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Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Q. If I wrote a script, then invited a friend to come cowrite and fix it up, he changed everything, can I go back to my original and take it back? They were all my characters and concepts. He will not talk to me at all now. Is the script dead in the water or can I take it back? I registered it WGA after I wrote it. Then reregistered the second version with both our names on it. I do have proof the first one though was MINE. Help.
This is why people sign collaboration agreements: to make clear what you're agreeing to when you collaborate.
In the absence of a paper agreement, the question is, what did you agree to orally, or what agreement was implied, by your collaboration?
If you don't use any of his stuff, I think you're technically, legally free to use your old material. However if any of his stuff has crept into the old stuff, then you can't. (I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.)
Generally I would not agree to co-write with a friend unless we agreed that I was permanently attached to the project. Otherwise I stand to lose all my work if my friend changes his or her mind about my creative contributions. So I completely understand why your friend is pissed off.
Is the project really more important than the friendship? I would rather lose a project than a friend.
I would distinguish between comments and writing. If I give you notes, you're free to use them or not, and I don't gain any sort of ownership over the project. It's only when you ask me to start writing things that I would expect to be part of the project as it goes forward.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Justin Samuels called to ask me a slew of questions. His interview with me is up on the WGAe blog.
Friday, July 26, 2013
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy, check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy, there’s somebody on my bed.”
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Now, you try.
I spent yesterday morning at the Fantasia Frontiėres Co-production Market listening to movie pitches, and pitching my own feature, Souvenir. There was a distinguished Polish director who told us that he couldn't pitch his movie because, as Antonioni told him, if you pitch your movie, you won't make it.
I'm in the opposite camp. I think pitching is one of the most valuable creative tools in your toolkit. You can learn more about your own movie in a few hours of preparing a pitch and delivering it than you might learn in weeks staring at the outline. Prepping a pitch really forces you to think about what you want to promise the audience to get them to invest their time and money in your story. What goods are you promising to deliver? Then when you pitch it, the people you're pitching to immediately let you know if they're buying the goods.
Then, you go home and rewrite, based on your pitch. As I write a story, I tend to focus on the linear aspects of the story: the plot, the revelation of the characters, the twists and turns towards the ending. I have to go back and make sure I'm taking my time with the emotion and the spectacle.
In our case, they dug it. They laughed and clapped in all the right places. We're promising fast cars, a seductive djinni, and people dying in inventive, horrific ways, so we're right at home in Fantasia.
Whether your script is finished or not, there's a lot to be said for pitching the hell out of it. If it's not finished, you'll know better what you want to write. If it is "finished" (if any script is ever finished until you shoot it), then you'll know better what to make sure you've written.
Monday, July 22, 2013
We re-watched BASIC INSTINCT, partly because I'm pitching an erotic horror movie at the Fantasia festival this week, and I'm hoping to sell glamor and seduction. I had not noticed how much of a tribute to Hitchcock the film is. There's Sharon Stone dressed up like Grace Kelly, but with less underwear, her hair tight and blonde. There are murderous women who look sort of like each other. There's a shot down a staircase. There's a shot of a woman in a rocking chair turned away from us. And there's the whole Bernard Herrman-esque thriller score.
I remember reading the script a while back. My memory is that Verhoeven shot Esterhas's script almost word for word -- oh, there was a rewrite, but nobody liked it. It is a tight, clever script.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Q. In CRAFTY TV WRITING, you say that working for a literary agent is the best way to learn about the industry without going to school. I would love to try this, but need to figure out how to get into an agency. Do you have any advice on how to approach getting a volunteer position to work for a literary agent?
I would say, call up agencies and ask if they could use a volunteer!
One thing that may complicate the situation is that I am not just starting out in life...I am a college instructor and a professional in a different field. I know they offer volunteer positions and internships for college kids, but I would not qualify for that type of situation. I just moved to LA, so am new to the area. I also have a lot of experience with writing and reading, so I think I have applicable skills, but I am confused as to how to get in there.
The recent lawsuit by the BLACK SWANS
interns has complicated things. Used to be, anyone could offer to be an intern. Technically, interning is against minimum wage laws, but no one much paid attention to that, because everyone benefited from the system. Companies got free, if unskilled, work. Interns got to learn how to do things they didn't know how to do, like read scripts, or call agencies about actors.
The BLACK SWAN interns sued, and won, because they were abused, or so I gather. The company had them doing pure office work that had nothing to do with learning showbiz, such as filing pay stubs.
I think companies may now be more reluctant to hire non-students. There are actual laws, I gather, making it legal to hire students for free if it's plausibly part of their education. So some companies will have put in place protocols for hiring interns that may block non-students.
On the other hand, other companies may still be happily taking all comers. Generally, smaller companies may be more willing to take on someone with no experience to do stuff for free, because they have less money. Also, in smaller companies, you will get to do more different stuff.
Bottom line: call people and ask if they could use a hand.