Screenwriting : Screenwriters Compensation by Uzoma Ibekwe

Uzoma Ibekwe

Screenwriters Compensation

So I'm working on my first film and the producer gave me His word, I'd get 10% of everything the film makes in exchange for not getting a fixed sum or option. I took his word, but now I want to draft a written contract to that effect, and I don't know how to go about it. I plan on writing 10% ownership of the film in the contract, but I'm wondering if I should also put percentage shares in the total distributor's profit, net profit, producer's profit and all of the other stuff screenwriters are entitled to. Please I need guidance. Thanks

Owen Mowatt

Hi, Uzoma

The ONLY advice you need is to seek professional advice, for all the reason you've stated and many more.

However, before going to that expense, you need to establish if the project is even worth your time. What budget are they working to? Are these finances in place? Does this producer have a track record? etc..

Uzoma Ibekwe

Hi! Thanks for your suggestion, but I have already drafted the script, so I'm kind of knee deep in it. And No, the finances aren't all in place yet and he has produced just one film. I'm new to this and I have sought but not found the screenwriters association in my country. That's why I'm here.. i want to if the percentage ownership of the film already covers the other payments I should get from it

Erick Freitas

Always get everything in writing!

Uzoma Ibekwe

Thank you so so much!! I will follow your advice and, I will have as much fun as I can. Thanks again

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

This sounds like a pickle. 10% of everything the film makes can easily be zero. I'm no pro in this area at all, but I find this writer's youtube channel very helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQo4UUNJI-M

Rutger Oosterhoff

Most films make nothing. Only lose money. And ten percent of "what" exactly. Not to mention Holywood accounting. Get a lawyer. Get paid upfront, or walk away!

Dan Guardino

I agree with CJ. This sounds like a lower budget film so there won't be a lot of money to be made. If you want to gamble which it sounds like you already have register the draft you already created then ask the producer generate a contract you both can agree to and sign. He will need it to secure funding, insurance and distribution. If the producer refuses to put the terms in writing at least you will still own the screenplay you wrote. Good luck!!!!

Jae Sinclair

I'm surprised he isn't presenting a contract. I'm not sure how you plan to make a profit on the film but distribution companies will require that everyone that is owed from the film gives them a copy of the contract. Sales agents also require the same. Your contract should be as thorough as possible. If you have the money, contact an entertainment attorney and have them draft one.

William Martell

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."

Doug Nelson

I agree with William although I'd phrase it differently: A verbal contract is only worth the paper it's not written on. Look at it mathmaticly; 10% of $0.00 is how much?

Richard Banton

Consult an entertainment attorney asap

Ally Shina

Yikes. This is not a good situation for you at all. If I were in your position I'd sit down with the producer for a chat about it. I'd try to make him draft the contract first and then take it to a lawyer afterwards. He should be clear in his intentions, you shouldn't be presenting a producer with a contract that the producer hasn't agreed on, it's unusual. A verbal contract is not an invitation to serve a producer a legal document without a consultation first. Talk to him, get it in writing and whilst you're at it, make your requests to get all that a screenwriter is entitled to and have him add it to the agreement. I think you just need to communicate with the guy and remind him it's his job to give you a clear contract to avoid misunderstandings.

Rashika R

CJ Walley Nailed it! I was about to respond with so many of your statements. But...no need, you are spot on! I just learned this in Contract Law. Having an attorney in this business is SO imperative. Thanks for sharing a wealth of information!

Dan MaxXx

Is this your original screenplay or a work for hire screenplay based on Producer's idea? Either way, get as much CASH upfront. Get more CASH for every new draft/step of development, and get the final CASH amount of screenplay sale price on the first day of actual filming.

The other stuff like percentage, book keeping, profit sharing - that's a long game, an out of pocket expense your Lawyer will be chasing forever.

Erik A. Jacobson

Uzoma, much of this advice is very useful and can be used as the basis for a contract you work out with your entertainment attorney. But a word of caution. If you live in Nigeria and your film is being produced there, American laws/contract ideas may not be enforceable there and may have to comply with Nigerian industry standards. If that's the case, check with an attorney there to make sure you're protected.

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

Go with what Dan said, 'get the cash up front'. Backend deals are pretty much dead now unless you're a top producer, director or actor.

Dan Guardino

It is nice if you can get some money up front but if you are working with a new producer that might not be a reality. You either take the gig or pass on it. If you are bringing the script and all the producer is bring is his chair to the table then you should get a percentage of the project since you are bringing what he needs to raise money. I would go for a producers credit so you at least have access to the real books.

Uzoma Ibekwe

Wow!! I will have a sitdown with the producer and have the terms of the compensation explicitly defined. Thank you all so much for the wealth in this thread. And, I will seek professional advice especially as pertains to my country's laws.

Dan Guardino

Uzoma. That is a good idea and I hope it all works out.

Ally Shina

Good luck Uzoma. Hope the chat goes well.

Becca Carroll Guido

There is a great webinar on demand with Entertainment Attorney Thomas A. Crowell, called "Protect Yourself: Understanding And Breaking Down Shopping Option And Attachment Legal Agreements"! I highly recommend it for just your situation! He does an amazing job of explaining things in an understandable way! I think it's a must for all Screenwriters & Producers! Definitely when it comes to negotiating ownership & back end compensation! Best of luck! :)

Brian Rhodes

Wow! First congratulations. Second, don't rush this. You are at an extremely important point in the film's production. I hesitate to give you advice here but suffice to say the exclusive rights to the screenplay needs to be clarified and is the 10% based on the revenue or the net receipts. Is the script being ended into an incorporated company owned by the Producer? You have to know the mechanisms of determining the 10%. Too many people move forward with the best of intentions and then find themselves in a puddle that can soon turn into a swamp. Ask the producer questions as to the production model. Are their accountants involved? That type of question. Sorry, I can't be of more help! For what it's worth!

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