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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  So, you got an email about your script... Moderators: George Willson
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  Author    So, you got an email about your script...  (currently 11490 views)
Shelton
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 6:41pm Report to Moderator
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There have been a number of threads around here lately where a member of the board has gotten an email from a producer about the use of the script, and they're not exactly sure what to do or how to respond.  

So, after a little bit of behind the scenes discussion, we've decided to start this thread, which will serve as the go to source for all things related to the optioning, selling, and lending of your script.

I'm pretty much going to be laying out things from my own experiences in this post, and others are free to leave comments based on their own experiences, as it will definitely assist those in making the best decision related to their situation.  

Please make special note of my use of the word "experiences".  The best way to help is via first hand knowledge, and smart assed, half cocked comments won't be tolerated here.  There are plenty of other places for goofiness around here without pissing all over the whole reason most of us are here.  To sell and/or get produced.

With that being said, here's a brief idea of what you can expect when approached regarding a short script.

1.)  To respond to the email, only to never hear from that person again...EVER.

It may seem odd, but this happens a lot.  I'm not sure if it's because someone decided to tie one on one night, thought they could produce a script, then thought better of it the next day when they were sober or what, but this happens with a fair percentage of inquiries.  They disappear just as quickly and randomly as they appear.

2.)  You'll receive a writing credit.

This goes without saying, and has never been an issue with anything that I've allowed the use of, but this is something that needs to be addressed in that initial email.  You get your credit, because after all, you're probably allowing this script to be used for free.  Which brings me to my next point.

3.)  Do NOT expect to be paid.

Short films are generally nothing more than student films being done for a mid or end of year project, or an exposure piece for the people involved.  Any money available is going toward the actual production of the film.  Not the director, not the actors, and most certainly not you.

An exception to this rule is if you're approached concerning the rights.  If someone wants the exclusive rights to your script, you should get something.  It will probably be of small value, but at least you get some sort of compensation for giving up your work.  This, however, is at the sole discretion of the writer.  If the filmmaker has provided samples of previous work that looks to be of good quality, you can have faith that a good product will be turned out, and the potential for exposure will outweigh that of a couple hundred dollars.  Your call.

My approach is that I retain the rights to my work, then after looking at the finished product decide if I want to allow anyone else to use it.  I find it guards against flakes and allows me to see my work produced in the best manner possible.  Speaking of finished product...

4.)  Insist that a copy of the film be made available to you.

Whether it be dvd or a site like YouTube or Vimeo, you deserve to see your work in some capacity.  Just like getting writing credit, this is pretty much a no-brainer, but it needs to be put out there.  It's never been an issue for me, and it's not too much of an inconvenience for a filmmaker to spend a little upload time or postage money to send a copy to the person that gave them a free script.

5.)  Ask about the timeline.

Is this going to be shot and edited within the next couple weeks, or is the filmmaker going to wait until Fall because the script will look better visually once the leaves change?  Find out.  Filmmaking is a long, tedious process, and if you know the timeline in advance, it will save you from sending a lot of impatient emails wondering if the film is done and not a single frame has been shot.  Which takes me back to my first point...

A filmmaker can disappear just as easily in the middle or end of the process as they can in the beginning.  If you happen to send a few emails requesting a status update with no response, assume they've moved on to something else.  At which point you should do the same.

That's about it for now.  I'll eventually come back and edit this to include things related to features (a whole other animal), but this should take care of the really pressing questions for now.


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"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper." - Steve Martin
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Andrew
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 6:50pm Report to Moderator
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Nice one, Mike.

This is definitely the way forward.

Phil's comments from this thread, I suggest as sound advice also.

The dog's comments:

Tell the filmmaker (should you choose to have him make it) that you have the following conditions:

1.  You get two copies of the finished film.
2.  You get sole credit as writer.
3.  Any changes in the script must be made by you, or with your permission.
4.  You want the write to reproduce and distribute the finished product for personal use.

Andrew


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dogglebe
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 7:41pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Shelton
1.)  To respond to the email, only to never hear from that person again...EVER.

It may seem odd, but this happens a lot.  I'm not sure if it's because someone decided to tie one on one night, thought they could produce a script, then thought better of it the next day when they were sober or what, but this happens with a fair percentage of inquiries.  They disappear just as quickly and randomly as they appear.


This happens quite a bit (atleast from my experience). One short I wrote was produced by the thirteenth filmmaker who asked for it.  The other twelve just disappeared.




Quoted from Shelton
4.)  Insist that a copy of the film be made available to you.

Whether it be dvd or a site like YouTube or Vimeo, you deserve to see your work in some capacity.  Just like getting writing credit, this is pretty much a no-brainer, but it needs to be put out there.  It's never been an issue for me, and it's not too much of an inconvenience for a filmmaker to spend a little upload time or postage money to send a copy to the person that gave them a free script.


I disagree with the youtube and vimeo part, here.  You should receive a high quality copy of the film on dvd. Youtube compresses the files; you don't want that.  Vimeo cannot send out a DVD copy.

Ask for a hard copy.  Shipping a disc or two isn't that big of an expense.


You should ask the filmmaker if he/she has any experience in filmmaking.  You may not want to have your script shot by a first timer.  Asking to see any previous work should not pose a problem.

This thread should be a sticky thread (if it's not already).



Phil
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Shelton
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 7:49pm Report to Moderator
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I covered both routes with the copy scenario just to give people an idea of what to ask for.  

I normally ask for a dvd copy, then upload it to a private Vimeo page if the filmmaker decides to hold off on posting it to the general public for awhile.  By going that route, I have easy access to show it to others.  Some aren't as up on how to go about doing that, so having it made available online cuts that part out of the equation for them.


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bert
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 7:49pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from dogglebe
This thread should be a sticky thread (if it's not already).


That's the plan, Phil.

After some collaboration amongst the mods, we figured it would be easier to have a permanent "home" for this sort of information.

And to anybody reading -- when another one of those threads pops up from an excited member who has received their first email -- please refer them to this thread.

Hopefully, we can minimize a bit of clutter.

And please, try to keep idle chatter to a minimum.  

But if you have some real-life experiences, expertise, and advice to share, that is welcome.

Features, like Mike said, are a more complex beast that will be discussed later.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Breanne Mattson
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 9:50pm Report to Moderator
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Thanks for starting this thread.

I ask for writing credit and a copy of the completed film for certain. As far as revisions, it depends on when they plan to shoot versus what I have going on. I usually discuss possible changes with them and work out whether Iíll do them or whether they can do them. Usually I find they would prefer that I do them. I try to work with them as much as possible.

Also, I always ask prospective filmmakers about their future plans. I encourage filmmakers to enter the film into festivals or whatever they can do to gain exposure. Iíve had student filmmakers ask to produce my work as a learning experience and Iím fine with that but other than that, it seems generally pointless to me to make a film with no intentions. I look at it as an investment in a future filmmaker as well as the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.


Breanne




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steven8
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 9:53pm Report to Moderator
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I have been contacted three times by email, and each time the person just disappeared into thin air.  Each one was a college person doing a project, and my assumption was that they found another script they'd rather do.  I was bummed at first, but you can't let it get you down.  
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Breanne Mattson
Posted: October 7th, 2009, 10:02pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from steven8
I have been contacted three times by email, and each time the person just disappeared into thin air.  Each one was a college person doing a project, and my assumption was that they found another script they'd rather do.  I was bummed at first, but you can't let it get you down.  


Steven, it may not be that they would rather do something different. A surprising number of things can kill a film in preproduction. It could be as simple as that the actor they had to play the lead character backed out and now they have an actor who doesnít fit your script. It could be that they lost access to a location. Some movies get made merely because a particular location is available. It may be nothing personal.

Also, sometimes the person is just busy. Iíve gone long periods of time with no correspondence from a filmmaker and then got contacted out of the blue and found out the film just got completed.


Breanne



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sniper
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 1:25am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Breanne Mattson
Also, sometimes the person is just busy. Iíve gone long periods of time with no correspondence from a filmmaker and then got contacted out of the blue and found out the film just got completed.

Amen to that. I received an email last week containing only a YouTube link to a short film made from one of my scripts. The first (and only) contact I had with the director was about 5-6 months ago.

Now, getting a script produced is always nice...but I told this guy NO from the start. The script he wanted to produce had already been produce at that time so I told him "thanks but no thanks blah blah blah".

And then I get an email last week containing only a YouTube link. Go figure. I don't really want to do anything about it cos' it's simply beneath me but he did make me look like a two-timing scumbag.


Down in the hole / Jesus tries to crack a smile / Beneath another shovel load
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Murphy
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 1:56am Report to Moderator
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Being the miserable old git that I am I would just add that do not get too excited when you receive the email. That is much harder then it sounds, especially when it is your first. But trust me you will avoid the likely slump that follows when you realise your script is not being filmed after all.

Also be very careful about agreeing to change your script just to get it filmed, especially if you have no assurances that it will actually be made. It is too easy to be so eager to have your script produced that you will agree to something you might not actually want to do. Again, it is something you may well regret later. You may well be better not making the changes and waiting for someone who wants to film your script as you intended.

Both of these are lessons I learned the hard way, and I still not have any of my shorts produced (although to be fair I have not written one for a long long time).

Fairly recently I came closer than ever to have something produced, and it was even supposed to have some decent money behind it. But yet again another one that fell through the cracks and it can be very disappointing.


On a more positive note however if this email is genuine and you do get a script filmed then get your arse on Simply Scripts and tell us all, show us the film as soon as you can and do some showing off. You deserve it!



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mcornetto
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 3:48am Report to Moderator
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Thank you Shelton for starting such an informative thread and for taking a balanced approach in your advice.  Each person is going to want something slightly different when they get their script solicited and I think you covered a few different scenarios.  

Personally, what I ask for is writing credit, a copy of the film on DVD and a percentage of profit.  I'm not likely to get any money from it but it's there anyway just in case.

I don't care about rewrites or how they want to change it.  If I'm feeling wary about someone doing a good job with it, I ask that I get to see the film before they put my name on the credits.

When asked by students if they can make one of my films, I give them an educational license.  This allows them to make the film and show it in an educational setting but it must not be distributed or shown in any other circumstances.  This means no YouTube and no Festivals.


  
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dogglebe
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 7:05am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from sniper

Amen to that. I received an email last week containing only a YouTube link to a short film made from one of my scripts. The first (and only) contact I had with the director was about 5-6 months ago.

Now, getting a script produced is always nice...but I told this guy NO from the start. The script he wanted to produce had already been produce at that time so I told him "thanks but no thanks blah blah blah".

And then I get an email last week containing only a YouTube link. Go figure. I don't really want to do anything about it cos' it's simply beneath me but he did make me look like a two-timing scumbag.


I had this problem once.  I contacted youtube and had the video taken down.


Phil

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Barry_Katz
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 7:50am Report to Moderator
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Great thread, thank you all for contributing!  Can permission be granted simply by stating the terms in an email, or should a physical "agreement form" be signed and dated by both parties?


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Shelton
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 8:26am Report to Moderator
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Permission can be granted via email if it's just a simple usage agreement.  If you're going into something more involved like a sale or exclusive rights, it's best to get that on paper in some capacity.


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Xavier
Posted: October 8th, 2009, 8:02pm Report to Moderator
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No one has ever offered to pay me... EVER.

And plus, most of these guys out there who ask to make your script are full of it, they say they will but are too lazy to ever get off the ground... most of them anyways. Personal experience.

Out of about eight people who offered to make my scripts only about three have actually gone through with it.

If I could give a tip, it would be, keep a close eye on the project and check in with them every week so that you know what's going on.


Those who believe that they are the best, the most popular, the go to guy, those are usually the ones who need the most help.
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