I would like to know more about franchises such as ALIEN. Seems as if a script has a definite potential for a sequel, it has a franchise built around it. I’ve read the story of the original screenwriter that wrote the initial ALIEN, before Ridley Scott got to it. It seem that he didn’t participate in the sequels at all. So can an “idea provider,” or a script writer, or anyone at the initial state of the development secure a place in the franchise to be made around that idea? How does one go about starting it the right way?

–Simion
Moscow

Ultimately, it comes down to contracts. Many writer’s contracts will state that the original screenwriter has the right of first negotiation in terms of sequels, spin-offs, or other uses of the underlying material. Hopefully, when your lawyer was making the deal for MAXIMUM MAYHEM, your brilliant spec screenplay, she included this kind of language. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee you’ll be the one writing MAXIMUM MAYHEM 2.

Movies that are made under the auspices of the WGA have some special provisions that get you paid even if you don’t write the sequel, generally by way of residuals. But it’s no substitute for having that protection in your initial contract.

By the way, it’s not just screenwriters who are concerned with staying on board a franchise. Producers have a vested interest in making sure they’re not booted off the gravy train. Their contracts are just are as tightly drawn to keep them involved in the life of a franchise.