Scale is a Minimum, Not a MaximumComplications Ensue
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Monday, January 15, 2007

Q. I'm Canadian but I work in LA. My Canadian producer just found out I'm Canadian, and wants to shoot my script in Vancouver under a WGC contract rather than in LA under a WGA contract. Won't I lose out on residuals? Can you recommend a good lawyer who knows both deals?
I don't know many lawyers. My agent negotiates all my contracts, with my input. (After years writing writer contracts as a development person, I'm pretty familiar with them.)

Yes, there are no residuals under the WGC deal. But that's because you're paid a decent production fee as a buyout for your residuals. For movies over $2 million, it works out to your $47K script fee, plus another $8K plus 2.2% of the part of the budget that's over $2M. So, if your movie's budget is $5M, you get $120K. That's probably better than the minimum WGA deal even after a few residuals.

Moreover, no matter which Guild deal you're under, you can always ask for more than the minimum. You can negotiate a higher escalator than 2.2%, and a higher script fee. When I worked in LA, agents usually asked me for 3% and usually agreed to 2.5%. The WGC Independant Producer Agreement (IPA), like the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), is a minimum deal. If you have a go movie and they're trying to get you to agree to a Canadian contract, you have negotiating power. You can always look at the MBA and pull out the terms you want and insist they go in your WGC contract. You could say (through your agent), "Great, let's shoot this in Canada, but I won't accept less money than I would have received under a WGA deal." And then ask for a floor of $X and an escalator of Y%. And, why not, a per-DVD royalty.

Personally, in your situation, I wouldn't try too hard to protect residuals. I would protect the amount of money I get overall. Whether they're paid as residuals or not, who cares? I'd rather get cash. Residuals are a pain in the ass for producers to administer -- someone has to keep track of every time the movie airs -- so I can sympathize with producers not wanting to pay them. And if they "forget" to pay them, how would you know?

But you shouldn't be negotiating any of this yourself. If at all possible, get an agent to do it for you. You can still agent your agent -- you get to approve or not approve any deal points -- but the producer can get mad at your agent, and you can smile and tell the producer you would gladly do it for nothing, if only your mean ole agent would let you.



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