You are here:

Writing Plays/Screenwriting/Page one re-write...and my rights.

Advertisement


Question
Hello! Thanks for your time. I was asked to direct a short film and was given a four page script. I didn't believe that the script was something I could direct so I did a page one re-write: adding significant changes to the story taking it from a four page script to a 20 page script. 97 percent of the original dialogue is gone. I presented this to the producers funding the film and they thought it was too big for them to make so I decided to walk away. I changed all the character names, changed the title of the film and registered it with the WGA. They did not.  No contract was ever signed. I was never paid. I was never asked to do a re-write, I did it on my own. If it's a page one re-write, can they block me from making my film which is now a completely different idea? I don't think they have but even if they've registered their original four page script, can they copy write or protect an idea if my idea shares one similar plot point: that the protagonist is raped towards the end of the film -- but it is depicted differently in each script? The producers are telling me that I canít work on the script that I walked away with during the time I worked with them because I collaborated with them. I thought if I didnít sign anything or money wasnít exchanged and I registered my script first, then itís mine. I know it may be a lot to ask but do you know the specific law or statute that I could show him that would make him understand that I can not only continue making my page one, re-written script, but that they can not use one line of dialogue that I wrote while collaborating with them.

Answer
I'm not really qualified to definitively answer your question. I urge you to consult an entertainment attorney if this is important to you. From my experience, I feel that the story you wrote is yours. There are no contracts in place, and you've come up with an original story and characters. The plot point of a character being raped can hardly be considered unique or original. I find it hard to believe that the producers would have much of a case. Nonetheless, my opinion is just that: an opinion.

Good luck!

Roger

Writing Plays/Screenwriting

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Roger S. H. Schulman

Expertise

I can answer questions on the creative aspects of writing for features and television comedy: brainstorming, character development, plotting, story structure, dialog, rewriting, editing, etc. I can also address the business side of show business: pitching, writing and presenting treatments, "taking" meetings, common pitfalls, etc. I'm also well versed in the relationship between screenwriting and computers: software for scriptwriting, brainstorming, presentation, outlining, an d general organization. I'm also a producer, and so can answer questions regarding the ins and outs of television production, specifically the half-hour arena. Visit my scriptwriting blog at http://scriptwriting.tumblr.com/

Experience

I have been working in Hollywood as a screenwriter for both TV and features for many years. I'm an Executive Producer and "showrunner" who has run several prime-time and cable comedies. I've written several featurs and contributed to many more for several major studios.

Organizations
Writers Guild of America, West

Publications
Newsweek, BusinessWeek, GQ, Connoisseur, UPI, New York Daily News, please visit my blog at http://scriptwriting.blogspot.com

Education/Credentials
I have a Masters of Science in Journalism from Columbia University.

Awards and Honors
Academy Award Nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay British Academy Award, Best Adapted Screenplay Emmy Award Nomination, Best New Series NAACP "Image" Award, Best Television Comedy "Annie" Award, Best Animated Film

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.