You and your screenplay client or writing partner have hashed out the project details and are raring to get started on the writing process. Problem is – one of you is getting hung up on the contractual details of the partnership. A screenplay contract or writer’s agreement is absolutely crucial – however, sometimes the neurotic or paranoid partner may start to get the screenplay contract jitters. In many cases, the person getting their knicker in a knot may not be either partner; it may be an overzealous lawyer who seems intent on stalling the project. In which case, the project can be delayed for an indeterminate amount of time – or fail to get off the ground at all.
While it’s important to protect both the writer’s and client’s interests, drafting a long form writer’s agreement can easily get out of hand. Is your screenplay contract getting in the way of a potentially fruitful partnership? Read on to find out:
- Has the writer already invested a significant amount of time and contract quibbles are delaying payment? Then it may be time to engage in a short form screenplay agreement.
- Are there foreign-sounding provisions in the contract that no one understands, and will likely require 20 hours of a lawyer’s attention (not to mention major $$$)?
- Is it starting to feel like the contract is the job, and you’ve forgotten the real task is writing the screenplay?
If any of this sounds like your situation, in the interim the partners can initiate a “short form agreement.”
The short form agreement is not intended as the be-all / end-all of contracts between the parties. It’s merely a crutch to get the ball rolling… While it can be written in a way to protect both parties, it cannot be considered a substitute for the reasonable long form contract drawn up by knickers-in-a-knot man (the lawyer).
What many people don’t realize is that two parties can have a binding agreement that’s written in easy-to-understand language. For a short form contract to hold, it doesn’t need to be written in Latin. You shouldn’t have to go to college for X amount of years to get the project’s scope on paper.
What does a short form agreement look like? First off, be sure to include the following items in your short form agreement:
- What are the requirements of the writing assignment?
- When does/did the project begin?
- When shall the project end?
- What is the writer’s compensation?
- Who owns the rights to the product?
Ensure you include language that states that this screenplay contract is merely a short form agreement, and that a long form agreement will be entered at a later date.
If you wish, you are welcome to freely use the short form agreement template below. We’ve used this writer’s agreement many times with clients.
—-begin short form agreement template—-
Wednesday, August 16, 2015
This contract stipulates our agreement regarding the Teleplay for your TV Show idea, temporarily titled “The Teleplay” (working title), further referred to as “The Teleplay.”
I agree to write “The Teleplay” based on your ideas in exchange for $2000 (paid via paypal).
We both understand that “The Teleplay” requires “development” as there are anecdotes, but no actual story, which must be developed. I will develop the story for you and foresee a 2‐4 week turnaround.
However, we both want a script of the highest quality and I will continue doing further drafts if necessary to create the strongest version of “The Teleplay.”
Once “The Teleplay” is complete to our satisfaction, I will use my industry contacts to shop the “The Teleplay” to networks and production companies.
Should “The Teleplay” be purchased, I anticipate being compensated for my work via WGA rules and extend first “right of refusal” to participate in the development of the show.
Through this process, the ideas, characters and concept of “The Teleplay” is the property of you, the Client. I, the Screenwriter, merely reserve the right to be compensated if this “version” of your idea is sold to a network, production company or media entity warranting the production of “The Teleplay” (temporary title).
This is a short form agreement. We both agree to enter a more detailed agreement upon the sale of “The Teleplay.”
Name of Screenwriter
Name of Client
—-end short form agreement template—-
Please note: Short Script Gods are writers, not lawyers. We provide advice and suggestions based on our experiences – however, we cannot provide legal counsel. Consultation with your lawyer is recommended to determine the legal effect of this document and any other document or blog on our site, no matter how cocky we may sound.