I Stopped Listening After “Unpaid”

here it is. That side of Hollywood I’ve heard so much about. Somehow I’d avoided seeing it until now, but there it is.

A few weeks back I had my first call with the producer optioning my script. We talked notes on the script. Talked about the next steps. For me the next step would be a rewrite to implement said notes.

Little bit about an option agreement: The option agreement (if you’ve done it right) contains provisions for rewrites. Because rewrites are inevitable and as the author of the script you want to make sure you’re the one getting paid for as many as possible.

Logic would follow that the rewrite Producer and I discussed was the same rewrite outlined in the option agreement. The paid rewrite.

Logic, you’d think, would follow.

I’ve just been informed by Manager that I misunderstood. The rewrite we’ve been discussing – the first rewrite – is actually unpaid. It’s just a step toward getting the script ready for the town. A meeting of the creative minds.

… Sorry, I stopped listening after unpaid.

But there it is.

Remember all that conflict of interest I was concerned about a few months ago? Here it comes in full effect! My manager, who’s supposed to be looking out for my best interest is also a producer on the project. A producer currently asking me to write for free.

Remember to breathe.

The next rewrite will be the paid one, they assure me. Oh, sure, yeah, no problem. Can I pick up anybody’s dry cleaning on my way home?

On the moral scale, it’s total bullshit.

As far as the film industry is concerned… I’m guessing it’s par for the course.

It’s real tempting to get indignant, throw a tantrum and walk away. But that would be it. Back to square one. Conversely if I can massage some egos. Implement some little script fixes. Get this project out into the world. Then maybe there’s a future in it for me.

A future as what? A door mat? I guess we’ll have to see. Right now I’m their secret. But if this movie gets made then the secret’ll be out.

What really chaps my ass is if Manager had just been around enough to inform me that this is how things would roll out, I’d have been fine with it. Implementing these notes is nothing for me. It’s a weekend. What irks me is that I’m out here on my own again. Getting guidance from nobody.

I can take solace in one thing for the time being. That I’m still waiting on the option. It still hasn’t come in. Nearly five months now. Which means until it does – until that option check clears – this script is still all mine. And not one word of it is getting rewritten until that changes.

It’s not much. But that seems to be the way things go in this industry. You hold on to whatever semblance of power you can because at the end of the day, you don’t really have any.



Filed under The Journey

5 responses to “I Stopped Listening After “Unpaid”

  1. It’s full of exploitative assholes who think they’re doing you a favor by having you work for them, for free.

  2. emilybolcik

    Ugh, I’m hearing from a few sources that unpaid rewrites are a common thing now and it kills me. I worry that if a writer stands up for him or herself, producers will just move on to one of thousands of other writers who are willing to work for free. So tough.

    • It’s that fine line. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to write (even direct (!)) for free. You’ve gotta consider the source. If the project, the producers, the other people involved are stepping stones, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing. But if they’re no further ahead than you… You’ve gotta watch out.

      Play the players.

      Thanks Emily!

  3. Pingback: The May That Was | Tinseltown Times

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