Pursue or let it go?

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Pursue or let it go?

    A year ago, I won a short screenplay contest. The prize being that they would produce my script. It was a small contest, a new one, only in its second year. But I'd seen the first winner's film, and it was professionally done and everyone involved was friendly and nice.

    They filmed in June and I saw the rough cut in August of last year. It turned out beautifully. Professional actors, great performances, it looks gorgeous. At the time, I was told they needed to finish editing and swap out the placeholder music, as they hadn't obtained clearance rights. After that, the film would be mine. I would own it.

    Months passed, I heard nothing, I finally reached the director in December. Nothing had been done. Nothing.

    Increasingly contentious emails were exchanged. I was frustrated at the lack of communication and progress. They finally admitted they ran out of money, but they were still going to finish it, and I just had to be patient because everything takes longer when people are working for free.

    And perhaps I would have been patient, if they weren't running (and collecting entry fees for) another contest. They recently announced the 2014 winner and are in pre-production with that. And I still don't have my film.

    So... I'm frustrated. (I would probably be less frustrated if the film itself hadn't turned out so well.)

    It's not unreasonable for me to think their lack of funds to finish the thing isn't my problem, right? They are not responding to my emails, not even the one where I offered to get it finished myself if they would just send me the footage.

  • #2
    Re: Pursue or let it go?

    I'd tell them the next letter you write will be to the state attorney general's office to have them investigated for running a fraudulent contest.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Pursue or let it go?

      Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
      I'd tell them the next letter you write will be to the state attorney general's office to have them investigated for running a fraudulent contest.
      +1

      *certified mail as well as an email informing them (contest) that you've sent a hard copy of the letter certified mail to the AG as well as attaching the letter to the email (that's just me, though)
      Last edited by bjamin; 05-21-2014, 07:39 AM. Reason: *

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Pursue or let it go?

        What is the name of the contest? It would help to know in case anyone here has plans to enter.
        Chicks Who Script podcast

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Pursue or let it go?

          That sucks. It sounds to me like they're dancing at the edge of a Ponzi-like scheme. Jeff's advice is the way to go. And, like Emily said, post their link. It could save others from wasting their entry fee money.
          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Pursue or let it go?

            It's a non-profit writer's organization in Portland. I don't think they are raking in the bucks over this contest. And I don't even think they are predatory, just incredibly disorganized and lacking in the experience to run something like this. In my last email to the contest director I suggested they change the prize to a staged reading for a few years until they were better prepared to create films.

            The contest rules didn't state that it would be done by a specific date, just that it would be screened at their annual conference, which it was, albeit in rough form. So I am not sure I have a leg to stand on, legally. Even in subsequent emails, they were careful never to promise a certain date, to say "we should have picture lock by the end of this month" or whatever.

            The really frustrating thing is, most of the people involved (actors, director, cinematographer) were incredibly nice and worked very hard. The director was hired by the organization, I can understand why he doesn't want to keep working for free (although he is directing this year's winner too, for some reason.)

            I worry that any positive outcome that would arise from getting the film would be negated by me coming off badly for pushing so hard to get it. I don't think I've behaved badly so far - I think it's reasonable for me to want the film done and not my problem that they can't afford it. But things got *very* testy in our last batch of emails.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Pursue or let it go?

              BT:

              Was it a "Contract" stating you would "own" the finished film? If, yes, why can't they give you a copy of the rough cut?
              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Pursue or let it go?

                Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                BT:

                Was it a "Contract" stating you would "own" the finished film? If, yes, why can't they give you a copy of the rough cut?
                I don't know! That's what I asked for in the last email. At one point the director had offered to send me everything, because he thought that "ownership" meant I should have every frame.

                And no, that's not in any contract, just in emails.

                All I have is a link to the editor's dropbox. The most recent cut was uploaded 2 months ago, so I guess they were working on it this year.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Pursue or let it go?

                  You're in a tough position here.

                  From my reading of your comments and their site - including the rules (albeit this year's) - sounds like they delivered (poorly) on what they promised. That is - they "produced" and screened your film at their event/conference.

                  But . . . you'd like to see the film brought to finish. I don't think there's any legal ground to stand on (pay a real attorney to find that out for sure). Nor does it sound like making demands on the people will do anything. I suppose you could go the social media route and start posting on their facebook page about how they screwed you over - but is that going to get you anywhere?

                  About all that you can do is keep open a cordial line of dialogue, letting them know you'd like to find a way to get the film done. Maybe it means offering up money, or time.

                  In any event - hope things get resolved. Good luck.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Pursue or let it go?

                    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                    I'd tell them the next letter you write will be to the state attorney general's office to have them investigated for running a fraudulent contest.
                    I would say "I've been advised to contact" the AG/so-and-so office. And then add, "Of course, I don't want to..." And "I realize [there are many challenges to getting something like this done]." And then, "And so, I need you to tell me specifically how and when you plan to complete production..."

                    Then, if you ultimately do decide to contact the AG or whatever office, you can include a copy of the above letter. And that will make you look like a gentle soul. AG's offices generally don't have the people-power to initiate an investigation based on a single compliant; but if they do, the more sympathetic and "victimy" you come across, the better your odds at getting some help.

                    Besides, if and when they do get to finishing the film, seems to me the results will be better if they feel pressed, versus threatened - even if threatening is otherwise justified.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Pursue or let it go?

                      Originally posted by RobWriter View Post
                      You're in a tough position here.

                      From my reading of your comments and their site - including the rules (albeit this year's) - sounds like they delivered (poorly) on what they promised. That is - they "produced" and screened your film at their event/conference.

                      But . . . you'd like to see the film brought to finish. I don't think there's any legal ground to stand on (pay a real attorney to find that out for sure). Nor does it sound like making demands on the people will do anything. I suppose you could go the social media route and start posting on their facebook page about how they screwed you over - but is that going to get you anywhere?

                      About all that you can do is keep open a cordial line of dialogue, letting them know you'd like to find a way to get the film done. Maybe it means offering up money, or time.

                      In any event - hope things get resolved. Good luck.
                      No, it's not. And that's what I meant by coming off badly. This is the first time I have been public with my dissatisfaction.

                      In truth, the problems even before production. I was asked to re-write the entire script, supposedly for budget and logistic reasons but the director said there was no issue with shooting it as written and the changes I was told to make were story-related. At one point, the contest director even commissioned his own draft from another writer! He did apologize profusely for that later, so I tried to be a good sport about it all.

                      There were also some mixups at the conference itself but rather than keep blathering on, I'll just say - I was a good sport again.

                      I think a cordial line of dialogue ended this past winter. I did express, quite vehemently, my frustration with the whole process. My words were sharp, but I don't think they were unfair, just bitter.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Pursue or let it go?

                        I feel for you. I had a script with the UK Film Council which went through a similar song-and-dance - all after everyone said it was the best short they'd read blah blah blah.

                        I get everyone's instinct to throw the book at these guys and it's annoying that they're getting pissy with you when, by your account, you've done everything expected and it's them who are screwing around.

                        My only caveat would be - sometimes sh*t happens. Stuff goes wrong. In my case above, the director's father died and the producer was a fraudster. I was furious that they had no kind of Plan B but at the end of the day I wanted a finished short film I could point to and call mine. So I let it slide and then gave them both barrels once the film had been screened.

                        I think if you're going to stick with it, you should ask specifically what the hold up is. If it's music rights then that can be fixed pretty easily and cheaply. Be friendly, approach it in terms of 'We've come this far, let's be smart and finish with a film we'll all be proud of.' If the rough cut is looking good then it might be worth biting the bullet and playing nice. Not fair, I know, but sometimes you have to pragmatic. If they've invested money getting this done it's in their interests to get it finished.

                        However if your gut tells you this ship has sailed then by all means throw the book at them.

                        All the best,

                        JJ.
                        Last edited by Jon Jay; 05-21-2014, 01:00 PM.
                        My stuff

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Pursue or let it go?

                          Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post

                          If they've invested money getting this done it's in their interests to get it finished.
                          Right? That's what surprises me most, that they are acting against their own interests. They've wasted not just the time and money in the work they've done so far, but the opportunity to promote their contest in the future with the finished product. I even point blank asked the director if the problem was that everyone thought it turned out poorly and nobody wanted their names on it, but he said no.

                          After the Winter of Irritable Emails, I laid low and only contacted them again after I saw the announcement of the 2014 winner. And it was simple "Any updates/can I get the footage you offered me back in December" messages. Which has gone unanswered. So I think the ship has sailed on their end.

                          At least I was able to get an imdb credit out of it, based on the one screening. Although I had to submit it to imdb myself.

                          Thank you for the sympathy. I'm glad your situation seems to have worked out on some level. I'm just going to have to accept that sh!t did happen here, and come to terms with it.

                          And thank you, everyone, for letting me be righteously indignant.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Pursue or let it go?

                            This may sound kinda silly and it sounds like you're just about ready to move on, anyway, but...have you tried contacting one of those "consumer reports" type of reporters? A lot of local news channels run their own version of helping out the consumer (one of them is "5 on your side" over here), and they always like a good person-wronged type of story.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Pursue or let it go?

                              I'm inclined to say that the best way out of it is to try and take the director up on his offer to ship it to you. Talk to the contest and in the most cordial, let's work this out in a way positive for all of us tone, ask for them to give you the rough movie with all of the uncleared songs stripped out, as well as extra footage for potential editing. Draw up some papers saying they are clear of any further obligation to said film and relinquish all rights, claims and ownership to you. You further promise not to speak ill of them or their contest in public or on social media.

                              Then find a local starving musician with a musical tone you like for the film and work with them to score the movie based off whatever money you can scrape or exposure you can promise at festivals. If edits still need to be done... where there's a will, there's a way. I taught myself a heck of a lot about editing on our last film after going round and round with our editor after we asked for a tone similar to Dark Knight and Inglorious Basterds and he sent us back a CBS Cop Drama type of feel (complete with a Hill Street Blues type of soundtrack). Heck, it sounds like the director might even be willing to help you on the side.

                              If you phrase it right, they'll probably be more than happy to make the headache go away and you can bring it across the finish line yourself.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X