Q. WHEN IS A DEAL NOT A DEAL? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A. When the money hasn't been negotiated yet.

I got good news from a producer the other day that he wanted me to do a crash rewrite on a project. But, it turns out, he did not want to pay WGC scale, unless the project "got funded." If it didn't get funded, he could only pay half of scale.

Not all producers in Quebec thoroughly understand the concept of "scale." (You know who you are, boys.) They take the WGC IPA as a good basis for further negotiation -- downward.

This sort of thing just pisses me off. Yeah, it was still a fair chunk of change. But it's disrespectful. Who tells a contractor to build him a house, and then if he has the money, he'll pay for it? If you don't get your funding, do I get back the time I spent working on the script?

What bugs me most is that I'm always tempted to just do the job. I know I can't take the job. But I'm tempted to. Especially after I've had a nice meeting and I like the people and I've already solved the problems in the script. I'm creatively engaged with the project. And now a little thing like money is going to split us apart.

On the other hand, if I don't uphold the IPA, who's going to? I'm a busy writer. I know how I'm paying the mortgage next month. If I take half of scale, how does the guy who hasn't worked in a year insist on scale? And then we don't have a union. And then no one ever gets paid scale. (The ten top guys would still get over scale. But the ten top guys had to start somewhere.)

In the end it turned out to be an easier decision than I'd thought. I'd understood that it was just the up front payment that was a problem. The producer in question, though, had no idea of the production fee writers get in Canada when the film gets made: a bit over 2% of the production budget. No way he was going to pay that. Which made it very easy indeed to walk away from the project.

In general, of course, the unwillingness to abide by the IPA is just the tip of the iceberg. A producer who pays less than scale isn't going to want less work. He's going to want more work, and he's going to guilt trip you for draft after draft until he loses interest in the project. A producer who skimps is going to skimp away all down the road.

3 Comments:

Very interesting ! Thanks for sharing :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:22 PM  

Great post. Agree with you 100%.

By Anonymous Guyot, at 3:39 PM  

Creativity has no value until paid up for what it's worth, otherwise talent is exploited or free.

Funding is just about the only way anyone with career perspective at entry level IPA numbers could receive or warrant a payment AS contracted for.

This industry has lost its fundamental source in writers because greed and extortion belongs to a profit margin shared between ownership and "structured" investing capacity.


The workforce could have as many negotiating leverages with WGC or legal counseling (be it, personal or collective), it doesn't change the fact that ambitious money hungry corporations are on the stake-out for the next cheapest deal accepted or signed for.


Seriously, who would work for someone knowing they're being stolen from? Or always treated at the low wages scale (continually, time after time, on every opportunity they MIGHT get!) BY offer rather than comprehensive reasoning.


It's the artform which is in danger of collapsing from a clear lack of resources. Basicly, some writers starve when they simply let it.

By Anonymous Sylvain Paquette, at 3:43 PM  

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