Free lunch

I read some advice to scriptwriters somewhere recently about never paying for lunch. I can’t really remember where it was or who said it. I can’t remember whether it was an instruction:

NEVER pay for lunch!

Or on a list of mistakes scriptwriters make:

7) Paying for lunch.

I can’t even remember whether it was serious or meant as a joke; but I do know this: it’s bad advice.

Yes, the producer is hiring you. He called you in for a meeting, he wants to buy your services, he’s probably paying your travel expenses, so he should pay for lunch too. Sounds right, doesn’t it? After all, they’re the big money bags producers and we’re the poor, starving writers …

Fuck that shit.

That’s an employer/employee relationship. You don’t want that relationship; you want to be their friend, you want to be their equal, you want to be their partner in crime.

I’m not saying you should pretend to be friends with people – that’s pointless and soul destroying – but if you like this guy and you get on, then you being friends with them gives you advantages over being an employee.

If an employee tells you your script idea sucks, you sack him and find someone who’ll do what you tell them. If a mate tells you the same thing you listen. Yes, you might have an employee whose opinion you trust and whose judgement you listen to, but a friend is someone you’ll want to work with again and again.

With every new project, the producer has a list of writers he can go to. Different writers are better at different things and he’s more likely to go to the horror guy for a horror film and the comedy guy for a comedy film … and being one of those ‘go to guys’ is a great position to be in.

But isn’t it far better to be the mate in the pub the producer is having a few drinks with and a bit of a laugh when the idea first hits?

When he says he’s got this half-baked idea for a film and through the laughter and the beers (or coke, or even tea in my case) you thrash out a story … who’s he going to go to for the script? You’ve already worked on it together, you’ve already shown you’re on the same wavelength and you get his idea. You’re friends – he knows you can deliver what he asks for on time and to standard AND he likes working with you. Yes, he may think of you as the horror guy; but what the hell, he might as well let you have a go at being the comedy guy too.

And all this starts with three simple words:

“I’ll get this.”

You don’t have to buy all the drinks, you don’t even have to match him round for round; but you can at least offer to pay once in a while.

My mate had a few dates with this girl a few years back who never, ever brought her purse with her when they went out. He intended to pay for all the drinks, after all he’d asked her out – hell, he wanted to pay for all the drinks, probably because it made him feel more masculine and vaguely superior … but the fact she expected him to pay for everything and had no intention of even offering to pay rang alarm bells and just pissed him off. Did she just see him as a meal ticket? Was he just a wallet on legs to this girl? With a penis?

Is that how you want producers to think you see them? As two legged cock-wallets? Offer to pay for a round now and then you tight bastards.

Same with lunch, just pay every now and then – pick the cheap restaurants if it really bothers you – but get yourself on that even footing. He’s not your employer, he’s your mate and together you’re going to take on the world.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, well there is … but it’s a bad thing.

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Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Free lunch

  1. I think the whole “Never pay for lunch” thing is an American guideline, which in effect monitors percieved hierarchy/status and whether the producer is serious… Although I could be talking b*ll*cks. 😉

  2. What about dinner followed by breakfast? Its my new strategy.

  3. What are you talking about Barron, you loon?

    If you’re friends with someone, absolutely. Or if they’re a poor producer without two pennies to rub together… (But in that case you’ll be working on spec, effectively, anyway.)

    But if these people are actual, working professionals, with actual money which they can give to you in order to write an actual script to turn into an actual finished product, then they have an actual expense account.

    Which means they’re not paying for lunch either. Their company is.

    So both of you should have a nice meal, and enjoy it. On the company. And neither of you should pay a penny. It’s part of the company’s investment in you, and the two of you deserve it.

    All this, of course, is for lunch. If you’re just having a drink, then get your damn round in.

  4. I often get drinks and lunch confused.

  5. This advice was in those blasted Shooting Script emails. I’ve never paid for a lunch with a producer. Hopefully that continues.

  6. Me neither, but I offered once. That’s got to count for something, surely?

  7. John Kell

    Well… it’s not an employee-employer relationship, is it? You’re not on the producer’s staff – it’s a commercial transaction, between client and seller. And businesses like consultancies do sometimes take their clients out for dinner… But they’re not writers. Piers is right about expense accounts!

  8. “I’ll get this.”

    “No, don’t worry – I’ll put it on the expense account.”

    “Oh cool.”

    And you’re on even footing. Sort of. This was just a random witter – it’s very hard to defend properly because I don’t fully believe in it. I just think never is a long time.

    Oh, and I picked up a new job on Thursday – one of the first things the producer said was “I like that thing on your blog about treating producers like friends instead of meal tickets.”

    But he still paid for dinner.

    So bite me.

    All of you.

  9. You’re absolutely right. A producer took me to lunch at a modest restaurant and insisted on paying. So the next time, he wanted to go to a posher place and I thought I’d be paying, so I had a modest lunch while he stuffed his face with fuckloads of food and about 350 bottles of wine. But no – at the end of lunch, I whipped out my credit card, but the producer refused to let me pay. We nearly ended up having a Mrs Doyle from Father Ted tussle on the floor. “I’ll pay yer big fecker! No I’ll pay yer gobshite” – but in the end he paid. If I’d known he was going to pay I’d have had the steak and claret. Bastard.

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