Q. I'm wondering if you have any advice about hiring a writing staff for a spec 7 minute web based series.
Do you know of any examples of web based collaborations between several strangers that have been successful?
Also, the issue of contracts could be difficult, given that payment would be deferred, if anything.
One idea I have, as the creator/producer, is to designate n% of (potential) future net profits into a writer's pot, to be divided among the other writers according to contribution. A designated total percentage for story contributions, writing of the script, and re-writing/joke passes.
I'm trying to come up with a contract that is simple, but assigning credit in percentages could be very difficult, given that it's so subjective and the number of contributor's could change from script to script.
I was going to say I don't know anything about web based collaborations, but I'm not sure anybody does, and when has lack of knowledge ever stopped me from pontificating anyway?
Getting any money out of a web series is extremely unlikely, so it makes sense to spread the risk. There have been a few series that have hit paydirt. I doubt anyone really knows how many have not. (That's the other
long tail of the Internet: people who don't make any money, or teeny tiny amounts of money, on their content.)
The simplest way to apportion credit, and therefore profit share, is to assign it in advance. Usually that means to assemble a team, and everyone shares equally. Someone will inevitably contribute less, but at least you know up front what credit everyone's getting. In screenwriting, credit is arbitrated by other writers. Most writers I know like this process. Many producers seem to hate it. (That may be one reason why writers like it. If producers hate it, it must
be good.) This only works if the contributions come sequentially. Then some neutral arbitrator (NOT the producer or any of the writers) can look at the script each writer wrote, and see how much of it is left in the final script. If people are all in the writing room throwing ideas around, then it is madness to try to figure out whose idea was whose.
(I once worked with a writer who liked to claim credit for just about every idea in the show. We would talk for an hour about the territory, she would say something clever, we would refine the concept for another hour, and she would tell me it was "her idea." I don't work with her any more.)
My advice would be to keep the number of writers down to only those people you are convinced will seriously contribute, and split the writing credit, and share of the profits, evenly among those writers.
And good luck in the brave new world of writing for the Interwebs.