonzo
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

I did this once a few years ago and it went absolutely nowhere. I'll never do it again.
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Old 12-19-2016, 03:09 PM   #4
ClintW3
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

Samuel Johnson once wrote: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

He is considered pretty smart.
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Old 12-19-2016, 03:12 PM   #5
JoeBanks
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

1. Don't do it. 2. Definitely don't do it without a written, entertainment lawyer-vetted contract signed by the producer in hand.
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Old 12-19-2016, 03:44 PM   #6
madworld
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

If you do it -

- You have to LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea.

- Make sure you own the concept and content, including all revisions free and clear, if he can't get it going somewhere or if you decide to part over creative differences. If he says no to this, walk.

- Get a timeline from him in terms of how long the process will be to get it to buyers once it's completed, including making additional attachments like directors, actors. Make sure you are comfortable with that and are also allowed to show the content as a sample to acquire work.

- Find out how many rewrites he expects. As in 1st draft, 2nd and polish.
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Old 12-19-2016, 06:08 PM   #7
DavidK
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

All of the above, really. If your manager's loyalties are ambiguous, it might be time to find a new manager.

Spec-for-free deals pretty much never lead to anything; it's so uncommon you can safely assume you'll get nothing out of this except some writing practice and maybe a free coffee. However there are sometimes reasons for doing them. Like madworld said, if you are passionate about the idea and would love to write it anyway, but don't even think about it if you are less than crazy about the idea and okay with it leading to nothing.

Be clear about what's expected of you, and make sure your lawyer sanctions a written agreement which establishes that you have full, unencumbered ownership of the script until it is purchased.

A "well known" producer should know all of this anyway and act appropriately. If they really care about the idea and have faith in it why aren't they willing to pay for the work or at least make reasonable payment for an option? These things are usually just producer fishing expeditions hoping a writer will take the bait. Meantime ask the producer if they'd like to come over and paint your house and you'll pay him/her if your family is satisfied with the work. Pardon the sarcasm, but I hate that writers so often get asked to work for free when nobody would ever dare ask the same of a plumber or dentist or mechanic etc.
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Old 12-19-2016, 06:47 PM   #8
Levenger
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidK View Post
A "well known" producer should know all of this anyway and act appropriately. If they really care about the idea and have faith in it why aren't they willing to pay for the work or at least make reasonable payment for an option?
Because development funds are more-or-less extinct and if you don't write it, there's no shortage of talented, trying-to-break-in writers who will.

That's the mentality anyway. I get that it's not fair from an ideological sense, but I get it from the producer's sense as a business decision. If they have an idea they really care about and believe in and will put all their effort behind, then that idea will never even be sniffed by a writer in a position to work for free.

It hasn't worked for me in such a way, but I've seen guys spec for producers and, with their help, were able to generate a great sample that their reps were able to sell as "Big Producer is attached to this" to get them other jobs. So there's that.
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Old 12-20-2016, 12:16 AM   #9
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

FWIW, my partner and I did this and it did pan out, but it was almost 3 years, on-and-off, back and forth drafts of a pilot that ultimately got shelved though it served as a sample when the pitch sold. Honestly, I was so green, I didn't know any better and saw it as more of a learning experience than anything. When I did realize how exploitative it was, as fate would have it, that's when the producers got serious about shopping it around. We didn't have anything written and operated on oral agreement, but it ended up working to our favor in negotiations, we had a ringer for an entertainment attorney...

So definitely make sure it's time you'd be spending anyway, that at the end if nothing comes of it, you still have something to show, and definitely run all this by an attorney who knows what they're doing.
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Old 12-20-2016, 12:25 AM   #10
DavidK
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Default Re: Writing on Spec Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Levenger View Post
Because development funds are more-or-less extinct and if you don't write it, there's no shortage of talented, trying-to-break-in writers who will. ...

It hasn't worked for me in such a way, but I've seen guys spec for producers and, with their help, were able to generate a great sample that their reps were able to sell as "Big Producer is attached to this" to get them other jobs. So there's that.
Yes, I'm not unsympathetic to this side of it and I know that for a few it has worked. In the end, it's up to the writer to make that call and there will be times when it's worth it to develop the relationship with the producer. As one writer friend said to me, "I'm already not getting paid so don't have anything to lose."
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