Don't Be Afraid of Negotiating - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Q. A producer says he wants to hire me, but he's being vague about whether he can afford me. Meanwhile, I have an agent who is interested in repping me. I'd like a contract, and I'd like an agent to negotiate for me, but I'm afraid that will scare the producer off.
The only producers who can be "scared off" by contracts are those who plan not to pay you what they promised. And the only producers who will be scared off by a legit agent are those who want to rip you off.

Real producers deal with agents every time they hire a "piece of talent," as they say. Hire a director? Talk to his agent. Hire a writer? Talk to her agent. Hire a cinematographer? Agent. Etc. Of course they don't like it -- they'd rather negotiate against you, hungry inexperienced writer, than an experienced agent who's going to tell them, "C'mon, I know what people get for low budget non-union horror scripts on a $500,000 shooting budget. And that's not it."

(Note: I don't know what people get for non-union horror scripts on a $500,000 shooting budget. But then I'm not an agent.)

Personally I don't think any writer should work without an agent if she can get a legit agent. All an agent has to do is raise your fee 10% and they're free. Moreover, the producer can get mad at your agent, and not at you. I once tried to negotiate a deal myself, and the producer got mad at me and decamped. I don't regret not working with him -- he was trying to rip me off -- but I do regret that I didn't run it through a representative.

What's a legit agent? Any agent who's signatory with the WGA, in the States, or the WGC in Canada. (I imagine it's the same with the WGGB in Great Britain.) You do not need to be in the Guild to have a Guild-signatory agent. I was a non-union writer for years in LA, and all my agents were Guild-signatory. It just means they adhere to a code of conduct -- no "reading fees," etc. I also do not believe that any agent outside of LA or New York in the States, or outside of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal in Canada, is worth the trouble.

Happy Saturnalia!

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4 Comments:

Lots of great tips that don't suck.

thanks. :)

By Blogger just me, at 9:38 PM  

Even if the agent couldn't get you an extra 10%, just having someone who knows contracts be able to look it over is wonderful.

Also, I think most legit producers are even happier to deal with agents since agents know what sorts of offers are reasonable and can help explain to the writer what to expect.

And, IME, 2-3% of budget plus various back-endy sort of things seems pretty typical for 500k. I have an entertainment attorney and usually he tries to push for WGA mins, but those are usually pretty high compared to a 500k budget, so I end up getting closer to 3%.

By Blogger Steve Peterson, at 6:15 PM  

Happy Holidays, Alex...

By Blogger wcdixon, at 11:26 PM  

It's a new world today in the Entertainment Industry! If you are a great writer, and what you have to offer is Award Winning, and, a Big moneymaker...They have to pay you to make their Millions!!! We are and will remain, NON UNION PROFESSIONAL WRITERS, providing Original Content and Concepts for Film, TV, Series, And Pilots. However we find it more protective to our Companies, to have a great legal staff...not the old hollywood agent-conartists!! Also the idea of localization being a key factor, is ridiculous! Writers, can provide material from any location in the World. We do business all over the world. To be in LA just to work..is for rookies, and lazy reality produced content. NEW WORLD - Netmeetings, email, phone, blackberry, IPHONES,,, live in LA..? HA HA HA

By Blogger SCREENWRITERS-NON-UNION.COM, at 6:48 PM  

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