Need advice on selling script
Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 7/29/2012 6:18 PM
Unfortunately, your story is all too common.
First, and this is for everyone, never ever get into a potential business arrangement with someone without putting together a contract first.
Second, It is a long road to get a film made and for every successful project there are literally hundreds more lying in wreckage at the side of the road. Writing on spec, casting, teasers, etc without a contract or commitment is dangerous at best. Unfortunately, this will probably just be a painful learning experience in the end.
Thirdly, I would not hire an entertainment lawyer. The odds of that 50K coming to fruition are slim to none - I've lost count of the times I've heard of money appearing for a project that never actually materializes. I would remind your former partner (and any potential investors), that you are the original writer and without compensation you will block their ability to sell said film unless paid. That should stop any production, unless they are willing to pay you.
Lastly, I am not a lawyer and the above is just friendly advice. Best of luck.
Pia Cook (Level 5) ~ 7/29/2012 7:33 PM
I agree with Chris. I recently had a similar experience too. Some people made a short script of mine into a great film. Then they decided they wanted to make a feature out of it without even mentioning it to me. They figured as long as they wrote the feature it would be theirs. They didn't think it mattered that the story was based on my original story and that the characters were my original characters. My agent tried to talk to them and explain that it doesn't matter how much they altered the story. It is still based on my ORIGINAL work. This went on and on until my agent told me to get ready to spend $500 for a cease and desist thing! :-/
What had gone from me being friends with these guys turned ugly and might now end up costing me money too. Totally sucks. And btw, there's not one single investor/producer/director in his right mind that would go on and take the time and effort to make a film that is not legally in the clear from the start.
Good luck, Debra.
Kirk White (Level 5) ~ 7/30/2012 12:29 PM
Well my first thought would be to warn you against putting questions of this type on a public internet forum with your real name especially when words like “legal action” are involved. What you will more than likely receive in terms of advice will be from folks who have read a bunch of books and have big hearts and feel that the writer is and should be king in situations like this.
The reality…as I see it…is as Chris said: this will more than likely just need to be chalked up as a learning experience. I can almost mathematically guarantee you will not get 10K from a 50K budget and John Patrick Shanley probably couldn’t get a 10% residual rate!
I guess my question to you (and I know that you are passionate about this project; that was obvious the day I met you and talked to you about it) would be this: what exactly do you want from this situation? What is your desire?
A) do you want to MAKE the film yourself, with the people you already have because you love the project and have a clear vision and feel a sense of loyalty to those who have signed on and freely given of their time? If so…f**k this guy. Go make your movie. You own the copyright on this script (meaning, I am assuming that YOU R NAME and your name alone are on the CO form and you are listed as sole author); even if he can prove it was his idea (which, technically YOU did in your first sentence), it means nothing as ideas are not copyrightable…only tangible expressions of them—your script, which you own. He won’t spend the money to sue you when he can easily just write another script or get someone else (like he did with you) to write it for him. So just bid him good luck and go make your movie.
B) do you have no desire to produce or direct but just want the movie made in the best possible way it can be made? You don’t want to compromise the production value and really just want what’s best for this particular script. In that case, come up with a more realistic number for a 50K film (by way of comparison, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that most of the crew…and probably ALL of the actors—unless they can land a D-level “star” for a role or two—will get $100 per day.) and insist of receiving sole credit, which will help in the long run more than money (in my opinion) and then just sign on the dotted line and then…well f**k him! Take the folks who have helped you for free out to dinner and go write another script.
C) do you not care about the movie and just want HIM to not get to make it because he’s an asshole? Is this a matter of principle? If this is the case, my advice would be just to forgive him and let it go. Go write another script and move on with your creative life.
If I could give you any advice that was hard earned, it would be…it’s just a script, you are a writer and you will make more. Don’t waste your time and energy fighting windmills of perceived injustice when you will never get what you really want, which is an apology. Be careful or one day you could look up and realize that the last 5 years of your creative life have been spent fighting over one script…
Just keep writing…and (as Chris said) get everything IN writing next time.
Debra Johnson (Level 3) ~ 7/30/2012 1:59 PM
Thank you all. Hmm, I never did think I could just film it myself and just tell him to take a hike. But do I want to do it? Yes and no. The actors I have are so passionate for it and will do it for credit. I just want it filmed at this point. But I can also put it down and walk away from it. Just mark it as a lesson learned.
I was so frustrated that night that in 20 minutes I came up with a better movie using the same 4 actors who are committed to me. I am more excited to see this one than Five.
Yes, we won't use the lawyer and I think I want to ask him for such crazy terms so he will back off. Especially when I remind him that the copywrite is in my name only.
Kirk - you have some really good advice here as Chris and Pia do.