Make a deal with the devil?



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  • Make a deal with the devil?

    I have the option to get any script I write into the hands of people who make buying decisions at several of the top studios/shingles in town. Think Brent Miller at Act III, Patrick Chu at Annapurna, others at Sony, HBO, and so on.

    Only there's a catch.

    My conduit, who is a far more established writer than I am, must attach his name to the script before it goes out.

    On one hand, this practice leaves a poor taste in my mouth. It feels predatory, and I question whether being the no-name second fiddle truly benefits my career in the long run. On the other, isn't this what happens anyway? A studio buys a script they like, then hires a writer they trust to land the airplane?

    The obvious answer is to see if he'd submit on my behalf w/out his name, but he claims his connections respond because they've read his writing, like his writing, and trust his taste and ability to handle next steps. So, not an option.

    Hence, my pickle. Breaking in is f****** hard, my connections are limited, and querying sucks. But is letting someone take credit for my work an acceptable cost to ride their coattails???

    I'd LOVE your thoughts.

    Irwin P

    PS: For context, I've written one indie script for an a-list actor on spec, and another for a producer who's got a director attached. Both of which have been relatively quiet of late.

  • #2
    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    ... is letting someone take credit for my work an acceptable cost to ride their coattails???
    How much do you want to “break in”?

    This is the “Schrödinger‘s cat” quantum physics problem applied to screenwriting.

    If you go with it, the project might die on the vine or take years to become a reality (a film). OTOH, it could take off like gangbusters and then your “and” or “&” credit seems like more than a fair trade, correct? If your friend is willing to stake their name and reputation on your project, that's not small potatoes (to me, anyway).

    It's not as though you suffer from monomania over only one project, is it? You aren't a one-trick pony, are you? You have other, marketable ideas and projects, don't you?

    What's the worst that could happen if you decide to do this?

    My first thought on reading your post was that your friend might not like you letting Schrödinger‘s cat out of the box here. It seems (to me) yours is a rhetorical question. The particulars are too particular to you and your established friend. No one’s advice can help you make this decision.*

    What if you only dance with the Devil without making a deal with the Devil? That way, when the music of this arrangement ceases to play, you live to dance again to a different tune, and you might be a better dancer for the experience.

    *This advice is worth exactly what you paid for it.
    Clint Hill
    Last edited by Clint Hill; 06-16-2022, 06:43 PM.
    “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle


    • #3
      If it’s me, I say NO. I’d tell him he can attach as a producer, but I don’t let others take credit for my work if they had nothing to do with it. Trust me when I tell you, in my opinion, that if you do this you’ll get screwed six ways and it won’t help your career. I’m sorry, I think people who happily take credit for work they didn’t do are capable of anything.


      • #4
        I'd say there's a high chance you're misreading what's going on. I can't imagine one successful writer who would put his name as writer on a spec he didn't write, for many many many reasons.

        Are you sure he didn't offer to attach himself as a producer?


        • #5
          My comments presume one of these is also in play: Collaboration Agreement.
          “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle


          • #6
            Clint Hill: You lost me at Schrödinger‘s Cat (the analogy, not the experiment). But larger point taken.

            Jeff Lowell: Not mistaken. I did a project with him where he was listed as a producer, then as the draft gained attention he pressured the other producers to make him a writer. Though he wasn't totally hands off (see next).

            Ed Fury: I don't think he'd simply through his name on it. He'd contribute notes, maybe offer some dialogue, and markup a draft.

            It's more to the bigger question of whether, as a writer, attaching your draft to a bright, shiny object who's also a writer is a viable path to anything -- for the non-bright, shiny object (who's never envisioned his career writing as a team).

            Appreciate everyone for chiming in!


            • #7
              So if you say NO, is the spec dead?


              • #8
                I'm flashing back to episodes of EPISODES...


                • #9
                  The whole thing is weird. He did a small rewrite - gave some notes and dialogue changes, then wanted his name on it as solo writer, or co-writer? And the other producers were fine with that? And now he's offered to do that to any spec you write? It just doesn't sound like normal behavior.

                  You say he's "far more established," but how established is he? Does he have credits? Recent ones?

                  Successful writers don't send out a stream of specs, especially ones they didn't write. That's not how they make their money. Again, none of this sounds like normal behavior. Is there a chance he's selling you a bill of goods about his success? That would be my guess.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
                    Clint Hill: You lost me at Schrödinger‘s Cat (the analogy, not the experiment).
                    What happens if you open this box? Is your “cat” (career) dead or alive? (It's the smell coming from the box that gives rise to suspicion here).
                    “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle


                    • #11
                      I don't know much... but I'm trying to think of how many writers who have enough power that just putting their name on it, will help out fellow writers. I know a few successful writers that I'd love to work on specs with and they can get in my rooms than I can, but it's not like just having their names on it, equals anything but more opportunities vs instance sale.

                      It sounds like a version of what James Patterson does with his novels and I think 5 or so of the co-authors benefited from that relationship, but that's different world than the Hollywood world.

                      If Jeff Lowell wanted to work with me on a comedy spec, I'd be honored. But if he wanted to slap his name on a spec I wrote to help sell it, I'd be pissed. Would I do it? Honestly, I can see the temptation from my side. I don't see why a pro writer would want to do that.

                      But my question is, is this other writer someone of that high level that you would even consider such a move or just someone that seems to be doing a little bit better than you?

                      If Judd Apatow wants to put his name on my spec, he can do it. You know? But I don't think he'd even want to do that. I don't see any legit writer wanting to do that. Co-writing sure. Getting a free credit, odd to me. But there is a few names so big to me that I'd probably make the wrong decision and say sure let's do it! I don't see that being a likely scenario.

                      Can you also slap my name on the spec too? Thanks.


                      • #12
                        He sounds desperate. Trying to attach himself to stuff in case it takes off. Just like a lot of people in the biz: trying to hustle any way they can.

                        When my book found a publisher, a friend of mine in L.A. was super interested, kept asking me about it, and then I found out it was actually to see if it was material that maybe her management company would be interested in, and if so then maybe they would let her adapt it for the screen, and then, the ultimate goal: maybe let her have one tiny itty bitty role in it. I guess I felt a little used but of course had anything happened it would have been exciting.

                        @OP (and others): Aren't there some pretty strict rules as to who gets credited as a writer on a script?
                        Last edited by Rantanplan; 06-17-2022, 11:55 AM.


                        • #13
                          Is it this guy? Because this seems pretty terrible.

                          Screenwriter/producer Nick Cuse claims Cary Fukunaga uses grooming tactics and took credit for his work : Deuxmoi (


                          • #14
                            The craziest part of the whole thing from m POV was Nick Cuse is the son of the Carlton Cuse who is huge TV guy including LOST, so I understand how this happened even less!


                            • #15