Should I sent my script to a start up company?



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  • Should I sent my script to a start up company?

    A self confessed "start up" company has asked to see my screenplay. Am I nuts to send it to them if they have no credits yet? Or should I go ahead with the attitude of having nothing to lose?

  • #2
    Take a chance

    You're a "start up" writer, aren't you, you want someone to take a chance on you?

    Check my reply to Rainboy in the moviepitch thread about live being a crapshoot.

    Just take precautions, register your script, send yourself a sealed copy, show it to friends who can vouch that it's yours if the necessity arrives.


    • #3
      Re: Take a chance

      I'm with wannabe on this one. Maybe they won't be able to get you the big deal that larger agents could - but then again...maybe they will. Take precautions, but take a chance.


      • #4

        the "poor mans copyright" is a myth. doesnt hold up in court and a copyright lawyer will tell you that he/she would never present that in a litigation.

        (why couldnt you just send yerself an empty envelope and put whatever script you want in it, then seal it?)


        • #5
          Re: echhemm

          Dude - I was told the same thing. It is a myth that mailing something to yourself is copywriting it.


          • #6

            I think one of the problems that a lot of us have, including myself, is that we expect our first script option to fall into the "$100,000 against $500,000" category. Not a bad goal to have, but we need to make sure our screenplay is a real killer. If a start up company has expressed interest, the script obviously has merit, but they will not be able to pay the high figures. As for me, if they made a solid offer that put money in my pocket, I would tend to take it, unless I were convinced that I could do better elsewhere. Heck, the first script isn't going to be the last is it?

            Keep in mind, I haven't made a sale yet, so I'm just giving my humble opinion.


            • #7
              echhemm echemmm

              (i keep loosing my posts and it drives me nuts)

              " If a start up company has expressed interest, the script obviously has
              merit, but they will not be able to pay the high figures."

              if we are talking about a prodco/mamagement company, they dont buy anything but scented paper. as a matter of fact it takes very little capital to be a prodco/management company. an empty room in the basement, lil letterhead, phone line, an intern that werks for free and some contacts in the industry (say for instance the same contacts an agents assistant could cultivate within one or two years or often just film school is enough)
              these little start up companys take our unsolicited scripts based on their specific contacts. they look for material that needs little or no effort on their part to be ready to "go out with".
              usually an unproduced writer will be offered a free option by the prodco/manager. He/she shops the material around to larger prodco's with studio deals and studio money for a predetermined amount of time. These prodco's with studio ties are the ones who PAY for material not prodco/managers.



              • #8

                Dude, you're right, the poor man's copyright is ineffective...on it's own. But bearing in mind that if it comes to litigation, the judge/jury/arbitrator has to decide on the facts on a balance of probabilities (not beyond reasonable doubt as in a criminal case) which party is telling the truth and if any lawyer doesn't use whatever's at their disposal to make their client's case, then they're being lax. The poor man's copyright is just prima facie evidence in your favor. Taken in conjunction with other things, like registration, copyrighting the script (which you have to do to claim legal fees etc), testimony, etc, it may make a difference.

                And it may make a psychological difference to those who're too nervous to send anything out?


                • #9
                  Earn or Learn?

                  My theory is that you can EARN from a deal or LEARN from a deal... and start up companies may offer neither.

                  In "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" Yoda says that there are always two Siths, a Master and a Pupil. For your first time, you want your partner (producer) to know the tricks of the trade, and pass them on to you. That way your first time can be a real education. You can learn from THEIR experience.

                  The more inexperienced you are, the more experienced you want your partner to be. You'll have more to learn, and that requires a partner with more knowledge to share. On the surface it may seem like a beginning producer and a beginning screenwriter would be the perfect match, but that's two pupils and no masters. You can't learn from somebody who doesn't know!

                  But everything depends on how "start up" these people are. For instance - if I decided to start producing movies tomorrow and got $20 business cards at Staples, I would have no credits as a producer... but I've been in the film biz for a while and have contacts (to financing/distribution) and some experience in making movies. A friend of mine has worked on film sets for the past decade and is getting ready to make his first film... though he has partnered with an experienced line producer to make his film, those ten years actually working on films gives him experience and contacts that would make him (or someone like him) a good bet as a first time producer.

                  It's when you get to people who have never done anything and have no contacts that you get into trouble. They don't have any idea of what they're getting into, and they're going to drag you along for the ride! Usually they don't know where to get money, or a distributor for their finished film.

                  Remember - the only money you can count on is the money they pay you up front. Everything else is some form of fantasy-money. It doesn't really exist.

                  Let's say they pay you $x up front and will pay you $xx when the film sells to a distrib. According to the LA Times, 98% of indie films DON'T ever find distribs and don't ever make a cent... they lose money!

                  What happens if they start filming your movie and run out of money halfway through? They OWN your script! There isn't even a film on video to show friends!

                  You can only sell your script ONCE.

                  - Bill


                  • #10
                    Well I did not catch what kind of company this is, agency or production or management. Hmm.

                    In any of the above, I would want to know the background of the people involved. Someone starting up with a whole lot of past experience working with other people and in the industry will know something. Someone starting up with no experience whatsoever is a different story.


                    • #11


                      CALL A COPYRIGHT ATTORNEY.

                      To protect your work; REGISTER the Copyright and regester with WGA. thats it there aint no more.

                      no attorney will bring up a mailed script as evidence... it wont hold up period. as a matter of common fact the defending lawyer will not allow it to be presented as it could most certainly have been tampered with. (steam that sucker?)

                      its rediculous as it has been explained to me by copyright attorneys. do you know that YOU yes YOU can purchase a postal stamp? and with this stamp you can change the date? YES change the date?

                      again bruh-man, what prevents you from mailing an empty, unsealed envelope to yerself and stuffing it with whatever wins the oscar for best screenplay 5 years later???????

                      (hint.. get the manilla kind, they always look old and tattered and they have those little metal tabs to bend it shut while it is in post... and maybe spit in a bottle just in case they do forensics to see how old the spit is.. where else will you find 5 year old spit?)



                      • #12
                        Earn or Learn? (stuff I forgot)

                        If you do decide to go with a start up company, you need to get a top entertainment lawyer to do your contract. Someone who can guess what might go wrong and plan for it. You'll need a reversion clause, etc. Problem is - if there's no real $ on the deal, you can't get the lawyer to work on a %, so you'll have to pay him/her cash... probably more than you'll make up front. But that's the only way to protect yourself from all of the things that can go wrong with people who have no experience making films.

                        There are enough established companies looking for scripts that I don't see why you'd want to deal with a start up (unless they are established in the biz).

                        The "master/student" thing works both ways - a new company is better off buying a script from a writer who has some experience so THEY can learn. Especially if they are working on a limited budget.

                        - Bill


                        • #13

                          As soon as you write something, you own the copyright. You don't have to register it with anyone to own the copyright. I just wrote a poem on a napkin. I own that sucker.

                          HOWEVER, in order to PROVE your ownership...this is where registration comes in. Registering with the WGA will prove that you sent the WGA something that you claim that you wrote. Registering with the U.S. Copyright Office will prove that you sent the Copyright Office something that you claim you wrote under penalty of perjury.

                          HOWEVER, if you're afraid that someone will steal your work, keep in mind that it's not enough that you can prove that you wrote something by a certain date. You have to prove that the OTHER PARTY HAD ACCESS TO IT, and INTENTIONALLY copied your work. Man, that's difficult.

                          Bottom's probably enough to register with the WGA (but don't note this on your says "rookie"), send your stuff out and hope for the best. You're not going to win a plagiarism case anyway, unless you're an established writer. Buchwald beat Eddie Murphy, George Harrison got beat because he copied a hit many unknowns win a plagiarism beef? They don't. So register your stuff, send it out, cross your fingers, and maybe you'll get lucky.

                          Your pal,


                          • #14

                            "Registering with the U.S. Copyright Office will prove that you sent the Copyright Office something that you claim you wrote under penalty of perjury."

                            WHAT?? couchguy, thatS what registering the MATERIAL at the WGA or anywhere else does... registering your copyright does MUCH more than that. you can learn what by READING @ the library of congress/copryright office website linked here on done deal.

                            i honestly dont think anyone should dispense advice to newbees unless they, themselves, have done their homework. I think most who post on this board realize the responibility that comeS with giving advice to others. The regulars generaly answer what they can and diScuss what they are not sure of WITH HUMILITY and a shared interest in finding the truth. These kids are here with open minds asking for direction.

                            what happens when a young screenwriter reads a post that says "WGA reg. is prolly enough" and 3 years down the line finds that their script is now a movie???? that writer will undoubtedly want to litigate. BUT WILL BE UNABLE TO COLLECT ANY OF THE FILMS PROFITS BECAUSE HE/SHE DOESNT HAVE A REGISTERED COPYRIGHT. A REGISTERED COPYRIGHT ENTITLES THE AUTHOR TO LITIGATE FOR DAMAGES.. WGA OR ANY OTHER DEPOSITORY REGISTRATION DOES NOT. its industry standard, yes, but NOT the library of congress. if anything, registering the copyright is enough.

                            im going to say this one more time and walk away...

                            to protect your script:

                            REGISTER your copyright and register with WGA.

                            Thats it peeps. thats all. no more no less.

                            we are supposed to be helping each other here. if anyone else wants to argue they can email me [email protected] instead of junking up threads.



                            • #15
                              Duuude. You're wrong, I'm (copy)right(ed).

                              Registering with the U.S. Copyright office does not "entitle the author to litigate for damages" as you so strenuously put it in your post. You have the RIGHT to sue for damages at ANY time, whether you have registered your work (or not) with the U.S. Copyright office (or anywhere else)...PROVING you deserve to collect those damages is another matter entirely. (A discussion of the difference between rights and entitlements can wait until later.)

                              Case in point: Stephen King writes a manuscript, and on the way to his publisher's (and BEFORE he has registered his copyright) his car crashes and he (and the manuscript) are resuced by a crazed fan. Is the crazed fan legally allowed to publish his manuscript and make millions? Of course not. But if she does, is Stephen King legally allowed to sue her and collect damages? Of course, if he can overcome his hobbling. Mr. King's failure to register the manuscript with the Copyright Office (or anyone else) does not prevent him from suing the pants off of Kathy Bates (if that is indeed the crazed fan's name) if he can escape her Deathtrap, and PROVE that he is the true author.

                              I'm sure that if you read the Copyright Office's legalese carefully, you will find that a "copyright" exists from the MOMENT THAT A WORK IS CREATED, not after registration, and registration is NOT required to exercise your copyright. I'm sorry if this rubs you the wrong way, but I have rights in this country...and I don't have to notify the government every time I want to exercise a right. When I write a screenplay, it's copyrighted, whether I tell Big Brother about it or not. Or maybe you'd like to debate that point. You'd lose, but it would make for interesting clutter.

                              The Copyright Office can say that you registered a work with them on a certain date, and that you swore the work was yours. They will NOT send officials to testify that you DID write it...only that you said you did. So for my two cents (or is it $45?), it's not really that much better than registering with the WGA, except that the Copyright Office will lose your manuscript much faster than the WGA and be far less responsive to service issues than the WGA. But hey, it's your money...go ahead and send your money to both Hollywood and Washington, if you're really that concerned. Dude.

                              Your pal,

                              P.S. Can I get an amen?