espite having broken our gentlemen’s agreement to co-produce my movie, The Canadian Producer (TCP) had a legally binding option on my script. He’d taken on a new writer. Applied for additional government financing. And been approved. I also partially blamed him for that raccoon I hit with my car.
(Continued from part 2 of 3)
I’d been quiet too long. He was destroying me in the community. Slandering me before the financing agencies.
I called the agency that had agreed to give him and his hellspawn scab writer more funding. Asked how they could do this. They said his legal agreements were in order. Understood that it was a messy situation but that their hands were tied. He had a winning script– Dagger in— And they wanted to be a part of making it into a film– And twist.
I was in tears by the end of the call. I don’t think they could tell. Maybe they could. What did it matter? My reputation had been smeared. My script taken away. I was gutted. Hollow. Like nothing I’d ever felt before. Powerless. Violated.
I wanted blood. Literally. I had fantasies about stalking him. Attacking him. Getting into his apartment. Stealing back that option agreement. Destroying it. Really doing some bad shit to his teeth.
I settled for a legal letter. A shot across the bow. A threat that if TCP didn’t sign away his claim to the script, I’d… I don’t know, do some bad legal stuff to him. I asked my lawyer how much extra it would cost to have it delivered to him at an upcoming industry event. In front of all our colleagues. Take back some dignity. Lawyer said it could be done but that it wouldn’t help things. Could even make them worse. To his credit, he talked me down.
The letter had the desired effect. We’d copied the funding agency on it as well. Poisoned the well. Financiers don’t care too much about details. You say you’re gonna make legal trouble for a project and they drop it like infectious waste. His second round of financing would never come.
New reports from my spy in the field said that TCP was buckling. That his lawyer’s bills were already growing beyond his means. Thanks to our initial round of financing, I had plenty of money in my legal fund. I started to get a second wind. My script may never see the light of day again, but at least it wasn’t gonna be molested any further by this dipshit and his troglodytic scribe.
I got a notice in the mail. A letter waiting for me at the post office from you know who. I didn’t pick it up. Let it rot. I knew even the cost of sending a registered letter would hurt him. How many drug trials would he endure to fight back? He emailed. Even called, asking me to pick up the letter. Told me it was a proposal to settle things.
I waited a month.
His emails got progressively more irate. I never replied. Let the financing deadlines for other agencies lapse. Gave him time to consult his lawyer. More billable hours. Let him feel the weight of a completely dead script. Of doors closing all around him. Of his own shortsighted greed and stupidity.
I had my lawyer draft a quitclaim. Finally extended to TCP my terms of surrender. For a sum, he would sign away any claim to the script now and forever.
Let the negotiation begin.
His furious emails were a sight to see. The temper tantrums of a child. He demanded all of the development money granted to me by the financing agency. Over twenty thousand dollars.
I offered him one hundred.
Enraged threats were his reply. Told me that he’d take my script and “sell it to the Americans!”
Every new outburst comforted me. Reminded me that I was in control. That I owned him. Somehow, amidst his blasts, he still kept the negotiation going. Came down to two grand.
It was late in the month. I knew rent would be due. I think he was literally fighting to stay off the street. I debated just letting him twist in the wind for another two weeks. But a man with nothing left to lose is more dangerous than a man hanging by a thread. So I agreed on one thousand dollars. The price of protecting my script from any future threat. Best script I’d ever written.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work with these agreements. You get in a room together. Each sign the other’s copy. Hand over a check and go on your merry way. But I didn’t want to get in a room with TCP. The obvious animosity notwithstanding, I had the morbid desire to test a theory…
I sent him the paperwork. He put up a fuss. Didn’t want to sign anything without getting his check first. I told him it was this or nothing. So he signed. Sent it back to me.
He signed an agreement that read, “by signing this document you hereby acknowledge receipt of payment in full” etc. Legally, he’d just testified to having received my thousand dollars. Without having paid him a single cent, I was off the hook for the entire settlement. And I had my script back. I could walk away clean. It would be his word against mine. The ultimate humiliation. The ultimate payback for everything he had inflicted on me.
I waited for his call.
Knew that when he didn’t receive his check in a couple days he’d start to wonder. Panic. Might even have to get his lawyer back on the phone. Billable hours! On a scale of raccoon killing to ten, this was giving birth to a whole new litter of baby raccoons myself.
When the call finally came. I pointed out to him what he’d signed. Wanted him to know that after all his power-hungry arrogance, his smug grandstanding and childish rage; that I had won. I had taken back what was mine. My script. My dignity. That he would get nothing. I wanted him to see all of that. To think about all of that. To understand that a real man stands by his word.
Through it all, I’d made mistakes. Was arrogant myself. Underestimated him as both a partner and an opponent. But in the end, free and clear as I was, I was still a man of my word.
So I wrote him the check… Farted into the envelope and sent it on its way.