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Old 01-13-2020, 11:26 AM   #1
Sunnyside
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Default Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Hello All, Happy New Year. Apologies in advance for the long post...

My writing partner and I are working on a collaboration agreement for a pilot that is currently moving along nicely. Here's the Readers Digest version of where we are at: I agreed to help my partner with his pilot, which is essentially based on his life story. I edited what he already had, and finished it for him. I also wrote the lion's share of the bible. We are friends with a name actor, and my partner got him to attach himself to the project. From there, I handled the "getting it out there" process, as I have some (albiet not much) experience in this area. After over a year of rejections and grinding it out, I got a production company to bite. The production company has now attached an experienced showrunner, who wrote a treatment based on our script. This treatment is what is going to be pitched to buyers. Essentially, shared "created by" with myself, my partner and the showrunner.

Fortunately, we have a good lawyer has who helped us with this process. He recommended that my partner and I draw up a collaboration agreement. If I understood him correctly, he told us that because we wrote the initial script together, a potential buyer would negotiate the script sale for my partner and I as a team. However, the services/credits can be negotiated individually.

From the beginning, my writing partner and I have had an understanding that if any sale/option were to happen it would not be a 50/50 split. I proposed 60/40, he countered with 65/35. In my opinion, his offer is not completely unreasonable.

My idea was to counter to him that I would accept the 65/35 split for the script sale, if he were to negotiate services/credit 50/50 with me as a team. Our lawyer said that it's rare for first timers like us to get anything more than a Co-EP title. Because it's his life story, and he is chock full of potential storylines, etc., I can see a scenario where they keep my partner on board and say "sayonara" to me. If we negotiate services/credit together, I'm thinking it may give me more protection than if I go at it individually.

Is this scenario realistic at all? I'm really in uncharted territory here.

Just to be clear, this is not contentious at all. Everyone (partner, showrunner, prod company) have all been mensch's so far. I just want to protect myself. Thanks in advance...
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Old 01-13-2020, 05:01 PM   #2
JS90
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Firstly, congrats on the momentum this project has gained. Keeping my fingers crossed for you and the team!

I can't speak to collaboration agreements, though part of me thinks you might be over complicating things. But I'm not an entertainment lawyer so take what I saw with a grain of salt.

My biggest piece of advice is just to make sure that if this script gets optioned/sold, that your name stays on it! You 100 percent want to be mentioned by name in any option agreement because that's going to be your best insurance policy.

Do you have a manager? This is one of those tricky situations where having a rep is really handy because they'll have a vested interest in making sure you don't get ****ed out of a spot in that writer's room (should it ever, god willing, go to series).

Just be weary of any situations where someone says "Look, we need to take your name off this script to make it an easier sell. It's not personal, just that no one knows who you are. But we promise, if this sells you will have a spot in the writer's room". I had a situation like this happen to me recently. Like you, I was one of three writers on a pilot. And like you, the other two names were considerably more "important" than me. The agent of the [very respectful and collaborative] showrunner we brought on ended up convincing our producer to drop my name because it'd be "too hard to sell a pilot with that many creators". Of course they claimed their intention was supposedly that I'd still be brought in to staff on the show if it got made. Fortunately I found out and got my manager involved and everything was fixed. But even though this producer and the showrunner both really liked me, down the line some network development exec could have decided to fight me getting a spot in that room. And I'm not totally sure the producer and showrunner would have gone to bat for me. My insurance policy, had the pilot sold, was having my name on it. So I think as long that doesn't change you'll be okay.
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Old 01-13-2020, 06:01 PM   #3
JoeBanks
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunnyside View Post
The production company has now attached an experienced showrunner, who wrote a treatment based on our script. This treatment is what is going to be pitched to buyers. Essentially, shared "created by" with myself, my partner and the showrunner.
If it ever sold presumably it would sell to a WGA signatory, which credit system would (I believe) take precedence over whatever you and your collaborator might have privately agreed to by contract. That is, whether you agreed to 99%/1% or 50/50 split of the sale "price" if it's an episodic series and you're deemed to have earned a sole or shared "Created by" credit, there are MBA minimums for that credit that I'm not sure can be negotiated down or away.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:15 AM   #4
Sunnyside
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JS90 View Post
Firstly, congrats on the momentum this project has gained. Keeping my fingers crossed for you and the team!

I can't speak to collaboration agreements, though part of me thinks you might be over complicating things. But I'm not an entertainment lawyer so take what I saw with a grain of salt.

My biggest piece of advice is just to make sure that if this script gets optioned/sold, that your name stays on it! You 100 percent want to be mentioned by name in any option agreement because that's going to be your best insurance policy.

Do you have a manager? This is one of those tricky situations where having a rep is really handy because they'll have a vested interest in making sure you don't get ****ed out of a spot in that writer's room (should it ever, god willing, go to series).

Just be weary of any situations where someone says "Look, we need to take your name off this script to make it an easier sell. It's not personal, just that no one knows who you are. But we promise, if this sells you will have a spot in the writer's room". I had a situation like this happen to me recently. Like you, I was one of three writers on a pilot. And like you, the other two names were considerably more "important" than me. The agent of the [very respectful and collaborative] showrunner we brought on ended up convincing our producer to drop my name because it'd be "too hard to sell a pilot with that many creators". Of course they claimed their intention was supposedly that I'd still be brought in to staff on the show if it got made. Fortunately I found out and got my manager involved and everything was fixed. But even though this producer and the showrunner both really liked me, down the line some network development exec could have decided to fight me getting a spot in that room. And I'm not totally sure the producer and showrunner would have gone to bat for me. My insurance policy, had the pilot sold, was having my name on it. So I think as long that doesn't change you'll be okay.
Thanks for your kind words!

Believe it or not, a few years back I was in the same situation you mentioned. Producer wanted to take our names off a script that we brought to him, and replace it with a "Teleplay by" credit. Real shady stuff. Fortunately our lawyer is on it this time. This probably explains why I am indeed overthinking this one.

I guess my question is, if one was part of a writing team (both first timers), do both writers generally get the same services/credit consideration?

Thanks again!
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:18 AM   #5
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

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Originally Posted by JoeBanks View Post
If it ever sold presumably it would sell to a WGA signatory, which credit system would (I believe) take precedence over whatever you and your collaborator might have privately agreed to by contract. That is, whether you agreed to 99%/1% or 50/50 split of the sale "price" if it's an episodic series and you're deemed to have earned a sole or shared "Created by" credit, there are MBA minimums for that credit that I'm not sure can be negotiated down or away.
Thank you. Do you happen to have any insight into what exactly goes with "Created by" credit? Is it some sort of residual payment per episode? If so, does this need to be negotiated up front?
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Old 01-14-2020, 03:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunnyside View Post
Thank you. Do you happen to have any insight into what exactly goes with "Created by" credit? Is it some sort of residual payment per episode? If so, does this need to be negotiated up front?
You should go to the Wgaw.org and research this yourself, because understanding it will help you. You can find everything you need to know about how credit works and what you can expect IF you are granted “Created By” credit. It’s not necessarily and automatic thing, and you'll want to understand it well to protect your credit, if possible. This is especially true once they bring on a show runner who can substantially contribute/change/add to the work, which can alter who receives which credit.

Go to—-> WGAw.org —-> contracts & enforcements—>Minimum Basic Agreement—>credits (all the way to the bottom on the left hand panel)

the MBA will explain the payment if you receive credit by episode/spin offs/prequels/sequels. You really should learn this. It's not as simple as a single statement or example.

Good luck with your project and congratulations on your attachments-- fingers crossed for a greenlight on the pilot. ☺
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Last edited by finalact4 : 01-14-2020 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 05:30 PM   #7
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunnyside View Post
Thanks for your kind words!

I guess my question is, if one was part of a writing team (both first timers), do both writers generally get the same services/credit consideration?

Thanks again!
My educated guess would be yes, if you're billing yourself as a team then you'd most likely get the same credit consideration. But to be fair, I've only worked in rooms where the writing teams were already firmly established as a duo and both shared the same agent.
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Old 01-14-2020, 06:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

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Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
You should go to the Wgaw.org and research this yourself, because understanding it will help you. You can find everything you need to know about how credit works and what you can expect IF you are granted “Created By” credit. It’s not necessarily and automatic thing, and you'll want to understand it well to protect your credit, if possible. This is especially true once they bring on a show runner who can substantially contribute/change/add to the work, which can alter who receives which credit.
Jeffrey Lieber, for example, wrote the pilot that eventually became "Lost." But ABC gave it to JJ Abrams to basically do with it as he wanted. Jeffrey didn't write for the show but still retained a "Created by" credit which over six seasons probably wasn't too bad.

https://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-M...007/Cast-Away/
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Old 01-16-2020, 10:34 AM   #9
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

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Originally Posted by JoeBanks View Post
Jeffrey Lieber, for example, wrote the pilot that eventually became "Lost." But ABC gave it to JJ Abrams to basically do with it as he wanted. Jeffrey didn't write for the show but still retained a "Created by" credit which over six seasons probably wasn't too bad.

https://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-M...007/Cast-Away/
Jeff didn't receive sole "created by" credit, he shared it with both JJ and Damon. He was fired after he wrote a pilot. The article shows how the "originator" of the idea isn't guaranteed to receive sole credit. Jeff received "story by" credit with JJ and Damon, but did NOT receive shared "telepay by" credit, that was received by JJ and Damon.

Jeff might not mind receiving his credit and the checks that come with it, but he is not "okay" with what happened. He lost participation, and the payout that follows, for an ENTIRE show that he feels he deserved to be a part of.

An excerpt from Jeffrey:
Quote:
In May, ABC announced that it would put the show in its 2004 fall lineup. Lieber felt even more disheartened: “Not only do they boot me off the island; now I look back and they’re throwing a party on the island, and I’m sitting there floating 100 feet in the water on a shitty raft that’s going nowhere.”

And...
Each side makes its case with a detailed and laborious examination of all the written material that goes into the evolution of the final script. A committee of three anonymous guild members makes a final ruling.
Reading the article illustrates what I'm talking about and why I'm suggesting a writer be informed. JJ and Damon DID contribute substantially to what the SHOW became...

For Jeffrey, the good news is that he received 60% "created by" credit whereas JJ and Damon shared 40%. That was the final ruling. BUT he had to FIGHT HARD to receive that credit.

I wasn't disputing that you CAN retain credit, I'm saying it's not a GIVEN, nor is it guaranteed that you won't SHARE "created by" credit. I'm simply saying be informed on what the credit means and how it works--

The original idea of a pilot can change dramatically once a show runner is brought on (as well as other producers). It is the pilot episode that gets the series order that credit is based upon, not the original pilot written.

an excerpt below from a WGA article... https://www.wga.org/contracts/know-y...parated-rights

Quote:
To determine the "Created by" credit on an original episodic series, there must first be a final determination of credits on the pilot episode of the series.

Generally, if no format has been written for the series, the "Created by" credit will go to the writer(s) who received the "Story by" or "Written by" credit on the pilot. If a format has been written, a Separation of Rights arbitration may be required following the final credit determination on the pilot.
I remember, years ago, listening to Pilar Alessandra interviewing the original writer for Evan Almighty ($2.5 million dollar sale/bidding war) titled The Passion of the Ark written by Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg.

Neither of the original writers received credit, even though it was a huge sale. They also didn't qualify for their backend payout, because when the script was rewritten by other writers, it was no longer considered an ORIGINAL SPEC SCREENPLAY, and was summarily considered a "SEQUEL" to BRUCE ALMIGHTY. At that point they couldn't EVEN receive "story by" credit because of that one small change in it's designation. And if you don't receive credit, you don't receive residuals or separated rights.

So the original writers received only the initial sale payment. Their names are no where to be found on the film itself.

It's important, imo, for writers to understand the pitfalls of credit and selling a spec, so they are not blindsided the way these writers were when it comes to credit. Your team, agent/manager/lawyer could negotiate protections, but nothing is guaranteed.

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Old 01-24-2020, 01:01 PM   #10
Sunnyside
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Default Re: Collaboration Agreement - Question!

Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
You should go to the Wgaw.org and research this yourself, because understanding it will help you. You can find everything you need to know about how credit works and what you can expect IF you are granted “Created By” credit. It’s not necessarily and automatic thing, and you'll want to understand it well to protect your credit, if possible. This is especially true once they bring on a show runner who can substantially contribute/change/add to the work, which can alter who receives which credit.

Go to—-> WGAw.org —-> contracts & enforcements—>Minimum Basic Agreement—>credits (all the way to the bottom on the left hand panel)

the MBA will explain the payment if you receive credit by episode/spin offs/prequels/sequels. You really should learn this. It's not as simple as a single statement or example.

Good luck with your project and congratulations on your attachments-- fingers crossed for a greenlight on the pilot. ☺
FA4
This is really, really helpful. These credit manuals spell things out pretty well. Many thanks!
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