A question …

Let’s say, for example, two of your friends are sitting in a bar. One’s a producer, the other’s a director and you’ve worked with both of them before. They’re talking to the director’s sister, who happens to be something like, say, head of production at a fairly major production company.

Just as a random example.

Now, imagine the sister mentions her production company is looking to do more comedy and the director recommends she talk to you. She asks a few questions and the producer, who might be the kind of guy with very good people skills and pretty much talks for a living, pitches one of your sitcoms – something you’ve almost forgotten you wrote.

This isn’t the question by the way, this is just a hypothetical example to set the scene.

So let’s say the sister likes the idea (probably because of the way it was pitched) and asks a very interesting question:

“Would he be interested in a meeting with the head of development?”

Again, not the question I’m building up to, just a hypothetical situation which could possibly happen given the right conditions – feel free to make up your own example.

So the director confirms you would probably sacrifice all the first born of Eastbourne (or any small coastal town, it doesn’t matter) for the opportunity for a one to one meeting. The sister asks the director to ask you to send in a CV.

Everyone with me so far?

The question’s coming – honest.

Let’s say you send in your CV and the head of production gives you a shit load of really, really useful advice about presenting your CV in a better light and asks you to send in some script samples.

Now, to the point: Is it ethical to send in a sample which is in production by a third party? You’ve signed a contract, they have the rights and are currently making the film/TV show/whatever; assuming they’re not available to ask permission, would you send that sample, which I believe morally (if not legally) belongs to someone else?

I’ve always thought no, but then other writers I’ve spoken to don’t seem to have a problem with it.

What do you think?

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Categories: Industry Musings, Progress | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “A question …

  1. Have you signed an NDA?

    Hypothetically speaking.

  2. Ah, that would involve reading the stuff I sign.

    No, I haven’t; but there’s legal and there’s ethical. I’m usually one and rarely the other.

    Hypothetically.

  3. Interesting one Phill! I once gave a high profile producer a sample script that was in development with somebody else but the producer didn’t dig that at all, felt it was pointless. He said: “It’s like Bullseye: Let’s see what you could have won”. But I doubt if it’s like this for every producer, especially if they know it’s only a sample.

  4. If it’s just a sample of your writing, then anything you’ve written works. I’ve got a script in development at the moment which is my current TV sample, and has been getting good responses. If they’re looking to option/buy something, then they can be used as backup to the thing you want to flog. Nothing unethical about it at all, barring the NDA Piers mentions. They want to see your most current stuff? Send it.

  5. I suppose there’s the argument here ‘if they didn’t want you to tell anyone, they would have got you to sign an NDA’; or at least asked you not to tell anyone.

    Which makes sense.

    Danny: I don’t really understand your producer’s point of view, if he’s asked for a sample rather than ‘have you got any scripts?’ then I don’t see what his beef was.

    James: are the people who are developing your current sample happy to let you send it to anyone who asks? Do they not want some element of secrecy about it?

    I guess my issue with it comes from knowing scripts get passed around. I’ve received scripts from people who received it from someone else who got it from … etc; and at every stage of the process, every person has promised not to show it to anyone else.

    And then done it anyway.

    NDA or not, I can’t help feeling I’d be pretty pissed off if the script for something I was developing ended up in my competitors hands.

    I guess the ideal sample is something new and available and something produced and released. Which is where I fall down, I haven’t written anything on spec for years and what I have left is the stuff no one else wanted.

    But here’s another interesting wrinkle – what if your latest sample was a film and the idea for the film was the producer’s? You are a writer for hire; he hasn’t specifically todl you not to tell anyone, but he’s proud of what he thinks is a unique idea.

    This really is hypothetical, by the way. I think that would definitely be wrong.

  6. Oh, and I sent the samples yesterday, so I guess I’ve already made my mind up. I’m just curious to see what other people think.

  7. Hypothetically.

  8. I think that you’re going to be sent to Writer Jail, where you will be beaten severely every day.

    Don’t know if they mind it being sent around, but we’ve been sending it “out” trying to get it commissioned (it’s a pilot script), so it’s out of the bag really. If someome else tried to develop the same thing (i.e. nick it) it’d be pretty obvious that they were doing so.

  9. Writer jail sounds fun. I take a holiday in Scarborogh every year which amounts to about the same thing.

    I suppose a pilot looking for a commission is different. I’m guessing you wouldn’t use your Doctor Who script as a sample? What about a feature script which had a budget and was due to shoot later in the year?

    These questions aren’t specifically aimed at you, James. Just random thoughts fired out of my face hole.

  10. You are, you’re aiming them *right* at me, you monster. Nope, DW can’t be used as a sample, what with the massive levels of secrecy and tons of people who are always looking for tasty news snippets and spoilers – and I think there’s NDA stuff in my contract too, can’t remember (who reads contracts before signing them?? Ridiculous behaviour)

    I’ve got two other gigs on the go which can be used as samples, as far as I know (well, when I’ve finished them). Feature script with budget and shooting date is perfectly legitimate as a sample, with the added bonus that they can’t dismiss it because it’s being made, and ting. It’s a sample of your work, just happens to be in the works.

  11. Alright, I was aiming them at you; or at least the first one.

    Damn, I’m sure I used to be more subtle.

    Good answers though.

  12. Hypothetically, that all sounds rather good, doesn’t it?

  13. James’ answers?

    Or the hypothetical scenario?

  14. The scenario. Though James’ answer was also very nice.

  15. Yes, it’s very nice. Don’t know if anything will come of it; but at least my CV’s had a damn good polish.

  16. It may or may not be moral, but they didn’t get you to sign an NDA, or tell you not to mention it to anyone, so hell- you could shout the script line by line from the rooftops (of small buildings at least- screaming from the top of the Beeb’s Television center might not get you much aside from a nasty cold) and they couldn’t really have anyone to blame but themselves.

    I mean, it’s not like it’s going to be published, or poached and produced by this production company- so what harm can it do right?

    Another interesting question, is: I wonder if the third party know you sent it off…

    They probably do now, given that you’ve posted it on your blog, ah well, it’s only a sample right? It’s not like you’ve pitched them the idea. Just think of it like you showed somebody some of the sketches of a finished show.

    All sounds very juicy however!

    Not that I’m condoning soaking your CV in Sunny D before you send it off- that would just be silly.

    *Puts away Sunny Delight bottle*

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