Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Be careful what you sign

Just a short post, back after a long break.  I’m planning a more regular blog update this autumn, to coincide with a new script I’m writing.  Details to follow.

My message for the morning is something that is weighing heavily on my mind at the moment.  Three or four years ago, I worked on a project, an original idea that was then commissioned (for a nominal writing fee) into a screenplay by a producer.  The project eventually went nowhere, the option lapsed and I started working on a new idea, in the same rough territory but with a totally new story and characters.  This new script got picked up and fast-tracked into production.  But the fast track has now got stuck in treacle because the original producer is refusing to sign a quit claim on the first script and the new producers – even though the two projects are no more connected than two different cop movies that both just happen to be cop movies – won’t proceed without it.  So it looks like the new project is dead in the water, all because of an old project for which I got paid peanuts and which went nowhere.

The lesson is brutal but clear.  Be extremely careful what you sign, always.  If possible, and if the amounts of money are so small as to be just a token gesture, don’t sign anything.  Retain control of your intellectual property as long as you can, all the way till the point of purchase.  Even if you’re working with people you might have considered friends (a subject for a whole nother blog).

As you can tell, I’m pretty bitter and twisted about this.  But you live and learn, and then you share your learnings.  Keep the pen in the pocket and, wherever possible, keep lawyers a good time zone or two away from your life.

Brighter blogging to follow!

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