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Messages posted since 01/24/2014
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Topic: Beat sheet

Author: cheryl Lang Posted: 01/04/10 08:30 PM

I'm really new at all this, so forgive me if I sound stupid. I sent my query to a production company. They asked me for a beat sheet. Not knowing what that was, I googled it and whipped one right up. Not that anyone wants to steal my story, but I have the actual script registered, so the beat sheet is safe too...right? I mean the story is the story no matter what form I send it out in...right? One other question, if you don't mind. I won a small contest I found on this website. Should I re-query the people I already have to let them know the update or just keep pushing forward?

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 01/04/10 09:48 PM

I'd send them the first 10-20 pages of the actual script. Difficult if not impossible to generate interest from a treatment let alone a beat sheet.

Always copyright your scripts. WGA registration is useless.

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/05/10 01:44 AM

Hey Stephen,

Could you elaborate on the WGA registration being useless? I don't know much about why it is? Everyone is telling me this, but I just haven't heard why.

Thanks so much,

Heather

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 01/05/10 03:14 AM

Well (disclaimer) seek out legal advice from a local qualified professional and nothing I post here constitutes legal advice nor does it create or imply an attorney/client relationship.

I'm going to do a post on my blog soon on this topic as there is much misunderstanding. WGA registration is some indication of completion date of a work. But it provides none of the protections of a real copyright.

You can also do some research and find all of the WGA files are deleted after a few years. Copyright goes on until death of author +75 years.

Suggest you do the online copyright as it's easier and money orders get lost in the D.C. mail.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 01/05/10 11:04 AM

Again - check all this. But Stephen's right in that the WGA only lasts for a bunch of years (though I think you can pay again to renew) and copyright is until after your death. Copyright is legal. WGA is more like proof. Again - check this. So WGA is good, but copyright isn't that much more and with the new online system, it's finally easy to do. So that's the way I go.

Author: Heather Hughes Posted: 01/05/10 11:12 AM

Thanks guys. I have another question. Since the WGA is the one that arbitrates in case of a dispute should you do both? Not that I want to:)

Author: Terry Frazier Posted: 01/05/10 11:56 AM

I do both.

Author: Irin Evers Posted: 01/05/10 12:20 PM

I'm sure WGA respects copyright since it's legal. If there was a credit dispute (who wrote what parts after several writers worked on a Spiderman 7), the WGA arbitrates, but if it's a question of who wrote it first, etc., I'd think the courts would be deciding.

Author: cheryl Lang Posted: 01/05/10 04:30 PM

Again...I'm a little slow, but I am not sure if anyone answered me. I sent the beat sheet. It is the exact story I registered, just in a different format. So it is as safe as the script is - right? And any thoughts on re-querying?

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 01/05/10 07:51 PM

I noticed some legal preambles so I'm gonna say something similar before I start. I'M NOT A LAWYER AND I AM IN NO WAY ADVISING ANYONE TO DO ANYTHING. I'm simply phrasing what I was told in an entertainment law class at UCLA. Judge and do with that information what you will.

Stephen is right. Here's how this works...

The WGA registration is a largely scam. At least in the manner the WGA presents their services to writers. In fact, WGA registration originally was not even created to register original work. The whole point was so that writers who are rewriting other people's work, or to document the differences between drafts, have a place to register there contributions for legal and credit purposes since they can't obtain a copyright on someone else's work.

However, the WGA quickly realized that there was a lot of money to be made by opening up these services to everyone. Although they don't out and out say that their service is a copyright, they do certainly imply it to newbies to make money and make no effort to refute that perception in screenwriting books or other media sources. Having your script WGA registered is not a bad thing, in some cases it can prove ownership, but it's not a legal copyright.

Now, a legal copyright obtained by the library of congress costs about twice as much as a WGA copyright but you get sooooooo much more for your money.

For one, you get statutory damages of several times the market value for your script if you win. With WGA, you don't. If you prove they stole your script you're gonna get WGA minimum in compensation. In most cases this is not worth your legal fees and a big studio is most likely gonna just bleed you with delays until you give up.

Second, a legal copyright requires whoever your suing to pay your legal fees if you win. The WGA does not. Why is this important? Remember when we talked about the studios delaying things to rack up your legal fees so you'll give up? In this scenario, if you have a strong case you can have a lawyer represent you based on the future winnings. They'd love for this thing to drag out because the studio is gonna pay the bills when they lose.

I usually obtain both just because, why not? It's only a few bucks for added piece of mind.

Although none of this matters really because if you sue anyone in Hollywood for stealing a script whether you're justified or not no one's gonna ever hire you again anyways. A definite Catch 22. Regardless, hope this helps.

Author: Stephen Hoover Posted: 01/05/10 11:21 PM

Excellent post. Sure that info will be in the upcoming blog post as well. I posted the link to my blog on this board btw.

I WGA register treatments and revision drafts. But copyright as well the first draft and then subsequent revisions.

Note that when you copyright a work it's a public record. Be careful the address and info you give out.

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 01/05/10 11:33 PM

That I didn't know. What do you do, use a P.O. Box? It's just not very permanent. God knows it's so difficult even filing your script it must require a truly motivated stalker to get that info.

Author: d. santiago Posted: 01/06/10 01:22 PM

Cheryl,

The beat sheet is effectively an outline of your story or in other words, the highlights. So effectively, its really more of a detailed synopsis so you should be safe with your registration.

It doesn't hurt in re-querying with the updated info. I know in the publishing world, its considered professional nad polite to let them know that other people are also interested in your work.

Of course, this is IMHO.

Don

Author: Paula Smith Posted: 01/06/10 05:41 PM

They want the beat sheet because they are interested in the story. They probably figure if you have a really good story they can buy your story and get someone else to write the script.

I've had one of my concepts stolen. It was a short script and someone local. He took the concept and twisted it, but the underlying theme was still there and clear to those who had read my script.

Author: Andrew Duncan Posted: 01/06/10 08:14 PM

Unfortunately you can never copyright an idea only the unique and specific way way you tell it.

Author: cheryl Lang Posted: 01/07/10 09:23 AM

That makes me feel some better. Thank you for answering my questions.

Author: Walter Winton Posted: 01/07/10 10:48 PM

With regards to Cheryl's question and the general conversation about WGA registration, scripts are never "safe." The burden is always on the original writer to prove his/her script was stolen and they're only successful when the plagiarized property contains character names or exact lines of dialogue from the original copywrited material.

With that in mind, it's always best to not blast your scripts and ideas around town, hoping something will stick. Deal with the respected companies who have a recent track record.

I can't tell you how many times writers will query a company, send in their work, and THEN ask "Does anyone know anything about _______? Are they legit?" Ugh.

Submitting your work is like driving a car. You should maintain your car, wear a seatbelt, buy insurance, and drive carefully. But there's no way to guarantee that some asshole won't smack into you anyway.