Sunday, November 12, 2017

#Scriptchat Transcript: Jeff Willis @jwillis81 (entertainment exec & writer) talks business aspects of exploring writing niches beyond screenwriting. November 12, 2017

At tonight's #scriptchat we got down to business with guest Jeff Willis @jwillis81 discussing IP rights.

Moderated by @SarahAlexis4


Read the transcript below or here.

#Scriptchat Transcript: Jeff Willis @jwillis81 (entertainment exec & writer) talks business aspects of exploring...

#Scriptchat Transcript: Jeff Willis @jwillis81 (entertainment exec & writer) talks business aspects of exploring...

At tonight's #scriptchat we got down to business with guest Jeff Willis @jwillis81 discussing IP rights. Moderated by @SarahAlexis4
  1. Time for #scriptchat w/ guest @jwillis81 (Ent. exec & writer)! TOPIC: Business aspects of exploring writing niches beyond screenwriting. Login here to chat: 
  2. Looks like hasn't caught onto the 280 characters yet, so I guess we're doing this old school! #scriptchat
  3. Welcome, all! I'll be moderating tonight's chat w/ guest @jwillis81 (Ent. exec & writer). #scriptchat
  4. TOPIC: : Business aspects of exploring writing niches beyond screenwriting. #scriptchat
  5. @SarahAlexis4 @jwillis81 Woo! Thanks for hosting and answering questions. Looking forward to this! #scriptchat
  6. @jwillis81 No worries, we can follow multiple tweets for answers / thoughts, if you want/need. :) #scriptchat
  7. We do this convo every now and then, but the world of alternate entertainment is always changing #scriptchat
  8. Please join me in welcoming our guest @jwillis81! Thank you for joining us, Jeff! Really excited to have you here. #scriptchat
  9. @jwillis81 Before we get down to business, can we start with you telling us a bit about you and your background in the industry? #scriptchat
  10. I'm a writer with a day job, that day job being working for prodcos and studios for the last 13+ years #scriptchat
  11. @jwillis81 And perhaps a few words on tonight's topic to help us start generating some questions / discussion? Thanks! #scriptchat
  12. I've worked in creative, physical production, and mostly business affairs. I currently work for Marvel Studios... #scriptchat
  13. ... and previously did stints at Beacon Pictures, The Weinstein Company, and a few startups in between. #scriptchat
  14. For those just joining us, welcome! Our guest tonight is entertainment exec and writer @jwillis81! #scriptchat
  15. @dh435363 I got started interning at Beacon Pictures while in film school, and that translated to an asst job after I graduated. #scriptchat
  16. TOPIC: Business aspects of exploring writing niches beyond screenwriting #scriptchat
  17. As far as a few words on tonight's topic, I'd thought I'd start by making a quick analogy. #scriptchat
  18. When most people think of a screenplay, they think of it like a singular product. Like a car, or a vacuum cleaner. #scriptchat
  19. In reality though, when you create a piece of intellectual property (IP), there are actually a bundle of rights that comes with. #scriptchat
  20. So your script isn't a car, it's more like a baseball card collection, where the whole collection has value, sure... #scriptchat
  21. ... but each individual card also has value, and some are worth more than others. #scriptchat
  22. What I thought I'd talk about today is what those different parts or "cards" are. #scriptchat
  23. @jwillis81 Q: Right, so what would be some of the individual baseball cards that make up the whole in terms of our screenplay? #scriptchat
  24. So in addition to motion picture rights (the right to turn your story and characters into a movie), IP rights also include... #scriptchat
  25. @jeannevb @jwillis81 We'll have to give him a generous pour of his #scriptchat beverage of choice! haha
  26. the right to mount stage plays, or create video games, or publish a book, or license the character for use in a board game, etc. #scriptchat
  27. And within each set of rights, that can be subdivided. For example, within motion picture rights, a company might only want... #scriptchat
  28. @jwillis81 Got it! So other ways to use our IP / story aside from the rights for just a screenplay for a motion picture. #scriptchat
  29. ... the TV rights. Or the rights to make a motion picture in European territories only. #scriptchat
  30. Most studios want ALL rights. This is for a few reasons. (1) most studios are conglomerates that have a lot of biz interests #scriptchat
  31. And (2) if a studio is going to spend lots on a movie, they don't want to leave rights on the table that other people can exploit #scriptchat
  32. So your agent/manager should negotiate remuneration of each of those rights… can you g’zinta that? #scriptchat
  33. They wouldn't want to spend millions to make a movie, only to have someone else own, say, the stage rights and be able... #scriptchat
  34. ... to produce a stage play off of the movie they spent the money to make into a hit. #scriptchat
  35. #scriptchat So in other words they'll be a lot of paper work if I sell a screenplay
  36. There are situations where selling IP to a studio involves "reserved rights" or those rights which the writer does NOT sell. #scriptchat
  37. And there are also situations where the writer will only "license" certain rights to the studio and keep the rest. #scriptchat
  38. The most important thing to understand about this dynamic is this... the price you're paid reflects the scope of the rights #scriptchat
  39. @jwillis81 what about the rights to turn the script into a book? Could the writer retain those? #scriptchat
  40. In other words, if you only sell the motion picture rights, that's worth less to a studio than if you sell ALL rights. #scriptchat
  41. The monetary value of the deal reflects the amount of rights the studio is getting in return. #scriptchat
  42. What would be a studio's incentive to NOT want to buy all the rights if they can then resell the ones they are not going to use? #scriptchat
  43. .@jeannevb The WGA does allow the writer to retail novelization rights as part of separated rights... #scriptchat
  44. Has there ever been a case where a USA producer agreed to only licensing some rights to a screenplay? #scriptchat
  45. .@jeannevb But if it's different (like an assignment), keeping novelization rights would likely result in a smaller purch. price #scriptchat
  46. .@FlutterFerret You nailed it. It's all what the studio will agree to. They don't like to leave rights on the table #scriptchat
  47. @jwillis81 Q: If a writer were to include rights to stage or book, could they negotiate being brought on to write adaptation? #scriptchat
  48. Say someone sells all rights… Louie CK is in the film… it never gets released… no earning potential. #scriptchat
  49. .@FlutterFerret The main reasons are if all rights are too expensive, or if there writer has a precedent for exploiting them #scriptchat
  50. .@FlutterFerret e.g., an established theater producer or director might reserve stage rights because that's their business #scriptchat
  51. .@wcmartell This happens all the time, esp. with established properties. WB was never going to get ALL rights to Harry Potter #scriptchat
  52. .@SarahAlexis4 Absolutely. First opportunities to write on subsequent productions is another part of WGA separated rights. #scriptchat.
  53. @jwillis81 @wcmartell SCREENPLAY. Not a novel. Has a USA Producer ever bought only film rights to a screenplay? #scriptchat
  54. .@wcmartell I've seen a few deals (mostly established authors) that were for screenplay only and the other rights were reserved. #scriptchat
  55. We're halfway through our chat with awesome guest @jwillis81! Join the discussion & toss out your questions about IP rights! #scriptchat
  56. .@norma_perlroth From a rights perspective, sure... but the value of the sale is still dependent on the value of the IP. #scriptchat
  57. .@norma_perlroth If you write a novel first and it's a bestseller, that puts you in a very strong negotiating position. #scriptchat
  58. .@norma_perlroth But if you write a novel first and it only sells 20 copies, to a studio, that's the same as a spec. #scriptchat
  59. @jwillis81 @norma_perlroth but if the studio makes the movie & it's a hit, your novel sales will go over 20 copies :) #scriptchat
  60. Many writers make their biggest mistake in trying to keep lots of rights but still expecting a studio to pay big bucks #scriptchat
  61. @jwillis81 Would it be possible to sell the rights but with restrictions? Like getting to be a voice in a videogame? #scriptchat
  62. @jwillis81 Q: Any suggestions for how a writer can best educate themselves on rights, their IP value, negotiating, etc.? #scriptchat
  63. @jeannevb @norma_perlroth and if you've already written the book, you should reserve rights to that book so you get royalties. #scriptchat
  64. @jwillis81 since you're also a writer, curious if IP has impact on the types of stories and characters you personally write? #scriptchat
  65. .@collinlieberg The more conditions you put on a sale, the harder it will be. Sure you can ask for whatever you want... #scriptchat
  66. .@collinlieberg but if your demand prevents them from otherwise making money, it's a tough sell and could be a dealbreaker #scriptchat
  67. will there be time at the end to ask a writing question? #scriptchat
  68. @jeannevb Knowing this info about IP doesn't necessarily impact what I write, but it definitely impacts how I try to sell it. #scriptchat
  69. As far as learning about IP, there are a lot of great business books, but the best thing you can do is talk to your attorney. #scriptchat
  70. A lot of people just let their attorney tell them "this is good" or "this is bad" and don't ask questions. ASK QUESTIONS. #scriptchat
  71. Ask your atty what a particular clause means or explain to them what you'd like to do with a project outside of motion pictures. #scriptchat
  72. @KarenSperling Whoops, thought you meant question for our guest. A question off topic you can throw out after the hour! :) #scriptchat
  73. @jwillis81 Are most of these things geared towards films? Is writing for TV different in terms of IP? #scriptchat
  74. @jwillis81 Q: Some other mistakes/issues you think writers should be aware of on the business side of screenwriting/IP rights? #scriptchat
  75. @collinlieberg For the purposes of this convo, IP for film and TV are treated the same, i.e., motion picture rights. #scriptchat
  76. One of the other things writers should understand about IP is what constitutes IP. Specifically, that's the EXECUTION of an idea #scriptchat
  77. Ideas are not copyrightable, so whether someone creates a script, or a book, or a musical with similar themes and ideas... #scriptchat
  78. ... it still is the execution of those ideas that determine whether infringement has occurred. #scriptchat
  79. Thank you! General question--I've written an outline and treatment. Ready to write the script, but wanting to change things. I want to jump around and write later scenes and then go back and add earlier ones. Or is it better to write from beginning to end? #scriptchat
  80. Are VR rights considered a motion picture, or a game, or is to too new to know? #scriptchat
  81. It's worth noting that as a tradeoff for selling ALL rights to screenplays, studios do pay significantly more than other avenues #scriptchat
  82. And there are probably a slew of rights that only a studio would be capable of really exploiting. #scriptchat
  83. WGA minimum for the sale of a script ($49K low budget) is significantly more than a book advance, which is often around $5K. #scriptchat
  84. @jwillis81 Q: How do your exec hat and knowledge of the business affect your own writing/choosing projects? If it all. #scriptchat
  85. Going back to the baseball card analogy, there are definitely times where selling them off piecemeal can net you more money. #scriptchat
  86. But there's something to be said for letting someone pay you a big chunk of money and then doing all the legwork for you. ;-) #scriptchat
  87. @KarenSperling I usually write the easy parts first, then go back & fill in the rest. #ScriptChat
  88. #scriptchat Wifi went out in this Starbucks, have to catch Jeff's wisdom in transcript.
  89. @SarahAlexis4 I've definitely become better at gauging the practical needs of a production. So much of screenwriting is about... #scriptchat
  90. @SarahAlexis4 addressing production concerns, and I'm fortunate to have learned a lot about how to address those concerns. #scriptchat
  91. @KarenSperling Throw out your writing Q, our guest @jwillis81 is also a writer! And our chatters may be able to chime in too! #scriptchat
  92. @jwillis81 Q: Any last thoughts/advice you'd like to share to wrap things up? #scriptchat
  93. @DevSeventyFive Thanks, Devin, that is good to hear. That is what I'm thinking, but hate to find out I did it wrong :-D #scriptchat
  94. My  blog isn't updated as often as I'd like, but I do add stuff whenever I can. My goal is for it to... #scriptchat
  95. ... eventually be a searchable resource on the business of writing for people to access whenever they need some guidance. :-) #scriptchat
  96. Please join me in thanking our wonderful guest @jwillis81 for joining us tonight and give him a follow! #scriptchat
  97. @jwillis81 great goal for the site! I'm sharing tonight's transcript w/ @WritersDigest peeps, too. Great insights! #scriptchat
  98. If anyone has any specific questions, you can always contact me through . There's a contact form there. #scriptchat
  99. @jwillis81 Thanks for joining us to share your insight/field questions! All the best on your work projects and your own writing! #scriptchat
  100. It may take me a while to respond, but I'm more than happy to help however I can. :-) #scriptchat
  101. @KarenSperling You're welcome. Everyone has their own process. There is no right or wrong way. #ScriptChat
  102. Thank you all for being here and taking part in the discussion/asking questions! #scriptchat
  103. Thanks to @jeannevb and @SarahAlexis4 and all the folks at #scriptchat that work so hard to put this on every week!
  104. @SarahAlexis4 @jwillis81 Thanks for answering my stupid questions. :) Very informative And as always, thanks for hosting, too. #scriptchat
  105. @jwillis81 Thanks so much, @jwillis81! We really appreciate you taking the time to shed light on IP. #scriptchat
  106. @KarenSperling if you write scenes out of order, just be sure you're keeping track of character development, not just plot. #scriptchat
  107. Shout out guests you want us to nab for chats in December! #scriptchat
  108. @jeannevb See my earlier response on Facebook to a similar question you posed. :) #scriptchat

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