Screenwriting : Gravity lawsuit: A warning to all Writers selling to Hollywood by Oriel Kerr

Oriel Kerr

Gravity lawsuit: A warning to all Writers selling to Hollywood

How the Gravity lawsuit effects writers selling to Hollywood: http://www.tessgerritsen.com/gravity-lawsuit-affects-every-writer-sells-...

Oriel Kerr

I agree. I also wonder if she could sue Cuaron directly. I know she recently dropped the lawsuit. Which you can read here: http://www.tessgerritsen.com/gravity-lawsuit-why-i-am-giving-up/

Johnny Pappas

Thank you for the information. Her explanation for not going forward is understandable. A writer with representation would be able to have their attorney look at the agreements and negotiate terms inclding clauses that would prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.

Eoin O'Sullivan

Why she is giving up http://www.tessgerritsen.com/2015/06/ The lesson to be learned here is to have someone with a legal background look over any option agreement or contract BEFORE you sign it to protect your interests as a writer and in light of this, have a clause where all rights revert back to the writer in the case of a merger or take over. https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/The-Gravity-of-options-and-...

Owen Mowatt

If Warner knew that they didn't have to pay out on using her script, then why not just give her the "story by" credit? It's pretty obvious that they were working from her material. It was up for a Bafta for Best Original Screenplay. What a joke.

Boomer Murrhee

Thanks for posting this informative article. I had heard about this situation, however, this shines a new light on the legal underbelly of Hollywood and the status of this important lawsuit.

Oriel Kerr

I agree with a lot of the comments. Her experience really scared me and has made me much more paranoid about selling my work. The fact this could happen to anyone blows my mind. I personally do not believe one should give up all their rights; having some skin in the game is a necessity, but do understand you're more likely to be turned down and passed over for another writer considering Hollywood views writers as disposable. That could make many writers apprehensive about negotiations but it is important to know your rights. Either way, this is eye opening and a cautionary tale of the Hollywood machine. Dan, since you've sold screenplays before--how common is this?

Shari D. Frost

The Scriptnotes Podcast goes into great detail on this topic. Worth a listen. It's more complicated than you think: http://johnaugust.com/2015/the-deal-with-the-gravity-lawsuit

Oriel Kerr

Thanks Shari!

Anthony Cawood

What Shari said, it's not as simple as Gerritsen makes it out to be and the Scriptnotes podcast, and subsequent follow ups are illuminating. I don't feel too sorry for her anyway... she got paid $1m for the rights to her book in the first place ;-)

Stuart Wright

It's not a warning to all writers. The scriptnotes link from John August above takes you through it.

Oriel Kerr

@Stuart, I felt it was as there are many budding writers and professionals like Gerritsen who are not familiar with the legalities of selling their work. Some may think they know but may have no idea. @Dan, thanks for shedding additional light on this subject. Your posts have been very informative.

Stuart Wright

Oriel ... She's only telling her side of the story not the story. The courts have said she's wrong. So the only warning is be careful before you incur huge legal costs for a case you won't win.

Oriel Kerr

Stuart, I stand by what I wrote and am not here to argue--good day!

Stuart Wright

Not arguing. Just balancing a one sided story ... Have a great day too

C. D-Broughton

Very interesting. I'm not a lawyer but since she sold the rights with the clause of not being able to sue for copyright infringement (I read that somewhere on the linked site), she cannot say that WB or the writer-director plagiarised her work, thus, cannot demand WB honour her contract with New Line. It's all swings and roundabouts - even a blind man can see what's right and wrong, but what's legal... Well, that's for the courts to decide.

Michael Eddy

At the risk of re-opening a whole can of personal worms - most of which I have discussed ad nauseum on Stage 32 on various threads already - a writer friend forwarding me the original article when Gerritson began her moves against Warner Brothers - and told me it might provide an opening for me to revisit my lawsuit against them for failure to give me writing credit on "The Last Samurai". Following her case - and her statement about not having the wherewithal to pursuit it against a studio with bottomless pockets and lawyers on retainer (and a long history of being sued a LOT - so assume where there's smoke there are flames - but they have this down to a science - and Tess is not wrong when she says they are dug in and sneering at you to try to fight them in court) - and she's a best selling author. I was in the very same position. I searched around and got attorneys to take my case on a contingency - or it would have been a dead issue before it began. And I was absolutely in the right and going after people who had tried to screw me not once, but THREE times ON THE SAME project - culminating in my name being omitted from the final credits - and had WON twice earlier - when they refused to pay delivery money on a draft of the script and in an arbitration under WGA auspices when their legal department admitted to a judge that they had tried to avoid another bonus payment by DELETING A LINCHPIN CLAUSE from our contract. These guys were as crooked as a pretzel. I lost this one because the director and his producing partnet gamed the system and because as Dan G. so aptly put it - "...the screenwriting business sucks, but the legal system sucks even more..." Couldn't have put it better myself. My case - AFTER depositions and smoking gun e-mails and enough bullets to fuel a Gatling gun - was dismissed on a "summary judgment" by a clueless judge who had been on the bench 6 months - and never heard a Hollywood related case in his career - three weeks before we were going to impanel a jury. Trust me when I say that had it gone that far - and it should have - we not only had a legit and eminently winnable case - but it would have been David (me) vs. Goliath (Warner Brothers) - and they would have settled before a single juror ever came near the facts. Granted - the studios are always dealing with nuisance suits whenever a hit movie comes out. I don't have particular sympathy for those who hire shyster lawyers and file suits on the off chance that a quick hit and run will result in some quick (cheap) payout. But in cases like Gerritson (and myself) and many others I know of (on Top Gun for instance) - the writers were wronged and egregiously so - and the studios are hunkered down with a template they use to fight and they usually win - not on the merits - but because they're the 800 pound gorilla and the courts fuck it up. Also - Dan commented about her "never having a case" unless her contract had a clause stating that the rights would revert back to her if the studio didn't make the movie in a certain amount of time. That is not strictly true. In fact, in the Writers Guild MBA - it states that there is a 2 year window after the rights are granted to a production entity - during which, if the studio can't show that the project remains "in active development" - the writer has the right to reacquire the rights to the material. This costs the studio nothing and in fact - can prove fruitful to them if they get back the money they put out. Either that - or they put the project into turnaround in which case any other studio can take the place of the writer and reimburse them for what they've laid out monetarily on the development of the script - and it becomes theirs (and with what happened to gerritson - I'm not sure if they are obligated to follow the terms of HER contract with the original studio). If the writer does it, they own the rights again (to the original material sold or optioned, but possibly NOT to any rewrites they did while it was in development because that is considered "work for hire" and may remain with the studio who paid for it) and can shop it around. The problem is - the studio will bundle every penny they spent - the original writer's payments as well as those made to subsequent rewriters and overhead and anything they can legitimately claim - and make the reacquisition financially onerous. Plus, it puts the writer in the position of giving back money they already have on the off chance they can set it up elsewhere for the same or more. Not an easy task. I had a big spec sale once - the studio was all hot to trot and then were beaten to the punch on a similar project - so even though I had the right to get it back - what was the point? Also, in Gerritson's case - if GRAVITY was made longer than 2 years after she sold her book to New Line - this would have expired as a window to get it back.

Michael Eddy

After just posting, I realized that even though what I said was correct, it probably would NOT have applied to Gerritson because she sold the film rights to her NOVEL. That would not be covered under the WGA reversion rights. That applies only to screenplays.

Oriel Kerr

Wow Michael, I am sorry that happened to you. Have you totally dropped the case or do you plan to revisit it?

Michael Eddy

Oriel - the original case was filed back when the movie was set to be released. I would have loved to get an injunction against the studio to prevent them from opening it until the case was heard - but my lawyers said that in a "company town" - there was no chance that a judge would hold up the release after Warners had spent millions on advertising. The case took 3 years to get within 3 weeks of going to trial. When the summary judgment was granted - my lawyers immediately filed an appeal - and that took another year and a half to be heard by the Ninth Circuit and we failed to get the lower courts decision overturned (even though a reporter from Variety - who was in the court for the appeal - congratulated me on the way out for "winning". My lawyers were all high fiving each other in the parking lot. I was the only one - going by the questions the 3 judge panel asked and didn't ask - who thought I would end up on the short end - again. Unfortunately - I was right. So after 4 and 1/2 years - the lawyers - having gone out of pocket a small fortune in billable hours - washed their hands - and told me they were not prepared to go to the Supreme Court on this. In my opinion - one of the grounds to win an appeal is to show that the process used (by the WGA) to exclude me from the automatic credit arbitration - which guaranteed that I got "no less than a shared story by" credit as the writer of original material - was arbitrary in its nature,. And it was. But the lawyer who argued on the appeal failed to even make that point. I can't revisit it legally - but I do have some avenues that I can pursue. I have thought about doing that for years - and have been encouraged to do so by fellow writers (some of whom are also attorneys) - and may yet take up the gauntlet again. I ended uop suing my own union as part of this ordeal - and in the aftermath (of a case they "won" on the dismissal) - the long time head of legal affairs at the WGA was let go and the 20+ year head of the credit department (who I always felt had to be part of the problem) took her retirement suddenly. I don't think either of those happenstances was a coincidence. It was all a miserable experience - and completely derailed my writing career, so I thank you for your support.

Oriel Kerr

Michael, have you thought of teaming up with other writers who have been screwed by WB for a class action suit? I'm a noob to this but considering this has happened often enough and ruined many writers, it might pose helpful to ban together with others. Just a thought as there is power in numbers and I do think the public should be aware of just the type of corruption that exists in some studios as well as the faulty logic of the U.S. Legal system when it comes to these issues. If you do go it alone I wish you nothing but the best and hope you keep us updated on your progress. No one should have to go through such an experience all because of power and money - possibly "influence" as well. Never bow down and continue to share your story to expose these crooks. Do you have any advice to writers to prevent these incidents from happening to them given a sale?

Marvin Willson

Actually, Gerritson's loss is good news for screenwriters. The ruling protects writers from being sued for having similar stories to the millions that exists out there. Other points to consider: On her blog, Gerritson (Who is not a screenwriter), claims to have re-written the 3rd act of a screenplay. Yet her complaint states: "To assist in the development of the Gerritsen Gravity project, Gerritsen wrote and delivered additional material that constituted a modified version of a portion of the book." But nothing about writing the screenplay. Also, she insisted that she was not suing for copyright infringement. KATJA/New Line had legally purchased the rights for $1M. She was suing for screen credit and the additional $500K cash outlined in her contract if the book went to screen. WB's defense was that although they had absorbed Katja/New Line, and their library, they never used her material, having purchased the screenplay from Cuarón (who developed the project initially with Universal). Therefore she had no claim Now they could roll one into the other, but they don't have to, and why should they. Her counsel's biggest mistake IMHO appears to be surrounding the additional conjecture that Alfonso Cuarón was attached to direct her book at Katja/New Line, yet failed to show any proof of the fact. Had the judge ruled in Gerritson's favor, every screenwriter would have to worry about being sued by any author who had a book with a similar premise at a studio. Essentially they could hold a gun to the heads of studios and screenwriters trying to come up with premises.

Stuart Wright

@oriel be aware of it but don't be overly concerned. It's such a rare occurrence

Oriel Kerr

@Marvin, I believe Gerritsen was trying to prove the attachment with Cuaron through discovery, which she wasn't allowed to do. I don't think trusting the legal system so much as to say WB's was right and Gerritsen was wrong is a fair conclusion. This to me goes much deeper than just thinking of a woman flying around in space as an idea. Studios have been known to take writers stories before and change it to suit themselves. I don't think any of us know the real timeline of events, what WB's says could be true as it could not be as Michael stated with his own case -"they have a history of being sued for this sort of thing a lot." I find Cuarons story to have too many similar elements and the whole relationship with WB to be fishy. If Cuaron had another attachment to another studio it wouldn't look so bad - questionable but not terrible. I do agree that it doesn't seem Gerritsen had enough adequate evidence to move forward with her case but it doesn't mean her experience is false or frivolous. I also don't think if she had won it would have affected writers have similar premises. I have yet to see two stories so close in resemblance even down to the title. Usually when people state someone had the same idea as them it isn't the same at all but may have a couple things in common. I'm not saying it probably has never happened, but I find such closeness like to Gravity to be completely rare. My two cents and thanks for your input.

Oriel Kerr

Thanks Stuart and thanks to everyone else who has chimed in on this discussion with different perspectives. I have learned a lot and I am sure others have as well. Happy 4th of July! Have a safe weekend!

Marvin Willson

@Oriel - The judge denied discovery, as Alfonso Cuarón's attachment was hearsay, and Gerritson's book was different enough that the Judge thought discovery was unjustified. Your quote: " If Cuaron had another attachment to another studio it wouldn't look so bad - questionable but not terrible." He did. Cuarón developed his screenplay at Universal, not WB. This fact gave the judge even less reason for discovery. Gerritsen is also guilty of tweaking the story in her blog contradicting the actual complaint. - Not a good look for her character. It costs a studio way too much money to go to court. it would had been cheaper for WB to pay Gerritson the $500K and give her credit if they felt they would lose, but it would have set a pretty scary precedent that could have created a monster for screenwriters coming up with stories. Listen, I was as outraged as everyone else when I first heard this, but the devil's in the detail, and if Cuarón did steal it, he did a damn good job of covering his tracks.

Oriel Kerr

Thanks Marvin, your posts have been very thought provoking and enlightening.

Marvin Willson

@Oriel - Also remember you cannot protect an idea, only your interpretation of it... EXAMPLE: White house down vs Olympus has fallen. Both stories are about terrorists taking over the white house. Millennium purchased OHF and had it on the shelf until Sony paid a staggering $3M for WHD. Millennium dusted off OHF and fast tracked it to production and OHF won domestically (mainly because the script was better). Nobody sued nobody. Studios have hundreds of scripts in development, some make it, some don't. It's all about what you can prove, so alway create a paper trail.

Michael Eddy

Oriel: I appreciate the suggestion, but there's no legal basis for a class action suit against Warners. These things play out on a case by case and project by project basis. Top Gun was at Paramount. the final arbiter in terms of screen credit is meant to be the Writers Guild. they oversee countless credit arbitrations every year. When Warners initially left my name off the List of Tentative Writing credits on Samurai - I immediately contacted the WGA. My own union made me feel as if I were an accused defendant needing to prove my own innocence rather than the other sides guilt. Because I had 2 previous claims against the studio on the SAME PROJECT - both of which had been adjudicated for me by the union - and both found in my favor - I made them aware of that fact - told them to "look it up" in their files. Told them them were dealing with a pack of thieving liars. Warners was saying that they were aware of my screenplay - but they changed it all. The director said the same. He went so far as to say my drafts were "lousy" and he "threw it all out and started from scratch" - which failed to explain - after I was given the shooting script and 48 hours to respond as to whether I still believed that my material had survived into the final version - why there were 70 similarities (in plot, character, dialogue and action) from my drafts to the final shooting script - or why all four big action set pieces from my script were in the movie. Warners continued to insist it was not the same movie. My script had a cattle drive. THEIR movie was about guns. They overlooked the fact that guns were in my drafts as well. I wrote a script about a Civil War vet who in 1873 - starting in San Francisco, CA. - travels by boat to Yokohama Japan to lead a cattle drive for the boy Emperor - and brings in Remington rifles and Gatling machine guns and teams up with samurai. In the movie - Tom Cruise is a Civil War vet who starts in San Francisco in 1873, and sails to Yokohama with a load of guns to teach samurai how to transition from swords to artillery. But it's not the same movie. In fact, one of the writers chosen by the WGA to read all the material and help decide whether I should be included in the AUTOMATIC CREDIT ARBITRATION - which would have mandated a screen credit for me (on a film which ultimately grossed a half a BILLION dollars worldwide) - in her statement wrote, "the story is far too unique NOT to have been written by the first writer..." And yet she was ignored, the system was subverted, statements were forcibly changed - arbiters were lied to - and I ended up suing my union as well. Warners was able to fall back on the fact that the WGA made the final decision - so what were they supposed to do? That much is true - but my union screwed me as well - and ended up at the defense table with the studio - using the SAME law firm to defend themselves as they had assigned to me in my earlier claims AGAINST the studio - WHICH THEY WON FOR ME. When we told the judge that it seemed to be a conflict of interest for the lawyers to have flip flopped - he disagreed. As you said - it does happen a lot. Usually the result is a disgruntled writer NOT getting a credit and therefore NOT getting the bonus money that comes with same. And going on with their life and career, a bit more pissed off than they began. In my case - after having the temerity to have sued a major studio (and there are only a handful of them left) - the result was that I seem to have been (IMO), blacklisted. (I've spoken to major hitters at the WGA - including a past president aboyt it - and the concensus was - "if they can screw you and it doesn't take money out of their own pocket - they will"). I can't get an agent (I've had major agents - after reading specs I wrote after the suit - tell me they loved my work, but could not expend the energy necessary "to resurrent my career") - I've gotten passes on scripts used as writing samples for projects I was perfect for. I had one manager who loved a spec written under a pseudonym tell me "I'll have this sold by the end of the week", disregard my entreaties to leave the fake name on the script - and go out with it under my real name - and not get a single call returned. there is no way to safeguard yourself. I did everything by the book. I had a very smart agent - a negotiated contract - a signatory studio - a chain of title on my work all the way to the finished movie - the union - and it all went bad - like watching a slow motion car wreck. It's a cautionary tale. One of many. Mine. The only big case I'm aware of that Warners lost was on The Dukes of Hazzard. They turned the TV series into a feature film. Turns out - it was based on a book - and when the author of the book sold the rights to WB for the series - it did NOT include film rights. They ignored that and made the movie. The author - in North Carolina - hired lawyers down there and sued. Their judge - in NC - not LA - GRANTED them an injunction against the release of the movie - after Warners had shelled out big bux for a TV ad campaign etc. They never had the film rights - they knew it - the guy had them by the short and curlies - and they settled - for something like $60 MILLION dollars. I don't think the movie even grossed that much. But that's the exception. As to Marvin's points: If Gerritson sold the book rights for $1 million dollars - she got paid. If she had an additional clause in her contract paying her another half million if a movie was produced based on her book - then she has to prove that in fact, GRAVITY was based on her book. She had no hand in the screenwriting - so the bonus would not be contingent on screen credit - because she'd have no way of getting that. But if it said "GRAVITY, based on the novel by Tess Gerritson" - voila. In fact, if Cuaron developed the project at Universal as an original - and it went in turnaround to Warners - Warners merely says that they acquired a project similar in nature to what New Line had been developing - and went with that instead. That puts the onus on Gerritson to prove otherwise - and the court did not think she did. I'm not sure how the court can block discovery in any case - since her lawyers should be free to pursue any legal avenues they have to try to prove their case. We deposed everyone short of Tom Cruise - including the credited writer and the director and his producing partner and people at 2 studios. So Marvin is absolutely right that her attorneys failed to show a connection to Cuaron. My case was different - I could show a clear chain of title from my original work to 75% of the eventual credited producers on the movie - including the original director - who left the project - GAVE the script to the eventual director (who ended up with MY writing credit) - and amended HIS agreement whereby he got a producer credit on the "samurai movie" when it was made. It was made - long after he left - long before Warners came on as a financing partner - and he did NOT direct any of it - but...he is listed as an executive Producer in the credits. When the Variety writer covering the lawsuit story called a Warners exec - who denied up and down that it had anything to do with my original screenplay - and asked him - "If it's not Michael's script - then who was obligated to give Vincent Ward a producer credit on the movie?" - the guy ended the conversation and hung up on him. And Stuart - it ain't such a rare occurence. It happens plenty. You only hear/read about it when it's high profile with recognizable players involved and it actually gets far enough along to get to court or be picked up by the press. When my case was starting - I was getting called by press in Japan and Scandanavia and all over the place.

Michael Eddy

And Marvin - you're right - it's all about what you can prove - and it's also about the court letting you do so. I could prove everything in my case. I had a paper trail. I had signed contracts and memoes and amended agreements and previous judgments against the players with transcripts and settlements paid. And my idiot judge STILL tossed it on a summary judgment and never let it go to trial.

Natasha Powell

Wow! I didn't know the movie was based on a book. Good to know. Hope she wins the suit.

Stuart Wright

@michael .... I listened to the extensive coverage of the gerritsen story on script notes. Both writers on that show explained why the court would find her claim was false. This was as much about story credit as it was money. It was about an assumption she couldn't prove. That's not an ongoing, regular david vs Goliath struggle between writers and the studio system. I don't see how its anything but rare. Gerritsen's circumstances were particularly specific to her. In so much that company A bought company B and therefore all the story rights that company B owned came with the deal.

Stuart Wright

@natasha ... The movie is not based on a book as per the court case gerritsen fought. It's an original screenplay.

Stuart Wright

Also @michael you're talking about screenplays whereas the gerritsen case is about whether story was by gerritsen per her novel or if the screenplay was an original story in of itself. The court found the latter to be true. Who wrote versions of which screenplay and similarities thereafter when it goes to arbitration is a whole othe kettle of fish as I understand it and may well be a common occurrence.

Stuart Wright

More on the vulnerability or not of writers on scriptnotes this week https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/scriptnotes-podcast/id462495496?mt=2...

Michael Eddy

Stuart - thanks for your thoughts. And I tried to make the same point in an earlier post that Gerritson was trying to claim the movie was based on her book. She never wrote a screenplay nor to my knowledge has she EVER written a screenplay - but as you said - WGA arbitrations over credits on screenplays and TV episodes are a dime a dozen - happen quite frequently - leave a number of disgruntled writers in their wake - and the union has been toiling for decades to fine tune and correct the system. They have yet - in the opinion of many union members - to accomplish that task. If the public knew how many credits on how many movies were in dispute - in would be mind boggling. But as another thread has posited - writers are "undervalued and underappreciated" - so I don't think the public at large cares. They don't get much past the stars and the occasional star directors. Who wrote the words are as important to most as who the gaffer is.

Regina Lee

Hey guys, I haven't read the full thread, so pardon me if I'm rehashing. If you're interested, check out this excellent New Yorker piece on WGA Credit Arb. @Michael Eddy, I'm sure you're far too familiar with it! I'm sorry the imperfect process has affected you. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/10/20/credit-grab

Michael Eddy

Regina: Thanks for the kind words and the link to the New Yorker article. Unfortunately, as a non-subscriber - I was only able to read part of it - but I certainly got the gist and as you said - I am more than familiar with the process. As I've said before - the WGA has tried repeatedly over the years to tweak its credit process and try to improve it - but judging by the number of post-arbitration disgruntled writers - they still have miles to go before they put it to sleep. I have only been involved with 2. Technically one - since I was precluded from being automatically party to one when certain parties colluded to omit me. In the other - I asked for a shared story credit - a longshot since it was a 2nd sequel in a popular series - and other writers were brought in after me - and in those circumstances - it's difficult to show what you brought to the game that didn't pre-exist and wasn't just a new spin/riff on something that had gone before. I was fine with that outcome (no credit). I was paid for my work and that was it. But along similar lines - I know writers who have been asked to be part of the 3 person anonymous arbiters panels so often that they begged off doing it any more - while I've been in the union for decades and have never once been asked to read for a credit arbitration. Something seems off about that as well. And I definitely side with writers on original scripts over re-writers (and I have done both extensively) because the first writer of original material begins with nothing. Blank pages. He or she comes up with the characters, and the plot and the arcs and the acts and the dialogue and every single bit of business. Somebody once said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard". A very funny remark. In this instance - writing is hard, rewriting is easy (easier). When you're brought in to rewrite - the foundation is laid, the house has been built and furnished. If someone wants new wallpaper in the master bath or different paint in the kids' playroom, or new tile in the kitchen - that is FAR easier to do than to build it all from scratch. If a rewriter comes in and is furnished with studio notes and TOLD what changes to make - you do it. It's a paycheck. It's NOT inventing the wheel - it's changing the air pressure or the number of spokes. You do NOT suffer the agonies of someone criticizing your baby about the color of its eyes or how much it weighs. It is - in my opinion - easier. So the WGA has always tried to balance that out - by giving added gravitas to the ORIGINAL WRITER of ORIGINAL MATERIAL - and making it far more difficult to wipe away any trace of their work when it comes to credits, and on the flip side - making it far more difficult for subsequent rewriters to claim some or all of the credit for said work. That is why my experience on Samurai was so egregious. It was an original. No one ever disputed that. the director comes in and makes "cursory changes" (an arbiter's words, not mine) and expects a shared credit. There are writers who try to meet the percentage standards set by the Guild in its credit manual by starting out by changing the name of every character in the script. Altering dialogue in the most simplistic fashion - without ever changing the tone of what is said. It usually doesn't work. There are arbiters who literally count every changed line or scene description to see if it comes anywhere close to the 33 or 50% standard. That's a bit objective where subjectivity counts for more. The "Pretty Woman" script was mentioned in the New Yorker article. i have no idea what the rewriter changed. I do know that JF Lawton's original script - "3000" - which became Pretty Woman was far darker in tone and dealt with a prostitute who I believe had AIDS. From that alone - you know that wasn't the movie that Disney made or Garry Marshall directed. How many of those changes were instituted by Marshall himself, or the stars (Gere had to be talked into making the film - he was not interested at all initially)or done by Lawton based on studio notes - I don't know. I was not privy to the arbitration or all the drafts of the script. But it WAS an ORIGINAL and ultimately - the WGA decided that he got a sole credit. There ARE writers who are hired at exorbitant fees ($250,000.00 for a weekends work polishing dialogue) and get the script over the endline to a green light. It doesn't necessarily entitle them to a credit. First writers have back end loaded contracts - they are paid for the work they do up front - applicable to the back end bonus - which can be half or more of the total - and contingent on the film being made AND screen credit. The big money rewriters - get it all upfront - no bonuses involved. They are being paid for a quick fix - maybe funnying it up to attract a bigger star to a lead role - and being paid commensurately. Oftimes - they KNOW going in that their work does NOT meet the smell test for a credit, but - it's important enough that they can ask for a producer credit - with additional monies involved. It is after all - show "business". But to others like Dan - who I usually agree with here - I take umbrage with his remark about writers asking for too much and not being content with what they have - which I assume to be a reference to the more highly paid members of the club. Firstly, there is a mere handful of writers in that pay grade compared to the 1000s in the union (and they are only those who HAVE been paid for their work and are therefore eligible to join) who make a moderate living at writing, or eke one out, or make no money at all in any given year. If you think that the credit fight is a bit of overkill and should be disregarded in relation to the big paychecks they command - let me remind you that it is the CREDIT on the made movies (especially the made and SUCCESSFUL movies) which is the true coin of the realm - and why they get that big money to begin with. A writer toils in anonymity for years and if lucky (and don't kid yourself that luck plays as big a role as talent) starts to make a living and gets their "quote" increased - based on amount of work - and CREDIT on things that are produced. That's why writers are not concerned merely with how much - but in able to produce work for which they are properly CREDITED. That's why BIG writers - ones whose names you've actually heard of - still get pissed off when they feel that a credit arbitration went wrong - and they were forced to share a credit and spread the wealth on something that thought was primarily theirs - or in a worst case scenario - got no credit at all. It is no picnic telling people about a movie you wrote - and they're being able to look up the credits - and not see your name. It is gut wrenching. And it happens a whole lot more than Hollywood will let on. Hell, the WGA has tried on occasion to add writers credits to the END CREDIT crawl of a movie - along with the 100s of special effects artists and animal wranglers and the guy who furnishes lunch to the crew on location. Too much to ask? That they arbitrate the limited names that appear up front with the stars, director and producers - and then add the names of EVERY writer who was contracturally paid and delivered work to that movie - but for whatever reason was deemed not to have made enough of a contribution to get a FRONT END credit (and no bonus would be involved)? You worked here - you were paid to work here - but you get no acknowledgment, no matter how trivial. That sound fair? Does to me. Does to a number of writers. But that has NEVER passed muster either. The studios don't want it. Why? Beats me. Ever see a movie with the names of 17 producers in the credit and wonder who the hell did what? I do. All the time.

Regina Lee

@Michael Eddy if you want to PM me your email, I'll send you a PDF of the article if you'd like.

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