A year and a half ago I pitched a scripted series to a cable network and it was optioned for development.
I was contracted for and completed a series bible, and script (plus polish). Based on programming issues they were having, they decided they wanted to change the direction and tone of the series. So I was contracted for and wrote another script (plus polish) under the new creative. All of this was without a series deal in place. I worked only with contracts for the scripts. Those contracts stated “good faith” negotiations if/when they decided to go to pilot/series. Terminating me from project reverts rights to me.
They loved it, they said. A surefire hit, they said. Let’s find a showrunner, they said.
Perhaps I should have begun to sweat right then and there. But I was excited about a showrunner, especially since they were reaching out to high caliber people. Every showrunner (supposedly) said the same thing. “This is a franchise.”
I was asked to choose one of the suggested names and was excited by the options. They told us they were skipping the pilot — going straight to series.
And then came the series negotiations, and the hell I am currently in. The money offered is despicable. (As this is cable, I use peer standards, not even industry. And it was worse than bad.) My highly reputable lawyer is disrespectful and rude to me and promised numbers that he didn’t run by me first. And all credits (Creator and Producer) are subject to either WGA or CAVCO. They will not lock for life, only one cycle. The ONLY thing guaranteed is 2 out of 12 episodes written. They have made it clear that the high profile showrunner is the priority.
Is there any way to salvage this situation? How does one determine when to walk away? I am well aware of how many people would do anything to get their ideas on screen. Without a guarantee of credits or money, is it worth it?
Full rights do revert back to me, but not for approximately 2 years.
Get a new lawyer. Fast.
You’ll have no trouble finding one. Assuming you have an agent/manager, get them on the hunt. If you don’t, start calling the major entertainment law firms (they’re all in Beverly Hills or Century City) and say this:
“Hi. My name is Mary Writer, I have a series commitment over at Comedy Central (or wherever). I’m looking for a new attorney to close the deal.”
You’ll get someone. Trust me.
Are you in jeopardy of getting pushed off the show you created? Absolutely. But the Big Showrunner is no doubt WGA, which means “created by” credit will be handled by the WGA. Which means you’re almost certainly going to get credit. Ask Jeffrey Lieber from Lost.
Now, stop reading and start dialing. You need a better attorney, stat.