Writing With A Friend
Writing a script is a labor of love and there's a good chance you'll be doing it with a friend or getting feedback from some people that you know. If you wrote the script completely by yourself, this article isn't for you. If you're writing or thinking about writing something with a friend or going to option or purchase a script written by more than one person, keep reading.
Collaboration Agreements are more commonly used when one of the co-writers is doing the brunt of the work. For example, a producer reads a script that she likes but it needs a lot of work so the producer is going to make some edits and continue giving feedback to the writer. Co-Writer Agreements are typically used for co-writers who are writing a script together from scratch.
If you're writing with a partner and you do not have a written agreement, then copyright law controls your relationship. So what does this mean? It means you've potentially created a huge mess, regardless of whether your script receives offers or not. If your script receives offers: who has the power to accept or reject offers, whose name goes first in the credits, who did most of the work, and how will revenue be split? If there's no traction with the script: then who has the power to continue development (alone or with another party), what happens to the credits if one of you continues development with someone else, and at that point who has the power to accept or reject offers? The answer to most of these questions is that “you don't know” and that's a problem. What you should know is that if any of the aforementioned questions aren't answered in a written agreement, then there's significant potential for a monkey wrench to be thrown into your project that could cease development or prevent a deal.
If you're a producer thinking about optioning or purchasing a script written by more than one person, make sure that your attorney gets a close look at the collaboration or co-writer agreement. Whether the writers have one or not, the producer must make sure that the questions posed above are answered so there aren't any hiccups down the road. If there isn't a collaboration or co-writer agreement, or the agreement is just poorly written, spell everything out in the option or purchase agreement such as: who has the power to continue development, how are the writer's being paid, what's the order of credits, etc.
There's a lot more to Collaboration and Co-Writer Agreements than what I mentioned above. If you are thinking about writing with a partner or optioning/purchasing a script written by more than one person, reach out to my office at (424) 202-4239, send an email to [email protected], or visiting the website at pittentertainmentlaw.com and filling out a consult form.