Screenwriting : How Do I Protect The Interests of Someone Who Brought Me a Story Concept by Mark Souza

Mark Souza

How Do I Protect The Interests of Someone Who Brought Me a Story Concept

I have been approached by an actor with a great idea for a series to write the pilot. It's his idea, and sure I'll bring something to it too. How do I recognize and protect the interests of the person who came up with the idea? Do I list him in the title page of the script with CONCEPT BY XXXXX, WRITTEN BY YYYYY. Or do I list him as a co-writer? And is listing this person on the cover page the best way to do this? I'm looking to the experience on Stage 32 to come to the rescue.

Philip Sedgwick

I have similar projects that I have done. I list a story by credit on the title page. As for co-writer, unless the person actually writes with you, they would not be a co-writer. I'd use WGA rules on writing participation. As for written by... per WGA, you cannot say written by unless you own rights to the story. So, it would be "screenplay by..." When it comes time to negotiate film credits, make sure you get your own frame for "screenplay by."

D Marcus

Which ever choice you make "Concept by", "Story by" or co-writer you should get it it writing. Ask the actor with the great idea exactly how he would like to be credited and then put that in writing. If you want to follow the WGA rules you should read their rules (found on their website). How this person is credited on the cover page is only part of the issue; how this person is credited when the script is copyrighted and then sold and then the on screen credit are also very important. Work with this actor, be upfront, be clear and get it in writing.

Marvin Willson

People think because they have a good idea, they are entitled to be protected as creators. The Library of Congress (LOC) is clear when it comes to writing... You cannot copyright or protect and idea, only your interpretation of that idea. In TV, the writer is king and it's only the execution of the writing what will interest a prodco/studio. That being said, If you are the writer it would be Written by... XXXX Created by YYYY & XXXX You should have a simple agreement that states that you are both creators attached to the project and you would need to negotiate different things. XXXX would negotiate as writer and co- creator YYYY would negotiate as co-creator. Be advised, your co-creator better have active participation in the project, because if they prove to be dead weight, your project could be deemed "Creator heavy" and producers/studios could shy away.

Sonia Apodaca-Harms

What about "Based on a story by..."?

Marc Morgenstern

Mark - however you want to credit him in your script.

Marvin Willson

@sonia - If a story exists previous to the writing, then maybe. However, in TV it's likely the Story writer would still be exec producer/co-creator.

Philip Sedgwick

Regardless of what you do, create an agreement between the two of you on paper first! You can likely find templates around for basic agreements. Best to cover all terms in writing and discuss expectations before going forward. Things get weird around contracts and agreements so fast.

William Martell

Credits are decided by WGA and it is all based on who did the actual writing. You might have a deal for the money with the concept person, but they may never get a credit.

D Marcus

Very true, Bill, but Mark is asking how to credit someone on the title page of a spec pilot. Any thoughts on that?

Jasmin Egner

Mark, I like the fact that you are going out of your way to get information on how to protect someone else's interests. Good on you. I mean it :)

Marvin Willson

@ D Marcus - They can instruct their lawyers to try to get an exec/associate/consulting producer credit.

Mark Souza

Julio, thanks for the collaboration agreement form, it was exactly what I needed.

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