Friday, 7 March 2008

Devil at the Crossroads...

Before I get into what is going to be a fairly lengthy blog, I've just posted a more detailed blog about the Ten Dead Men comic here:

Anyway, tonight I may have done something very brave or very stupid, depending on how you look at it. First here's some background explaining why.

A few years ago, when I was fresh out of university and eager for experience, I wrote a short script that became both my first independently produced film and my first experience of the pitfalls of working as an unpaid writer. The script was an original based entirely on my own ideas. I sent it to a director who claimed to love it, and after a trial by fire on another short he was working on (a long story which I won't go into here) he started pre-production on my script. The process was this - he would send me a draft with his changes, I would send back a draft with my changes. Throughout the process the story and structure remained the same - the only major development was the ending which we discussed in detail before I wrote a new ending. For the most part his changes were limited to odd bits of dialogue and the occasional reordering of scenes.

Then one day, on about draft 15, I got a copy of the script that had his name on it as well as mine. And this is where I went wrong - I washed my hands of the whole thing. I didn't say as much, I just didn't do anymore work on it, didn't go along to any of the rehearsals where no doubt more of the script would be changed, and avoided the filming itself. After what had happened with the first film we worked on, I didn't think it would ever get made. Annoyingly, it did get made and it was actually quite good (at least I thought so - others have disagreed). What was even more annoying is that the finished film was almost identical to my very first draft of the script. Despite this not only was the director credited as a writer, his name appeared above mine - and that wasn't even alphabetical order!

Although I was quite angry at the time, I was still really excited to have a short film made from my script and ultimately I can't blame the director for crediting himself as a writer (although I still think it was a bit cheeky to put it above mine!). I gave him that credit when I decided to stop working on the script. I decided that rather than make my feelings clear about something I had a very real problem with, I would just turn my back on the whole thing. And as a result a fairly good film got made that never has and never will do anything for my career. It's not something that still keeps me awake at night or anything, but I've always said I wouldn't let that happen again.

And here I am in the same situation with Hit the Big Time, except this time I'm one of four writers credited. I did sort of see this coming with the short film - I wrote the first draft of the script, came up with the story, structure and characters, wrote another draft or so then didn't see it for a while. When it came back to me it was something like draft 10. And again, aside from the dialogue, not much had changed except for some essential plot elements in the first act which I'll get to later. I did a final rewrite to fix the opening and that was it. And I knew that despite the work I'd put in at the beginning I probably wouldn't get any more of a credit than anyone else who worked on it. And I thought I was okay with this. Until I saw it on IMDB.

I did talk about this briefly a couple of weeks ago, and in part I am still happy for the credit on the short to stay as it is. But the feature is a different matter. As I mentioned before, I've already done a lot of work on this and the feature will involve two or three months of work at least. And during that time I have projects lined up that are just as likely to get produced only I will get full writing credit. I know I've been lucky with Ten Dead Men because despite Ross and Phil writing parts of that script it was never an issue that I would get full writing credit. But without that credit I just can't justify putting that much work into something that I'll ultimately never have any control over.

The reason I've waited this long before bringing it up is that it's a good project and I don't want to lose it. I got a call from the producer the other day asking if I wanted to meet with the American producer on the film who would no doubt be a great contact. But no matter how much I tried to remind myself of the benefits I kept coming back to the same point - I'm not going to enjoy working on this film knowing that I'm not going to get full credit for what I've done. Also I didn't know how to go about raising it with the film-makers. Some people I spoke to about it said I should cut my losses completely and just take a story credit, but I wanted to leave myself the option of still working on the project. But if I do lose the project it will be one less thing to work on which can only be a good thing right now.

Anyway, I could go one forever about this issue. I've sent an e-mail to the filmmakers and am now awaiting a response. The e-mail I sent was quite direct and to the point but hopefully presented a reasonable argument. I also made it clear I was happy for them to use all the work I'd done so far and would gladly proof read the script if they choose to write it without me. I'm a bit worried that some people will take it the wrong way, partly because despite this recent issue they're all nice people, but mainly because I'll have to see them all at the Ten Dead Men premiere. But if they do it can't be helped - I've been worrying about this for the last two weeks and now I need to get on with my life. I'll let you know what kind of response I get when I hear back.

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