One of my screenwriter friends in particular needs to read this article. You know who you are.
It comes courtesy of Michele Wallerstein — a highly respected screenplay, novel and career consultant. Her specialty is helping writers get their work into shape so it is marketable for the Hollywood community and/or publishing world.
Her new book, “Mind Your Business: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career” is due out in July, 2010, so make sure you put that on your Amazon Wish List.
The Question Of Writing For Free
by Michele Wallerstein
Somewhere along the line someone will ask you to write something for free. The decision whether to do this, or not, is not as simple as it seems.
For members of the Writers Guild of America, it is not allowed, so there is no problem. For new writers it is a real temptation. After all, what’s the harm? Maybe it will sell and you’ll get paid then. It’s a great experience. This producer will “owe you.” There are so many thoughts running around in your head telling you that you should do this favor which might turn into a real bonanza for you.
Not! This is not a good idea for the following reasons:
- You will not own your own work. If there is a reversion clause in the deal with this producer, it will come after everyone in town has already looked at the script.
- The producer has the right to bring in any number of other writers to change your script.
- Invariably the producer will want re-writes and polishes. Perhaps many of each (also for no money).
- You will be spending a lot more time then you originally expected on this project and at the end you will not have the right to show it to anyone.
- Your time is much better spent writing original material, going to writers conferences, going to film festivals, reading books on screenwriting, going to Starbucks to network with other writers, etc.
- The producer will not feel that he/she owes you anything.
- If the producer wants a script for free, it usually means that he/she is not a professional and will try to use your work to get in to the industry.
- In the unlikely event that this project does sell, you will not be in the position to get much out of it, unless you have a hard and fast contract upfront.
Michele Wallerstein is a former Literary Agent. She can be reached at: