Here's a Nickel for your Idea, Now Eff Off - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just got off the phone with a writer friend who's been offered a lousy deal for his pitch for a TV series. The deal boils down to some money if the show goes, but no "created by" credit and no guarantee of being in the writing room. If the production company actually shot a whole first season of the show, he calculated, he'd get a maximum of under $20K, and a very, very vague non-writing credit.

The production company, of course, wants to keep their options open. They figure they'll bring on a big-deal showrunner who will rewrite the idea and want a created by credit. He may not want to involve my friend in development. He may or may not want my friend involved in the writing room. There may not even be a writing room. So the production company says they can't give my friend a credit or promise to involve him in development.

By "can't," of course, they mean, "don't want to." Of course they can. They can give my friend a (shared) created by credit. They can guarantee him involvement in the development. He's not asking for control of the show. He's asking to be part of the process on a show that he originated.

This is why writers need agents. Not just agents, but agents who are willing to stick up for them. And are willing to walk away from a deal if it's a lousy one.

The fact is, most shows don't go. If writers had to live on working on their own shows in production, all but maybe two dozen of us would starve. Writers mostly live on (a) working on other people's shows and (b) developing their own shows. The key word here is development. Lots of scripts get developed. Very few pilots get shot. Fewer pilots get picked up. Almost no shows survive their first season.

So when you make a deal for your pitch, you need to get paid every step of the way. Obviously you get paid less for a pitch document than a pilot script. Obviously you get paid less, per hour, for a pilot script (which will have to be rewritten 99 times before it's a go) than for later scripts. But you need to get paid something at each step.

And you need to be creatively involved. If you're not a showrunner yet, you want second chair. If you don't qualify for second chair, you want to be on staff. If they can't put you on staff--

--they can put you on staff. They just don't want to. They can, if necessary, pay you to write 1 1/2 development scripts and then throw those scripts out if they hate them. It's just a cost of doing business.

They can give you a created by credit. After all, it's your idea. And any decent showrunner who comes on later will just have to understand that.

If I were taking over someone else's show, I don't think it would be a dealbreaker for me that they share a created by credit. After all, they created the show. Sure, I would rewriting lots of stuff. But I'm rewriting from what they brought. Someone who tries to erase their name is a bit of a jerk.

I once optioned a script from an amateur writer. I rewrote everything. New plot. New characters. Basically, I kept his title, because it was a great title that suggested a better script than he had written.

I could have just written my own script. But that would have been stealing.

("Good Army compass. How if I take it?" asks Sherif Ali. "Then you would be a thief," says Lawrence, understanding perfectly that Sherif Ali would not at all mind considering himself a murderer, but could not tolerate being thought of as a thief, even by a dead man.)

A good showrunner does not need to steal your credit. He's the bloody showrunner. It's going to be his show to play with anyway.

Here's where your power comes in. You do not have to sell anything. They can't make your series without your agreement. You can't ask for unreasonable things -- to be a showrunner if you don't have the experience, to get paid huge money up front -- but you can insist on reasonable things. And it is reasonable to expect that if someone makes a series out of your pitch, you get some credit and money for it. That's what writers invent series for.

You will lose a few deals by insisting, in the long run, yes. But in the long run, the deals you improve will more than pay for the ones you lose. And companies that are really serious about making your pitch will ultimately consider your demands just the price of doing business. The ones that can't stomach giving you anything, I tend to think, are not the ones who will get your series made at all, ever.




4 Comments:

Good one. Which company? Did they have a, oh, I don't know, say a letter in their company name, and maybe, say, a number too?

Every once in awhile we need to do things that buck up the courage to the sticking place. And we all have to start going for this at once, because truth to tell they can just move down the list to the next sucker...but not as much as they used to be able to.

Part of getting that courage might be googling and re-acquainting oneself with what Chazz Palminteri did to sell A BRONX TALE from his one man show, or what Sly Stallone did a million years ago with ROCKY.

They get you because YOU WANT TO. But at some point, down the line, if you idea really is worth it -- and there's a spark there -- they do need you. More than you need them. And til then, hey, if you aint got nothing you got nothing to lose.

By Blogger DMc, at 2:17 PM  

Are you sure about "created by" credits?? It's my understanding that only the WGA can give that credit. The credits you negotiate for with production companies, studios and networks is "executive producer" or "co-executive producer". Your point is right that you negotiate up front for a place on the show, but I understood the "creator" credit differently. Can you elaborate?

By Blogger writerjoel, at 2:37 PM  

Yes. It depends on the jurisdiction. This deal is under the WGC contract, where Created By is negotiable. You are right that under the WGA, the person who gets credit on the pilot script, as shot, gets the Created by credit. So under the WGA contract, to ensure you get a Created By credit, you have to insist on a contractual right to write the first draft of the pilot.

They'll whine about that, too. But they are welcome to throw away your draft after you're done. If the showrunner rewrites you to the point where you don't wind up with any credit on the pilot, then you shouldn't feel you've been cheated -- it really isn't the show you sold at that point any more.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:45 PM  

Ah! Interesting! Thanks for elaborating!

By Blogger writerjoel, at 12:16 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.