Screenwriting : Deal with Work For Hire Contracts. by Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Deal with Work For Hire Contracts.

On Thursday a "producer" contacted me about rewriting/polishing a script. This was one of those rare occasions when someone was offering money up front. The pay wasn't great but I figured it was okay for two weeks work. I wanted to keep it simple and I sent the person a one page quote with my plan for rewriting the screenplay. I also sent a Paypal invoice with the three incremental payments promised by the producer, which included a third upon commission. I committed to have the product finished before the very short deadline. I provided samples of my screenwriting work and pitch deck. The producer also asked me to rewrite two pages for nothing, which I did. And I say this with no malice, the writing quality of the script they sent me was extremely poor, as was the one page synopsis. 

The producer sent me back a contract via Docusign, which I downloaded and reviewed. There were several things I didn't like such as I would refund the producer's deposit in full if they didn't like my first ten pages, which applied to each of the three acts I would be rewriting. I also didn't like that the client could lock me in for rewrites in perpetuity for something that was supposed to be a two week gig. Finally, they included a pitch deck "at no charge" in their agreement, which wasn't in my quote. This contract was written completely in favor of the producer and for the amount of money offered, I wouldn't never have taken this contract as written. 

I had my legal person rewrite the agreement, which limited my time to an extra week for editorial suggestions and provided me with monetary compensation for each act submitted. I also offered the producer a partial refund if they were dissatisfied or wanted to cancel. I resent my invoice and new agreement to this producer, who ran for the hills this morning. This was ample proof they never intended to pay or be straight with me. In fact, I suspect they are trying to engage several writers to get free work. 

The point of this tale is to offer an opinion about work for hire contracts. Always have them reviewed by someone with a legal acumen and don't be afraid to redline things and make revisions. I recently did that for a shopping deal and any reasonable client should work with you to provide you (the screenwriter) with a fair shake. 

  

Craig D Griffiths

This is such a common thing when you deal with small time people. Hancock had 40 rewrites before they started again. Imagine Vince Gilligan doing all that work then refund it all.

They selected you.

William Martell

The producer's contract favors the producer at the writer's expense. You need a lawyer to ask for things that favor the writer so that you end up with something in the middle.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

William:

Agreed. Lucky I married an attorney. LOL

John Ellis

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy No fair! :)

Thanks for posting this, it's always helpful to hear/read details of stories like this.

Roy Lionheart

sounds to me that this so producer just wanted your money, sounds shady.

Dan Guardino

Phillip. Don't tell me this is really a contract someone sent you... it's a joke. I don't think I ever seen a writer's agreement like that one.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Dan G;

No, that isn't the contract. That's just a picture I downloaded.

Phil Parker

Part of what Phillip "Ubiquitous" Hardy is saying is that a writer must have a working knowledge of what a fair contract looks like before they sign anything. That's the yardstick to measure any deal by. Then, when the producer (almost inevitably) tries to take advantage of you, ya Better Call Saul!

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