#WomenCallAction: Liaisons

0

Dear Rachel,

I’m a screenwriter and a few friends have asked if they can submit my scripts to their contacts in exchange for being attached as a producer. Of course, I want the connections, but I’m not sure these friends know anything about producing or if I want them attached to the future of my project. How do I handle this?

Signed, TORN

——

Dear Torn,

Yes, this is a frequently troubling dilemma that everyone in the biz has experienced. On one hand we want to take advantage of opportunities, on the other, we’re not certain that the conditions are worth the possible disadvantages. The most important aspect of any situation like this is total transparency. You must be clear and totally honest about what you expect or want and so must the other person. Sometimes it’s best to write it down and have both of you sign it in order to be certain that you are both on exactly the same page. If you follow this rule you will save yourself a great deal of heartache.

But something that troubles me more is the idea of giving someone a credit that may not be warranted. Producing is a difficult and important job, not simply a credit that can be given away lightly. The Producers Guild of America has standards for what producers do and they are complex, challenging jobs that need to be executed by professionals adept in this skill set. Certainly there are adjunct producing credits but in my mind, unless someone is equipped and skilled at producing, that is a credit you should not be doling out lightly.

There are times in life when you want to give things freely, especially when you believe that the person on the receiving end is one who will reciprocate and shares this spirit of generosity. I personally enjoy making introductions and matches; my acts of kindness are a pleasure for me in that I know that I have sprinkled a little joy into the world. I often read scripts, give notes, help new directors with their plan of action, these are all jobs for which I am frequently paid but I am delighted to offer as gifts to those in my community who I respect and want to succeed. I’m happy to say that I know many others who feel the same way and recently I have been on the receiving end of this open heartedness. It’s a wonderful feeling from both sides.

If you do want to create a contract with a friend I would suggest using language that outlines, “an associate credit to be determined” or “a credited thank-you”. Or better yet, speak to a lawyer who knows best. If the friend has allied skills, such as an actor, or a technician, you can certainly offer to try to help them find a job on your show, should the introduction find its way into production, but even here, you will not probably never have total authority on hires and this is not something you should ever promise.

Having said all that, where there is trust and good will, by all means express your intention and desire to want to reward your colleague for their act of generosity – and then do it when the time comes. Although it’s impossible to know ahead of time how you will be able to reciprocate, accepting any gift should inspire you to want to spread the love.

Good luck, Rachel

Rachel Feldman

About Rachel Feldman

Rachel Feldman is the 2015 NYWIFT Ravenal Grantee for directors over 40 working on a 2nd feature - for LEDBETTER, an Athena List winner, about the remarkable Fair Pay activist Lilly Ledbetter. Rachel also won the 2015 WGA Drama Queens Award for spec pilot THE UNDERNEATH, optioned by Maria Bello’s Ground Seven Entertainment. She has directed movies and episodic television for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, FOX, The CW, SYFY, LIFETIME, DISNEY CHANNEL and TEEN NICK and written movies for Lifetime and ABCFamily. An ardent activist for women directors, Feldman was a prime mover in the recent ACLU actions, has chaired the DGA Women’s Steering Committee, and has taught directing and screenwriting in the MFA program at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She received her MFA in Directing from NYU, and her BA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and Parsons School of Design. Her grad thesis film won Best Short at The New York and Chicago Film Festivals, later sold to HBO, Showtime and PBS. Feldman has received filmmaking grants from The AFI, The Jerome Foundation, Kodak, Technicolor, and Panavision’s “Filmmakers To Watch”.