The last few days have been a real drain with the Monday deadline having come and gone. I started working on my entry at 2am Sunday morning, and sometime around 3-4pm that afternoon, I found myself with a decision to make.
This script was taking more effort and time than I had ever anticipated. I've been able to churn out a very solid 12-13 pages over the course of four hours of work before, and for some stupid reason I believed this would be no different, but of course it was. Last years placing of 11th in such a vast field of scripts was a very good showing for a first-ever attempt at writing, and topping that with a second-ever attempt is actually more pressure than I thought it would be. So my choices were simple.
I could continue to grind until I had 15 pages, and send it off without so much as a second look, as I did the first time. This resulted in three unacceptable typographical errors that undoubtedly made me look even more green than I already was, and like anything a person writes, it could have been improved greatly with subsequent rewrites and polishes. Did I want to make that mistake again, especially with such a risky subject?
The other option would be to take two extra weeks and sneak it in under the late-deadline. Get that first draft done, and hopefully as many rewrites as humanly possible. Send out the very best material I can muster in that amount of time.
I choose the latter, so we'll see how that works out.
On to other subject matter. I'm new, but I am not stupid. I've been studying writing for going on two years now, and I know a lot about writing specifically, but also the business that surrounds it. I continually read everything I can find on those two things written by people I trust to be tantamount to experts on the subject. Though I am quick to give advice, and explain how things work to people who are not writers, I am equally quick to disclaim myself as authoritative.
I do believe that I understand things better than most people would believe, at least partially because of how my brain processes complex information. I take it all in at once, and then let my subconscious sort it all out later. I reread books and passages repeatedly until they start to feel like second-hand common sense. Things that are true tend to stick around, while bullshit just never quite coalesces. I believe that should I ever break into the business, I will be very well prepared for the majority of the pitfalls that most new writers would not be. Understanding, not just how things work, but also why they work the way they do is key.
I attribute this entirely to my study, and it's something that gives me great comfort when I write. I feel like when I do something -- write something a specific way, or for a specific reason -- it's almost always going to be the right thing to do, because I have that kind of intrepid understanding of the biz. I feel comfort in doing things that are non-traditional, or taboo for nubs, because I have that understanding of the mechanics behind it. Or so I hope.
So when I see something like this, I take comfort in knowing what a giant snake in the grass this guy is. A couple of years ago, I might have bought the crap he was selling, but because of people like JMS, I know better.
The first alarm that goes off should be ringing in anyones head, writer or not. You simply don't make a claims about what a stellar track record you have without coughing up the evidence to back it up. It's an empty-shirt claim, unverifiable. It's like going up to somebody on the street and saying "I have a great track record as a emergency first responder, and volunteer fire-fighter. I won't tell you where or provide proof of any kind, but I want you to trust me with your car, your kids, and also your financial identity." I don't think so. People who make extravagant claims and refuse to back them up with proof are flat out lying.
The next big thing is the 10% script ownership. This is not kosher. Agents take somewhere around 10% commission on sales they generate for you, they do not demand ownership over the script. That's the deal, and it's well understood. Agents take your scripts and sell them for you, just like realestate agents do for homes. Their payment is the commission, period.
Producers also do not make deals like this, they have their own deals with the studios that don't really involve you most of the time. When they do, it's your agent dealing with their production company. Your agent can check them out and if they are reputable, fine. Your agent can and should vet them and their company, that is what they are there for. If you don't have an agent, it's best for you in my opinion to not make deals. Any deal you have in front of you for money involving a contract will get an agents attention like nothing else in this world, so it shouldn't be that hard to pick up legit representation before you sign your life away.
Free rewrites are also bullshit. Not only does the guild forbid this, it's also something (rewrites in general) you negotiate only with studios, because it is going to technically involve production. Producers have nothing at all to do with this. *Nothing*. It's just another part of a multi-tiered scam. While a legitimate producer may ask you for a free rewrite, you are urged to report them to the Writers Guild, and decline. It is not allowed.
As to free options, while it's allowed by the guild, it's never worth it. Wise men have said that any producer who can't afford to pay you an option for your work will never have the resources to do anything with it anyway. Gallagher wants them and sees nothing wrong with it. As far as I'm concerned, that makes him either an outright fraud, or delusional. You really don't want your script in the hands of either.
“You give Rob Gallagher -- who is neither the writer of the screenplay nor the financier who buys the screenplay -- 10% ownership of the screenplay. “
Like you would to any Producer.
This never happens as far as I know. It's nothing more than a ploy to get a percentage of your fee when and if it ever gets sold to a studio. The only people who get paid when you sell something is your agent. Producers simply do not make their money this way.
Beware con artists like this. If I didn't know the relationships between writers and producers, studios and producers, agents and writers, etc, I wouldn't know what a pathetic con man this guy is. The killing fields in Hollywood are littered with the bodies of people abused and destroyed by cons like this, and it can mean the difference between starting, or ending your career.
As usual, research things for yourself if they don't make sense. It pays to know your game.