Q. A Canadian producer wants me to write/direct his next feature. He says that in order for us to access development money from Telefilm Canada, I need to provide write a 5 to 20 page outline. But he can't pay me.
Fair? Unfair? Normal? Abnormal?
It's normal. Telefilm wants a longish outline before you can touch the scriptwriting development money, but Telefilm won't pay for the outline. Outlines aren't covered under the WGC IPA, so there's no minimum.
Whether it's fair or not is a subject of discussion between the WGC and Telefilm -- we feel writers should get paid when they write for hire, and if Canadian producers can't or won't pay, then perhaps Telefilm could help them.
The key question is whether you're writing up your own idea for a producer, or writing up the producer's idea. If it's your own idea, then you should probably spec it.
If it's the producer's idea, then you should get paid something
for it. I generally don't expect a lot of money for writing up an outline, but I can't do it for free. I usually get paid for my time, as it were, plus I'm attached to write the first draft of the script if it ever gets commissioned.
If the producer literally won't pay any money, and you still want to work with him, then you could propose the following: you write the outline, but you own it. He is attached as producer for X number of years -- say three. If he doesn't hire you to write the script within 3 years, all rights revert to you. You can take it to another producer to get commissioned to write the script, you can write it yourself and sell it, whatever. That's fair, I think.
Note that when a producer says "I want you to write and direct my next feature," it's rhetoric. Any sane producer has a whole slew of projects that could be his next feature, depending on how the financing and creative packages line up. And most of those will be ahead of you in the pipeline, because they already have a script, and maybe some casting, and maybe some financing. Always evaluate producer hype critically.
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