Film Agreement for Screenwriters

If you’re offered a chance to be hired as a screenwriter for a feature film project you must be aware of the major deal points of a film agreement.  It is also extremely important that you hire an experienced entertainment attorney to negotiate your film agreement for you and to review all drafts of the film agreement for screenwriters to make sure that you rights are protected.

The major deal points of a film agreement for screenwriters include but are not limited to compensation; services provided; and writing and reading periods.

There are two types of compensation that are generally provided in a film agreement. The first type of compensation is fixed compensation.  Fixed compensation is your guaranteed salary.  If you are hired by a signatory to the Writer’s Guild Minimum Basic Agreement (“MBA”) then you cannot be paid less than the MBA minimum for that writing service (example: first draft of the screenplay), of course you can always been paid more.  To find out what the MBA minimums are, you can go the Writer’s Guild website.  If you are hired by a non-signatory, then your fixed compensation can be less than the MBA minimum.

The second type of compensation is contingent compensation.  This means that your compensation is contingent on certain factors.  The most common type of contingent compensation is called “net profits.”   Contingent compensation is a very difficult area to negotiate and it is crucial that you hire an experienced entertainment attorney to negotiate for you.

There are various services provided that a motion picture or movie screenwriter provides.  They are often called “writing steps.”  The first service is called a “treatment.”  It is basically a short story version of the screenplay.  It is not written in screenplay form.  The second service is a “first draft screenplay.”  This is a full screenplay.  The third service is a “rewrite.”  This is a rewrite of the first draft screenplay involving major changes in the first draft screenplay.  The fourth service is a “polish.”  This is a rewrite of the rewrite involving fewer changes than the rewrite.  These are just a few of the many writing services that  a screenwriter can provide.

Writing and reading periods are also a staple of the film agreement for screenwriters.   A writing period is the amount of time you are given to complete a writing step.  For example, a studio might give you two or three weeks to complete the treatment.  A reading period is the amount of time the studio has to read your writing step and then meet with you to discuss their comments and criticisms, often called “notes.”  For example, after you turn in your treatment, the studio might be required to read it and meet with you within two weeks. As are all provisions in your film agreement the amount of time for reading and writing periods are negotiable and you should hire an experienced entertainment attorney to negotiate for you.

This is just a basic introduction to the film agreement for screenwriters. Again, if you are offered a job as a screenwriter, it is crucial that you hire an experienced entertainment attorney to represent you.  Whether you are you are offered employment by a signatory to the MBA or a non-signatory to the MBA, you should hire an experienced entertainment attorney to negotiate for you.

For further information and a free consultation regarding a film agreement for screenwriters, contact Richard Freiman at (818) 378-3530 or via the form on the right.