Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No BullSh@ttin' Here

I have a very low tolerance for Bullshit. My friend Harlan Ellison (well, I hope we're friends) spells it out very succinctly in the above clip. The bottom line is that we're all professionals and we should treat each other as we'd like to be treated. Professionally. And that includes getting paid for one's work.

I got an email a few weeks ago from a production company. They're looking for a script writer for their upcoming animated series and wanted to know if I'd be interested.

"Sure. I'm always interested." They sent back the following note. I'm highlighting the key points as I see them...


Thanks for your response, we are happy to know that you are interested in working with _________________. We are looking for a full fledge animation script that could be produced into an animated series the target audience would be 4-14 year olds. The story should have an universal appeal and catering to all geographies . Our in house team has already developed a concept which we would like you to convert into a fullfelldge story and a script for a 13 episode animated series , along with this we would be more than interested to also view your other scripts Before we get onto the intimate details on the project and have more info exchanged, suggest we have an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) in place to prevent the details from being leaked out. Please find attached copy of NDA and fill in the necessary information in the highlighted part . Kindly sent us the dually signed copy of NDA as soon as possible.

The name of our series is XXXXX , in order to fairly review your work we would require you to write for us a two page basic story of XXXXX based on the concept developed by our in-house team you would have the freedom to change the concept if you want, along with this you would also have to submit the synopsis of remaining 13 episodes. Following are the parameters that we would like you to follow while conceptualizing and developing the script.

· The story should not be geography specific it should be universal.

· It should have a strong differentiating factor in terms of USP so as to make it stand out from other similar animated properties.

· The story line should not follow a logical sequencing pattern.

· The story should not be to try to preach i.e. it should not be too Moralistic or Educational it should be purely entertaining.

· It should not be Age Group Specific.

· It should not be Demographic Specific.

· It should not have Too Many Characters which kids find difficult to register.

· Character names should be trendy and not too Simple.

· The story should be Humorous , should have a strong Fantasy and Fun element, along with the potential for developing various sequences containing Visual Comedy

· Acting and Animation for Youngsters

· The story should have Dialogues for Elders.

· Flow in Story should not be too logical so as to avoid making it too realistic.

· The story should contain interesting Action sequences

· Should have Climaxes that are captivating

· Visual Connect of the viewer with the Characters should be strong.

So basically speaking, in order for the fine people at ___________ to assess my work, I have to create the whole freakin' TV series for them. I have to write the story - and submit outlines for 12 more. I can use their characters BUT I have the freedom to create my own - meaning that I'd give them a whole new, original property. Then and only then, they'll do me the favour of deciding if and how much they're willing to pay me.

I responded by sending them my rate and a schedule of how we would work out payments. Naturally, I haven't heard back from that fine production company . Not that I'm ever expecting to.

Some days, it just ain't worth chewing through the restraints...


  1. A good write and a good read. Really jumped out at me on my Google Reader list.

    A really interesting look at the professional writer's perspective. This blog just keeps getting better and better!

  2. Hi Charlie,
    Thanks so much!
    Glad you like it.

  3. lol. If I had a quid for every email I get like that. Reassuring to see I'm not the only one that thinks this sort of thing is utter bull.

    I'm amazed at how much spec work shows up claiming to be an "amazing opportunity" and as established & professional developers / writers / directors we're supposed to think we're lucky to work for free.

    It's not like we don't have our own damn projects to crack on with. If I'm not getting paid for my time, I'd much rather be developing my personal projects.

  4. So well said. I am a writer and I also hire writers. I know the pro-bono route oh so well. I love the passion Harlan has! Brilliant, concise and to the point!!! Keep up this wonderful blog!

  5. I had the opportunity many years ago to have a series of conversations with Harlan Ellison. He's brilliant, funny, insightful - and counter to his well-cultivated reputation - an extremely nice man.

  6. Oh wow. That's a little nuts for me.

  7. Harlan Ellison is the man