Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

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  • irwinpfletcher
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Yeah, the next draft is being given to a writer of color to do a pass on the dialogue for an all African American cast. If the draft comes back to me following that pass, I'll bring it up. Word is production is delayed due to a scheduling conflict with the lead.

    Appreciate the advice and referral to contract examples.

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  • finalact4
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Originally posted by AnyOtherName View Post
    I don't think there's any way at all to enforce credit on a non-Guild project if credit assignment isn't dealt with in the contract. They could theoretically credit themselves, or their spouses, or nobody.
    This is unfortunately the truth of the matter.

    What you should do, is get an agreement in place now, if you can. Unfortunately, that's not likely. But if this person is a "stand up guy/gal" maybe it can be accomplished. It's never too late and by doing so, you'll reveal your situation pretty quickly. Hopefully, they'll honor their commitment. Either they'll do it, or they won't. It's that simple. And that will tell you a lot. I know you want to get your film made, but if you don't receive credit, how does all the hard work help you-- set aside the experience aspect for now.

    It's important to have language that specifies 1) that credit will be determined, in good faith, by WGA guidelines, and 2) that you are to be considered, by all parties, including any third party/distributor that you are a "professional writer" by the WGA guidelines/standards. I think the WGA might actually recommend this to writers as well, not 100%.

    You need BOTH stipulations. And you definitely need a lawyer. Forget about "handshake" deals. You need specific language to protect yourself as a writer or people will continue to take advantage of you. Bob is right, it will be your fault if you don't receive credit because you failed to protect yourself.

    Everyone is all "buddy, buddy" until the contract negotiations start. That's when the reality of the situation becomes crystal clear. I didn't read all the responses, so I apologize if I'm repeating what's been stated already.

    Contracts are the way you protect yourself (I know, duh). But you need to protect yourself from everyone, even family. If this ever falls under the WGA jurisdiction and you DON'T have this provision, the WGA will not recognize you as a "professional writer" and if they hire a WGA writer to "punch up" the dialogue, even if it's 10% rewriting, that WGA writer will receive sole credit because you are not in the WGA yet and NOT considered a "professional writer" by their standards/guidelines.

    You need to protect yourself to be considered equal.
    Last edited by finalact4; 09-13-2020, 07:26 AM.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    However, if anyone has a boilerplate contract they'd be willing to share for future reference, I'm sure I and others would find it immensely helpful.
    See our main/actual site. There is an EXAMPLES section for various kinds of agreements, contracts, releases, etc - about 35 in all. They are free to use as you or anyone else desires. Copy and paste one (or more) into Word document, and you (or better yet, a lawyer) can change as need be.

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  • KitesAreFun
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    Thanks, everyone, for sharing your input. I knew when I took the gig the odds were against me, and I certainly didn't do much to help my cause.

    Since I already turned in the draft, pretty sure the ship has sailed on getting a signed contract. However, if anyone has a boilerplate contract they'd be willing to share for future reference, I'm sure I and others would find it immensely helpful.

    Again, you all rock for sharing your thoughts. I have my speech ready to go next time, and it goes something like "Hey, I'd love to nail this script for you. For both our sakes, let's get a contract in place. And don't take it personally, I'd say the same thing if you were my mom."
    Will they come back to you with notes for another draft? That would be a perfect opportunity to diplomatically tell them that you want a contract in place before any further work is done.

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  • irwinpfletcher
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Thanks, everyone, for sharing your input. I knew when I took the gig the odds were against me, and I certainly didn't do much to help my cause.

    Since I already turned in the draft, pretty sure the ship has sailed on getting a signed contract. However, if anyone has a boilerplate contract they'd be willing to share for future reference, I'm sure I and others would find it immensely helpful.

    Again, you all rock for sharing your thoughts. I have my speech ready to go next time, and it goes something like "Hey, I'd love to nail this script for you. For both our sakes, let's get a contract in place. And don't take it personally, I'd say the same thing if you were my mom."

    Leave a comment:


  • JS90
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    I agree with all this other great advice, especially politely stressing to your contact that this is to protect him just as much as it is to protect you (which is technically true).

    Leave a comment:


  • EdFury
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Will answered this question well. But... from my experience, I'll reiterate.

    You have zero sway. None. If they decide to not give you credit, you have no recourse. And it will be your fault. While I hope they honor the handshake deal, no writer should ever accept one. If someone asking you to write for hire, even if you agree to do it for credit only, you should insist on a written contract. If they choose not to give one that tells you everything you need to know.

    Non-union writers have one recourse to ensure credit. Have it written into a contract. That's it. It was in every single one of my non-union contracts from the first one.

    I hope they honor their agreement. But if I was you, I'd ask for a written agreement stating it. Claiming ownership? Sure. But that will result in them either dropping the project or getting another writer to write another version, cutting you out completely, ensuring for sure that you get nothing.

    Stay cooperative, but be polite and ask for a contract. That's what I'd do.

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  • KitesAreFun
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    I think if the producer is a friend of yours and/or someone who you have a good relationship with in general, he should be amenable to there being some sort of contract. I've worked with friends and acquaintances over the years in various capacities and nobody has ever refused to draw up a contract. It's in everyone's best interests in case the project moves forward, so that everything is settled to the satisfaction or acceptance of both parties.

    There are things I've asked for and haven't gotten and others that I have, but at least everything is spelled out. As Will wrote, I'm not a lawyer, but I'd definitely talk to one and let the producer know as amicably as you can that you think there should be a contract to solidify your deal.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    Yep, that's where my head's at, too. But could that also work the other way around? If they didn't officially commission the work, can't I argue it's mine?
    I don't think you can really pull that off. I'm not a lawyer, but there is at least an implied sort of work-for-hire for you but most of all, what would you do with it anyway? Are you going to acquire the rights to a remake? Are you going to produce? I think this would have to be the kind of thing you'd walk away from unless you have tons of money in the bank, a great lawyer and want to spend your your money & time on a lengthy lawsuit trying to prove your case and you have no contract. If it's based on a film, then neither one of you can do anything with it legally, that I know of.

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    As you said, for others who read this post... Does such an agreement exist? What if the script goes through multiple iterations and I get entirely re-written? Or are you thinking indie world and I'm thinking studio?
    Both scenarios, so to speak. In the studio world, if there are various writers involved it frequently comes down to WGA arbitration were a committee reads all the drafts and decides who "deserves" what credit. If you wrote an original script bought & produced by studio, you'd be favored in most cases even if a decent amount of rewrites were done. As I'm sure you know, writers are brought in to do polishes that make a great deal of difference for the script but they never get credit, but then they are also getting paid.

    And yes, an agreement like this does exist sometimes. Not in studio system that I know of, but certainly in indie world. On the first produced film my wife rewrote substantially, she got no credit for it, because the first writer secured a "written only by him" in his contract. She made it better and her work got it made. She got paid and an EP credit as a "thank-you," but no credit for all the writing she did -- weeks worth. The indie world is a bit more of the wild west sometimes. (Maybe some others can jump on to offer more.)

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    Done that for sure. The lead producer is a friend and business partner of several years, which provides a level of security. That said, now that millions of dollars are involved, I can't say I trust him to pick me over the $.
    Exactly. Money talks, friendships walk. Get something in writing. A produced movie and credit is great. Sure. But there are no guarantees it will get made. No guarantees of credit, of course. And usually the odds are against a movie being good enough to help. Not saying that doesn't ever happen. Of course, it can. But just not so likely even on studio films. Think about this too, your friend might be screwed. Kicked off the movie by a financier and another producer brought in. Then who is going to fight for you? (Granted I don't know all the circumstances, but anything could happen and without it writing to show a judge, you will probably be out of luck.)

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    Further, while I was writing it was decided the cast would be all African American. As a result, they are bringing in a writer of color to take a dialogue pass, which I support. However, I can easily envision a scenario where they move forward with the writer of color as the credited writer for a host of reasons.
    Might very well happen. Sure. Look if you have plenty of money and are just bored and love working on it, then so be it. And I say that in the most positive ways one can.

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    Short version is "No." But, sparing you the details, the source is trustworthy and the sides aren't far off. On my list of concerns, this is somewhere between 5-10. Appreciate that question.
    Glad you have trust, but try to get it in writing and pleasantly as you can. At the end of the day, it's your time so do with it as you will. Just please be careful for your own sake. It's not a fun lesson to learn or one that can be corrected after the fact.
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 09-11-2020, 08:14 AM. Reason: Grammar and spelling

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  • irwinpfletcher
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Thanks Will et al. Really appreciate your two cents. Replies in-line below...

    Will said: "In the indie world, you surely don't have much of a leg to stand on. It's that simple."

    Yep, that's where my head's at, too. But could that also work the other way around? If they didn't officially commission the work, can't I argue it's mine?

    Will said: "An agreement in which it stated you get credit no matter what is what you needed from the get-go."

    As you said, for others who read this post... Does such an agreement exist? What if the script goes through multiple iterations and I get entirely re-written? Or are you thinking indie world and I'm thinking studio?

    Will said: "Look, keep all the email correspondence and write down any phone calls."

    Done that for sure. The lead producer is a friend and business partner of several years, which provides a level of security. That said, now that millions of dollars are involved, I can't say I trust him to pick me over the $.

    Further, while I was writing it was decided the cast would be all African American. As a result, they are bringing in a writer of color to take a dialogue pass, which I support. However, I can easily envision a scenario where they move forward with the writer of color as the credited writer for a host of reasons.

    Will said: "Do you know if they actually have the rights to the Chinese film? Are those secured via a contract?"

    Short version is "No." But, sparing you the details, the source is trustworthy and the sides aren't far off. On my list of concerns, this is somewhere between 5-10. Appreciate that question.

    Leave a comment:


  • KitchonaSteve
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    [Will answered as I was typing, and listen to him over me on this]

    Yes, contact a lawyer, most will give you a half hour consultation for free.

    Second, and most importantly, I'm not a lawyer, and never even played one on TV. But what I would do is consult the Copyright Office website on Adaptations either just before or just after submitting your script for copyright. Make sure to cite the original work on your title page. This may give you some leverage and protection.

    HTH,
    Last edited by KitchonaSteve; 09-10-2020, 02:54 PM. Reason: Reaction to Will.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    As you note, and I will note this for others who might read this post, this was not the way to go, ever. Get it all in writing even with your own mom.

    In the indie world, you surely don't have much of a leg to stand on. It's that simple. The WGA can't and won't help. An agreement in which it stated you get credit no matter what is what you needed from the get-go. Trying to reverse engineer all this will be next to impossible, but you never know. (If you can, track down an entertainment lawyer as soon as possible for at least a little advice.)

    Which leads to, you pretty much can enforce anything since there is nothing. Look, keep all the email correspondence and write down any phone calls. I'd suggest printing all the email correspondence with this guy and/or company and organizing them chronologically as back up too.

    Will you know what's yours or not before it comes out? Highly unlikely. My wife wrote two produced TV movies but she got along with the director so we would go to the rough cut screenings in Burbank where she could see all her work there and we all got to offer feedback. That's a rarity. Doubt this will happen with this film. Maybe. But generally writers are not brought in during post. Just depends on their relationship with the director and/or producers, which needs to be really good.

    What to do then? Stop writing. Seriously. Drop this guy a note. Be pleasant. Be nice. Be professional. But explain to him/them that before you do any more writing you want a "simple" agreement written up for your protection and even theirs. (Milk the latter a bit.) Say, you've "had a nice time working on it" but you feel strongly you'd like all in writing and ask them to please send an agreement over each side can sign to be "safe."

    Hold firm on it. But right now you are just using up your time, to be honest. If and when they have money, is a fairy-tale too many producers live off of. The odds of them getting the money are generally not in their favor.

    Do you know if they actually have the rights to the Chinese film? Are those secured via a contract? I ask because I was doing development for a small genre indie company. A guy came in and pitched a remake of a Korean horror film. It was kind of a cool, wacky film and I could see an English remake. I even wrote up a treatment to get our thoughts going. Eventually though, it came out that he only knew the people, but didn't technically own the rights.

    Those talks wrapped fast.
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 09-10-2020, 04:06 PM.

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  • AnyOtherName
    replied
    Re: Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Originally posted by irwinpfletcher View Post
    I'm a non-WGA writer who recently handed in the first draft of an indie adaptation of a Chinese film.

    My handshake agreement is that if the film goes into production I stand to receive a writing credit and payment.

    I realize the questionable wisdom of doing this on a handshake. I also realize a million things can happen between now and "roll camera" in terms of story and other writers and all that. Those are risks I have accepted.

    So, brush them aside for a second...

    Assuming production moves forward with my draft (or enough of it to warrant a credit):
    • What leverage do I have to ensure they follow through on their promise (mainly the credit portion)?
    • How do I enforce this leverage, if nec, as a non-WGA writer (i.e. must a lawyer get involved)?
    • Will I ever know how much of my script was/is utilized prior to the film being released?
    Thanks!

    PS: Fwiw, the guy in charge of this is a cool guy with a good track record that I've known for years. He does, however, have a tendency to be a little too clever for his own good. In the event he tries to get tricky with me, I just want my s*** buttoned up.
    I don't think there's any way at all to enforce credit on a non-Guild project if credit assignment isn't dealt with in the contract. They could theoretically credit themselves, or their spouses, or nobody.

    Leave a comment:


  • irwinpfletcher
    started a topic Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    Recourse for non-WGA writer to enforce credit

    I'm a non-WGA writer who recently handed in the first draft of an indie adaptation of a Chinese film.

    My handshake agreement is that if the film goes into production I stand to receive a writing credit and payment.

    I realize the questionable wisdom of doing this on a handshake. I also realize a million things can happen between now and "roll camera" in terms of story and other writers and all that. Those are risks I have accepted.

    So, brush them aside for a second...

    Assuming production moves forward with my draft (or enough of it to warrant a credit):
    • What leverage do I have to ensure they follow through on their promise (mainly the credit portion)?
    • How do I enforce this leverage, if nec, as a non-WGA writer (i.e. must a lawyer get involved)?
    • Will I ever know how much of my script was/is utilized prior to the film being released?

    Thanks!

    PS: Fwiw, the guy in charge of this is a cool guy with a good track record that I've known for years. He does, however, have a tendency to be a little too clever for his own good. In the event he tries to get tricky with me, I just want my s*** buttoned up.
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