Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Writing Assignment Tracker I

Two posts in one day.  Like waiting for the number 19 etc.

So here’s my new blog topic.  I’ve recently been lucky enough to be engaged to write the screenplay adaptation of a popular novel (I won’t go into more details of the project at the moment).  I’ve just received the final copy of the contract from my wonderful agent Sean Gascoine, in which the terms of the engagement were broken down.

I don’t believe these terms are confidential, so I thought it would be instructive to my blog readers to see how an assignment like this is broken down, both in terms of steps and time allocated.  I’ve typed it all out below. 

I started work on step one (first draft treatment) this week.  My intention is to keep a record of the timings on this project, and any other notes which feel appropriate, in this blog.  A real-time writing assignment tracker, as it were.  See if we end up ahead of or waaaaaaay behind schedule, and see where there was perhaps too much or too little time allocated in the contract.  Maybe at the end I’ll be able to say what it was all in aid of.

Hope you enjoy.



Time Allocated

Estimated Date


First Draft Treatment

1 month



First Draft Treatment client comments

3 weeks



Second Draft Treatment

10 days



Second Draft Treatment client comments

4 weeks



First Draft

12 weeks



First Draft client comments

8 weeks



Revised First Draft

4 weeks



Revised First Draft client comments

2 weeks



Second Draft

4 weeks



Second Draft First Set

6 weeks



Second Draft Second Set

6 weeks


Wow.  That’s over a year’s work.  Hadn’t thought it was that much.  And I was planning on getting a first draft out by Christmas...

Any comments on this basic proposal at this stage?  I presume we all agree that just because it says 1 month for the first draft of the treatment, doesn’t mean I need to take the full month, does it?  I’m almost done.

Well, we’ll see how it all goes.

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!