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Topic: Question - Sale to non-wga company

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/12/08 07:45 PM

Is it okay to sell a screenplay to a non-WGA company right now without risking future WGA membership?

Urgently need this info.

Thanks so much for your input.

Heather

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 01/12/08 08:17 PM

If you're certain that it IS a non-signatory company, then it should have no bearing on your prospects for membership. Support and discipline emanating from the WGA pertain only to its members. If you're ever fortunate enough to get an offer from a WGA- signatory prodco (assuming such exist once the strike is finally settled), then you'll be obliged to join the WGA and pay its dues if you want to reap its benefits. I'd say any writer to seeks an actual career would want that, if only to benefit from the established minimum payment scale. It's doubtful a non-sig prodco would match that scale. And, if you can be employed as a writer and earn a certain minimum in a four-quarter period, you become eligible for WGA-financed health insurance. The dues are hefty, and as a writer, you have to hustle up a living on a constant basis, but without those benefits... well...

According to

http://www.unknownscreenwriter.com/category/screenwriting-hollywood/

Rule 13 of the 2007 Writer's Guild West Strike Rules:

13. Rules pertaining to non-members

The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non-members for strike breaking and/or scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership. This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would-be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike. Therefore, it is important for you to report to the Guild the name of any non-member whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much information as possible about the non-member's services. --------------------------

Notice: that's writing for "a struck company." The WGA cannot strike against a company that it had no agreement with already. And just so you know, under the Minimum Basic Agreement of 2004, the one that just expired in the fall of '07, here are the final facts and figures of that contract:

FLAT DEAL SCREEN MINIMUMS HIGH BUDGET (> $5 Mil. Production Budget) EFFECTIVE

11/1/06- 10/31/07

(1) Screenplay, including treatment $91,940 (2) Screenplay, excluding treatment 63,577 (3) Final Draft Screenplay or Rewrite 28,261 (4) Polish 14,130 (5) First Draft of Screenplay (alone or with option for Final Draft Screenplay): First Draft Screenplay 42,391 Final Draft Screenplay 28,261 (6) Treatment 28,261 (7) Original Treatment 42,391 (8) Story 28,261 (9) Additional Compensation Screenplay - No Assigned Material 14,130

LOW BUDGET (< $5 Mil. Production Budget) EFFECTIVE

11/1/06- 10/31/07 (1) Screenplay, including treatment $49,439 (2) Screenplay, excluding treatment 30,893 (3) Final Draft Screenplay or Rewrite 18,538 (4) Polish 9,274 (5) First Draft of Screenplay (alone or with option for Final Draft Screenplay): First Draft Screenplay 22,249 Final Draft Screenplay 14,828 (6) Treatment 18,538 (7) Original Treatment 25,599 (8) Story 18,538 (9) Additional Compensation Screenplay - No Assigned Material 7,069

Bear in mind that as a "first-time writer," the WGA-signatory production company could have paid as little as 75% of those cited figures without violating the WGA's agreement, as well. If you're working through middlemen, count out 10% each toward them, right? And pay your taxes. Swimming pool next year, maybe.

Make sure the prodco's not a signatory. Good luck.

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/13/08 01:42 AM

Dear Ron,

Thanks so much for the info. Darn, I was hoping for the swimming pool, but I'll just have to settle for a car that runs.

Cheers,

Heather

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 01/13/08 08:18 AM

My pleasure. And I know whatcha mean. - Ron

Author: Terri Dickey Posted: 01/13/08 03:39 PM

If you want to become a WGA member--THEN DON'T SELL UNTIL THE STRIKE HAS ENDED. Should you sell during the Strike, they CAN bar you from becoming a future member.

Writer Unions in Europe, Oz, etc., are supporting this as well.

My advice is--DON'T DO IT!

You've waited this long, you can wait a li'l while longer. And if you sell to a non-union Prodco, it's doubtful you would end up--in the end--with enough for a pool, new car, etc. You probably couldn't even buy a used car.

I'm actually surprised, Heather. I assumed you WERE a WGA member.

Author: Lou Yateem Posted: 01/13/08 04:06 PM

Heather, sorry to go off topic here. Were you able to find your copy of MM? I may go forward and buy one if not. Thanks, Lou

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/14/08 08:20 PM

Hey, Lou,

Here is the MM stoy - and it isn't over yet. I searched my shelves and realized that I probably donated it to the stinky thrift store close to my kid's school. I went back up there and searched the shelves to no avail. Yuck.

Then, I told my friend what I had done and asked him if he still had another copy he could give me so that I could send it to you. He said he'd search his shelves and then got called out of town for a family emergency.

He should be back this week and I'll try again. So sorry for the delay and I hope that I'll get my hands on another copy soon.

I can't belive that I couldn't give the thing away the whole time I had it on my shelf and now that someone could use it I don't have it. My husband would laugh at me if he knew becuase he's a total packrat and would never have given it away.

I will email you the minute I get my hands on it.

Heather

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/15/08 03:47 PM

Terry,

No, sadly, not WGA yet. I've come SOOOOO close.

Decided not to make the sale to be on the safe side though. I had so many people (the buyer especially) swearing that it couldn't hurt my chances and then at the last minute friends who told me to STOP before I committed career suicide.

Thakfully they chimed in before I did it.

Cheers, Heather

Author: PJ McIlvaine Posted: 01/30/08 02:52 PM

If I, a non WGA member sell or option a script to a non WGA signatory, then what it is the problem? As has been pointed out before, this is not a bar for future WGA membership and anyone who says it is....well, something is awfully amiss.

Author: Colin Costello Posted: 01/31/08 05:44 PM

I spoke to my manager if you are not in the WGA and you are working with a non WGA company you are fine. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I know plenty of non WGA writers who are currently working with non-struck companies.

Author: Terri Dickey Posted: 02/01/08 06:27 PM

You're overlooking THAT LINE that states they can keep you from becoming a member . . .

I had a friend who was yet to become WGA during the last strike. Thought it was OKAY to sell to a non-WGA company. Yes, it was. But a member brought it to their attention--when he was eligible to become a member--of what he did during the strike. Guess that person didn't like him, not sure. Grudge maybe. Who knows. It wasn't until ten years later that he became a member. He won't talk about what he had to do to become a member (ten years later).

The way things have been going this week, it looks as if the Strike won't last more than a few more weeks. What's the hurry? Usually, negotiations, etc., take a lot longer than 2-3 weeks. I'd say BE SAFE THAN SORRY!

If they take less than that, then you'd be telling me that you wouldn't be getting more than $1,000 if not deferred. Negotiations and REAL CONTRACTS--not the one paragraph, less than one page kind--take time. Trust me--NOBODY WHO HAS THE MONEY WANTS TO PART WITH IT!

Anybody see the English mini-series NORTH & SOUTH (Elizabeth Gaskell)? Strike reactions today are NO DIFFERENT than they were in the 1800's.

Author: PJ McIlvaine Posted: 02/01/08 10:28 PM

"The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non-members for strike breaking and/or scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership. This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would-be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike. Therefore, it is important for you to report to the Guild the name of any non-member whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much information as possible about the non-member's services."

CAVEAT: A STRUCK COMPANY.

I think that paragraph is pretty clear.

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 02/01/08 11:15 PM

If you have any questions you could call and ask the WGA. The writers aren't writing but I think the offices are still open and available to answer questions.

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 02/02/08 09:23 AM

Below is the WGA's URL for the list of struck companies. Have a look. You have to write for one of these companies before it's scab writing, got it? If you have an offer from a company that's not on this list and you genuinely want to take it, then take it. Print a copy of this list and file it. Keep your contract with the indie on file, as well, in case you get a chance to join the WGA later, and there's any dispute about what you actually did. If you're still not sure, take Paula's advice and call (323) 951-4000, or (800) 548-4532 for the WGA west office.

http://www.wga.org/subpage_member.aspx?id=2537

Either this concrete information, or else fear, will settle the matter, won't it?

Author: John Arends Posted: 02/02/08 02:27 PM

Ron - Just a quick thanks for all the links and hard facts and figures you've contributed here and in the other threads. I'm finding much of it extremely valuable, as I'm assembling my own personal reference library... Much appreciated!

And congrats on winning the first 2008 Script Savvy contest!!

Rock on,

John

Author: Terri Dickey Posted: 02/02/08 02:41 PM

I still wouldn't do it. Not because of WGA membership. But because you're screwing yourself over financially. And your career as well.

If you even get minimum wage for what you've written--I'd be VERY SURPRISED. After that, you won't get residuals, etc.

I know--even though we need to survive--we really don't do it for the money. We do it because we LOVE IT! But once you've sold it--THAT'S IT! They can make a complete and total mess of your original creation--FOR THE TINY, LI'L AMOUNT OF MONEY THEY GAVE YOU.

With these non-signatory companies--I've never seen anything more than a paragraph contract that was supposedly done through a lawyer. Excuse my language, but if YOU have good representation--your lawyers/managers/agents would NEVER allow you to sign SHIT LIKE THAT where no decent negotiations were allowed/made. (Have you ever seen a REAL Writer's Contract--it's T-H-I-C-K!)

When the Strike is over, should you decide to sell to a non-signatory company--you'll have better negotiating power. Right now, they think they can try anything on you (and get away with anything) because they think you're desperate because, at this moment in time, you cannot sell to a signatory company.

I know a Director who did a cheap horror film years ago (25 years?). Since then, all he's been able to do is direct a TV episode here and there. (Granted, they are top-rated TV shows, but it's NOT what he wants to do!)

He wants to do film, but no one will hire him. He can't even raise the money to do a good film.

We all make mistakes but, unfortunately, those mistakes live forever.

Even if you're starving and you might lose your home, I wouldn't do it! Trust me, you'll regret it!

The STRIKE is NOT going to last 4-ever!

Here's another word of advice. He dumped his Agency (top boutique)--because he wasn't getting anything other than TV directing assignments. His Attorneys sent out his reel/resume to THEE top agencies. All--"no." A lot of people are dumping their reps--AND DURING THE STRIKE. Not that the Strike has anything to do with it, but if you dump your reps without giving them a chance to really build your career--no other reps are gonna touch you. (Plus, with the Strike, things are now tight--and they're probably not allowed to take on new talent at this time.)

Author: d. santiago Posted: 02/02/08 04:45 PM

I believe one is taking a "crap shoot" by selling ANY script right now. You have to really ask yourself, "Is it really worth it, considering what is at stake at the end?"

I know this is non WGA, but in my last job, I was a member of a very powerful union. Unions have members who are very hard liners and can/will hold deep seeded grudges for a very long time. Especially when they're out there five days a week, regardless of weather, walking the lines.

I was not surprised at the previous post of where it took someone ten years to join because of what they did.

It may seem beneficial now, but in the long run it might just literally bite you in the ass.

Author: Colin Costello Posted: 02/02/08 07:35 PM

I think at the end of the day you are going to do what you are going to do. Even if there weren't a strike you would still have to look hard and long at the deal they are offering you. Is your script a little picture? Or is it a big effects extravaganza? What are their plans for it? All answers you would need to know whether there was a strike or not. Like someone said, "it's always a crapshoot." I don't think anyone here can say, "sell or don't sell." Every situation is different. I know if it were me, not being in the WGA yet, I would consider and weigh any offer made on a script.

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 02/02/08 10:40 PM

On balance, I tend to agree with Colin on this. All parties to indie films are generally looking to break into the big leagues, with the exception of the few freedom-loving mavericks like Quentin Tarantino, who became his own big league and stayed out of the Director's Guild. But here's where Terri's point of view, I think, assumes some validity. The best way for an indie producer to get into the big players' pen is to lay hands on a hot script and do it up right. That generally costs money. To get the financing to do that, about the best way to lure the money is to get a bankable actor interested, or "attached." (Most often, though movies like "Pi," "El Mariachi," or "Blair Witch Project" constitute rare, but possible, exceptions.) Now, the Actor's Guild is in solidarity with the WGA during the strike, so how's that deal with a bankable actor gonna go down? It isn't. So, the indie producer is stuck with unknown actors, and probably small bankrolling. That means you need to package the next movie on a par with the exceptional success stories cited above to make your breakout project. I suspect you can otherwise fly under the radar, all independent, no scabbing, and make a little money with something like a direct to DVD, or some-such, due to lack of large bankroll. That might be considered a gain, some money for your writing vs. having done all the work of writing a script, only to make no money for it. Terri's arguments come across as being convinced that if an indie producer would make this buy, a major would, too. Well... that's a big assumption. Besides, if people like the administrators of the WGA follow their own organization's rules (do they, or don't they?) you, as a writer, have nothing to fear about your membership prospects, should such eventually materialize in the course of your pursuits. If you get to be a WGA member, then you can only deal with signatories, so you're on the other side of the looking glass. Well, if you've checked out the list of struck companies, you know that includes a lot of companies. And you get a big raise, when there's work at all. So it comes down to, just what have you got, what does it deserve in the way of production treatment and distribution, and what are you willing to settle for, given the things you can't change?

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 02/03/08 08:55 AM

John Arends, off-topic FYI: I tried to use your profile to send a note of appreciation for your remarks above, but the email bounced back to me.

Author: Terri Dickey Posted: 02/03/08 03:01 PM

"Terri's arguments come across as being convinced that if an indie producer would make this buy, a major would, too."

Uh, just to make things clear, I did NOT say OR assume any of that.

I'm saying you have to be CAREFUL! I have YET to come across any non-signatory company that had a decent contract. You're obviously NOT negotiating for anything re: your work of art if you're signing something that's only a page long.

Back in 2001 (I know, I've told this story before), when I had a LOT of GOOD offers for various scripts, the VERY FIRST one I received at the very end of 2000/beginning of 2001 was AWFUL!

Not only was it not a signatory company, but the guy wasn't about to pay more than $1,000 for the script. He was VERY COCKY. His selling point was that he had acted in a major movie back in 1988 (I didn't even remember his character). He also wanted his married lover to have a lead part--someone who had never acted a day in her life. ICK!

When a Writer before me told him he wanted no less than minimum scale, the so-called Producer dumped the Writer. GOOD FOR THE WRITER who wouldn't sign a one-paragraph contract and sell his screenplay for $1,000.

I have Writer friends who are VERY successful Writers--and those who have yet to sell anything (and those who make a living selling quickly-put together-scripts for ultra-low budget straight-to-DVD action movies). And, yes, most everyone knows I've dated an Oscar-winning Writer/Director and that I will NEVER ask for his help (I've never even asked him to read anything I've written). Yes, I'm a hard-headed, independent woman and bound determined to make it on my own.

When I asked everyone's advice on the Romantic Comedy script sale for $1,000, all my Writer friends who have yet to sell anything or get anything made--said to me, "Do it! You'll have your work on film." I then ACTUALLY CONSIDERED IT!

Thank the Lord who was looking out for me that this so-called Producer handed me a tape of his previous film--a tape he had just shipped out to Distributors.

I took that tape home and watched it. I have never seen anything soooooooo bad in my life. I had spent sooooooooo much time on the Romantic Comedy he wanted to "steal" for $1,000.

I made my decision based on the tape I'd seen. I was not about to see my "blood, sweat and tears" get butchered for NOTHING!

There's a simple script I wrote--one draft--that I wanted to sell to a specific company as a TV movie. I would NEVER advise someone to pitch a script that has only one draft. But, during the past three years, my first drafts are the ones I've received offers for.

I specifically wrote it because I LOVE the TV movies this company does. The Friday before the Strike, I received two "offers of interest." Both were signatory companies. And ONE was the Prodco I've been wanting to work with.

Since the Strike, I've received three offers for the same script--from non-signatories.

There's ONE non-signatory I'm seriously considering. They've almost matched what "the Prodco I love" mentioned as a first offer. But these non-signatories know I'm not discussing anything until the Strike has ended. Yes, because I want to see what "the Prodco I love" can offer when the Strike's over--and I really want to work with this award-winning company (on more than one script).

I'm also in a position right now where I don't have to worry about getting thrown out of my home, etc. I'm not WEALTHY--but I can afford to wait until the Strike is over. And a SERIOUS Prodco isn't going to hand over the money tomorrow. A SERIOUS Prodco does SERIOUS contracts!

Oh, just a li'l bit of advice. Well, not advice. Just history for you to consider.

The Writer who has slam-banged together extremely quick ultra-low budget straight-to-DVD Action scripts, has had about 40 made. I'm guessing. I know ten years ago, it was 25. Maybe it's more than 40 by now.

How does he make his living? Not on the cheap money he gets for these scripts, but on seminars he gives based on a (not-very-well-written, but to-the-point) how-to book he wrote.

I've heard well-known Producers publicly ridicule the book AND the Writer, stating he'll never go anywhere. Well, he does go overseas to do seminars--if THAT's "anywhere."

I do know for a fact, that even though his work has been produced many, MANY times--he STILL has NOT been able to obtain representation. Agents won't touch him.

So here's what I'm saying--"Our careers are based on the choices we make."

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 02/04/08 06:56 PM

<"GOOD FOR THE WRITER who wouldn't sign a one-paragraph contract and sell his screenplay for $1,000.">

Hear, hear!

Deferring to your superior wealth of experience, would you say that offers on a par with this are the "norm" from indie producers (assuming there's any such thing as a "norm")?

<"And, yes, most everyone knows I've dated an Oscar-winning Writer/Director and that I will NEVER ask for his help (I've never even asked him to read anything I've written).">

I've only been a sporadic user of the Moviebytes board down through the years, so I've missed your stories. But I will say, that's integrity!



Actually, that's a good litmus test.



Well, I consider this the most eloquent argument for your position that you've made.

A writer is vulnerable when they're getting their first nibbles. Anyone else have an impression on working with the indies? Does it turn into a "black hole" for one's career, or is it more like playing the farm leagues in baseball, where one can still "go play in the majors?"

Author: Ron Brassfield Posted: 02/04/08 06:59 PM

Hmm, some of that text was hidden for lack of quotation marks. Here's what I meant to post:

<"I made my decision based on the tape I'd seen. I was not about to see my "blood, sweat and tears" get butchered for NOTHING!">

Actually, that's a good litmus test.

<"So here's what I'm saying--"Our careers are based on the choices we make.">

Well, I consider this the most eloquent argument for your position that you've made. ...

Author: Terri Dickey Posted: 02/04/08 08:55 PM

Just because a company is "indie" doesn't mean they're not a signatory of the Guild. I've had to deal with contracts for a LOT of indie companies that have put out some excellent movies and their contracts are no different than anyone else's 13-pager.

My advice is that should you come across some Producer who wants you to sign a one-pager (which is usually only a paragraph), it usually means they're not paying crap for your material. PLUS, they seem to get offended when you try and negotiate something--and tell you, "Well, then I can get someone else's script." And I'd say to that "Producer," "Then do it."

If someone REALLY wants your script, then you are in a position to have good negotiating power until that contract is signed. Which is why everyone should have an Entertainment Attorney look at whatever somebody wants you to sign. And no good Attorney working on your behalf--is gonna have you sign some piece of one-paragraph crap!