Screenwriting : What's been your worst screenwriting nightmare? Please share your misery and help others learn. by Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

What's been your worst screenwriting nightmare? Please share your misery and help others learn.

The purpose of this thread is to stimulate discussion about your worst experiences as a screenwriter sharing your work, collaborating, working with lawyers, industry people, contractual problems, con men etc. And if I haven't covered anything and you have another nightmare scenario, let it rip.

I'll get the ball rolling for this thread.

For me, 2014 was in general, a nightmare. Though I started off the year writing three good spec scripts, the second half of the year was a black hole of attempting to collaborate on projects I thought had potential. The first project was a European television show with a production company that hired a seven person writing team. For this supposedly paid gig, I had to creatively audition with a four person panel via Skype, sign a non-disclosure agreement and sit through meetings that were a waste of time. The head writer was terrible, the other writers weren't happy about it, and personally, I wrote about 20 pages and bailed. I was supposed to receive money last year and I've never seen a dime. And the amount isn't worth litigation. At the time, I chalked this one up to my lack of experience and quickly moved on.

The other two collaborations were also with projects with "producers" at the helm and I worked on both of them on spec. They were both rewrite projects with original writers still involved. And, no matter what the original writer tells you, they hate having someone rewrite their work. I felt I did good work on both of these but they turned out to be disasters; and unpaid ones at that. I learned from all of these fiascoes and have never repeated the mistakes of that year.

Jody Ellis

My nightmare was a couple years ago when I was hired to adapt a novel into a screenplay. The author was an older lady, I never quite understood if she'd self published or not (her explanation never made sense to me and I didn't care enough to sort it out.)

The contract was to adapt her novel and do one rewrite. Half $ upfront and half on completion. Turned into a bit of a pissing match because she kept asking for more changes. Finally got my $, then she wanted me to do MORE rewrites when the producer it was submitted to (some dubious connection she had) passed on it (he didn't like the story itself and said it would be too expensive, which I did try to tell her.)

I ended up just not responding to any additional emails from her. She was kind of crazy and didn't know thing one about how the industry works. And didn't want to hear it from anyone.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Jody: The Happy Ending here is that you got money out of her. But some people, particularly without writing experience can be real nimrods. When I first got going, a friend of mine setup a meeting with a woman who was very rich and closely connected to the De Beer's family. We had a pitch meeting with her and I presented my idea for a globe trotting historical mini-series about the De Beers family spanning the 19th century through today. It had a great title and marketing angle. She loved it then tried to claim it as her idea. However, she became ill and nothing ever came of it. I also had a guy approach me with a horrible treatment about a dead rockstar. It was badly written and a horrible story angle. I presented him with my version and he wanted his instead. I said, sure, I'll write it for ten thousand dollars and the guy disappeared. I'm strongly considering my writing my biopic version of the subject later this year.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

John: Sometimes, gig's for hire just ain't worth the aggravation. Earlier this month, I had a guy pay me for script coverage. He offered me half up front and I said no. I told him read my testimonials and then he paid me 100% up front.

Stephen Foster

Rewrites for NO PAY! & a horrible manager!

Jody Ellis

@Stephen My first agent, who was very nice and supportive, was also about 85 years old and semi retired. He never did much for me career-wise and I eventually stopped hearing from him. I finally found out through a third party that he had passed away. Yikes.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Stephen: I've done rewrites with no pay too. And I did them predicated on producers with track records being involved. However, I won't work on anymore projects without funding unless they're mine. Never again sir!

Thanks for posting.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy


I think I now what happened to your old manager.



A manager, WILLIE SHADE (85), sits at his dusty old wooden desk. There are cobwebs on the book shelves behind him and an old gramophone. The camera does a close up on his desk where we see a trophy with “Best Agent/Manager 1952” engraved on it.

The old rotary phone on Willie’s desk RINGS LOUDLY. He sits back.


(into phone)

It’s your dime, speak.

There is a woman’s voice on the other line.


(over phone)

Willie, this is Sheila from Big Budget pictures.

Willie suddenly perks up.


Sheila, how are you?


I’m great. Especially after reading the romcom script by Jody Ellis. That girl has her hand up the ass of the American public. Figuratively speaking of course.

Willie’s eyes widen. He leans forward.


You know me. I wouldn’t waste your time with bush league writers.


We want to option the script for a hundred and fifty.


A hundred and fifty dollars is a bit lean.

Sheila raises her voice a bit.


Not a hundred fifty dollars. A hundred and fifty grand you dizzy old fart.

Willie gets a big grin.


Well, that’s more like it.


When can we have a meeting with the writer?

WILLIE When are you available?


I’ll make time for this one.

Willie looks upward... mouths the words thank you.


I’ll call her now and call you right back.

SHEILA I’ll wait to hear back from you.

We hear the sound of Willie’s phone clicking and a dial tone.

Willie begins to dial his phone... grimaces... grabs his chest... keels over dead.


Jody Ellis

@phillip okay you just made me laugh. And then cry. :-p

Dan MaxXx

not many horror stories. more disappointments, bad timing, folks using other folks for their contact list, BS.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Jody: This thread is all a clever ruse to get material for my new comedy "The Screenwriter's Diary". This was the opening scene.

Jody Ellis

Haha pretty good scene Phillip! And really, how can one top "my agent died". :-D

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Dan M:

Holy cow! Great horror stories!


That's why I laugh at people telling me they have a great idea for a screenplay they want me to write. I just wrote a screenplay about a fire hydrant for God sakes! Ideas are a dime a dozen. A good imagination is another thing entirely.

Philip Sedgwick

Once had a sure thing to a TV producer with an actress friend. We powered out and wrote a great script. As we completed it, the star of the show died.

Same actress different script (sitcom) and a straight line with a producer... they told us our writing was too smart and the humor over the heads of mainstream viewers. Get drunk and rewrite. There's nothing like a good Mexican beer for a rewrite. We dumbed (or drunk) it down. When done, she met the producer for dinner. She was not interested in the producer's request for "favors." That script died there.

Once "sold" a script one Friday afternoon to a female producer, whose boyfriend was going to direct. We were to complete the deal on Monday. Over the weekend, they broke up. How rude is that (rhetorical)? Needless to say, it was a no sale.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Philip: People dying off and splitting up around your projects? Those are horror stories.

William Martell

Probably mentioned it before, but I wrote an autobiographical screenplay which was bought by a well known producer (I guarantee you have seen at least one movie he's made) and at the second or third story meeting there was a stranger in the room. My replacement. Yup, they hired another writer who they thought knew my life's story better than I did. Welcome to Hollywood, baby!

Bill Costantini

Mine would be when I was hired to write the ending of a film, and had to go to Mexico to do it. I met a woman and we went to the beach, and I was attacked and woke up five days later missing a kidney. Instead of leaving, I tracked down the people who stole my kidney.

Oh wait....that wasn't me....that was Charlie Pope (Miguel Ferrer) in The Harvest.

RIP, Miguel Ferrer (February 7, 1955 – January 19, 2017) What a great, great actor.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

William M: Did your replacement use your ideas?

Bill C: I was really sorry to hear about Miguel Ferrer. RIP.

Dan Guardino

I had so many bad experiences in this business it is hard to say which one was the worst one. I guess the biggest was when I adapted a novel and Warner Bros was going to produce it and the author and his agent who didn't know anything about the movie business wanted to renegotiate the agreement that was in place and it killed the deal.

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