Monday, February 02, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 57 – Retaining Rights and the Solicitation List, Questions for a Manager

Right now, I’m the only one in the League who has secured representation - but the others are not far behind. Because of that, this whole querying through signing (and then the selling and everything beyond) is new to us. I’m sort of like the League’s guinea pig when it comes to dealing with people responsible for our careers. As a young, “emerging” writer, I can tell you that this has been both an exciting and, at times, stressful month and a half.

For Christmas, (as you’ll recall, I mentioned before) I got a copy of The Real, Low Down, Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting. (Read it if you haven’t.) That book, along with other things I’ve heard and read, gave me a fairly strong sense of what I could expect if my career begins to take off. But I still had questions on what if anything I could be doing now to help my career later, as well as other things I wanted to know about in terms of projects I’m working on.

Last week I was happy to have a brief but very helpful chat with my manager. I had a sort of laundry list of things to ask him. Hopefully, this will be useful to some of you, especially if you’re an action writer like I seem to be at the moment.

-My current project, the Roman-army spec, could really be a comic book series, if not a film. Since my manager works in comics also, I figured I’d get his take on it. His answer: there’s no point in sitting on an amazing script that’s written in order to make it a comic first. If people don’t bite for the screenplay, I can always go the comic route and come back to the screenplay when there’s source material on it. (Granted, if I really wanted to do the comic first, I could. But I’ll go with my manager’s inclination on this one.)

-What about my other projects? I have another complete spec and wanted to know if he wanted to handle one project at a time, or take a look at that one now. He said to send anything over once I think it’s ready. So, he now has two of my babies.

-Industry contacts: when I was an intern at one of the major companies here in NYC four years ago, I developed a pretty good relationship with my supervisor. I asked my manager if he thought it was worth sending to her, since her current company has a first-look with one of the big studios. I was particularly concerned about maintaining credit as a first-time writer and thought that working with her might safeguard me a bit. He said that would be a fine route to go, that honoring relationships like that is always a good thing to do in this biz.

-Finally, one of the things I asked was about retaining rights. I’m no legal expert, but I know that it can be hard if not impossible to secure the rights to characters and franchise elements that you’ve created (I’m talking rights to royalties for toys, posters, video games, etc. based on your material). Both projects I’ve give him have big franchise potential, and I want – reasonably, I think – to have access to part of any spinoff, especially things like comics or TV shows based on the film. (Yeah, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, but I think this kind of thing is important for writers to be aware of, at least. I have zero negotiating power at the moment, but it helps to know what I can fight for, especially if other people are seeing dollar signs.)

My manager said that the best way to secure those rights is to find your script in the middle of a bidding war, which is why I’m a bit relieved that the company we gave an exclusive to passed. At the end of the week, my manager emailed me the Solicitation List for companies we’re going to target next. He covered basically every major studio in the nine spot-on selections he made. Now, the waiting begins again. I hope it’s worth it.