On Writing : Unpaid screenplay by John Mangan

It's Introduce Yourself Weekend on Stage 32! Who are you? What have you been working on? We want to know! Head over to the Introduce Yourself Lounge and network with your fellow creatives - you never know when you'll make a connection that will change your career!

John Mangan

Unpaid screenplay

Hello everyone. Very new to screenwriting but I've done a lot of stage plays. My question relates to an original screenplay I wrote and which actually got made, albeit in a mangled form. It was so low-budget the producers decided not to pay me for the script and used what would have been my fee to finish making the film, swearing they would pay me once it was released. They didn't ask permission. They just did it. I've never received a penny. even after three years. Now, given they ruined my script with their changes and I wasn't paid, I'm wondering whether the entire story, characters etc are now mine to do as I like. I would really like to adapt my script into a novel and. perhaps one day, have someone else go through the process of making a film out of it. Does anyone know where I stand with this or can recommend a resource where I can find out? Thank you.

Owen Mowatt

I'm no expert on said subject, but I'm pretty sure that if you didn't sign anything to say that you are giving away or selling the intellectual properties, then they still belong to you.

Tennyson Stead

This isn't a conversation to have with a fellow screenwriter, it's one you need to have with a lawyer. Whether you still own the script depends, I would think, on which country you live in. Local copyright laws are different in the UK than they are here in the States or in Canada. Don't rely on legal advice from screenwriters on a website, sir. Call some attorneys, explain your situation, and ask if they will consult with you.

John Mangan

Jeff E. Gregory . Sorry this is late. I had a deadline for a play. No the script had an agreed fee amount (I didn't sell the rights for £0.00) and that was stated on the contract. They just never paid it. The script is protected by WGAW and the film came out pretty quickly after filming but I've decided this is too complicated to proceed further without a lawyer. Thanks for all the thoughts.

John Mangan

Tennyson Stead I agree with you. I'll be talking to a lawyer in the new year and I'll report back

Robert Franklin

Call lawyer!

David E. Gates

Here in the UK, if you wrote the words you own the copyright unless you've specifically signed an agreement that relinquishes that copyright to them. Did they credit you on the film for the script they used? If they did, that's an admission they should be recognising your contribution and pay up on the fees. Though, I suspect they may use some creative accounting to get around that. How similar is the final film to your script? If it's very obvious it's from your script, then you'd be in the same boat. Probably worth talking to a solicitor and maybe firing off a letter requesting the fees be paid pending court action (if it's below a certain amount, you could take them to the small claims court). Once someone gets a summons through their door, they tend to change their attitude somewhat. Good luck! Let us know how you get on!

John Mangan

Hello David. No, I never relinquished the copyright. The film was 95% my script as written but it's never made enough money to pay me anything as the result was a bit of a mess. I will talk to a solicitor once I'm finished with my latest stage play which is opening on Monday. Thanks for the advice.

Other topics in Authoring & Playwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In