Penny from Huntington Beach asks:

A co-worker and I agreed to work on a script together, when I found out how much work was involved I quit my job and started writting full-time, but, with no help from my partner, I would have to call her and basically pull teeth to get us to meet so that we can pull ideas together. She put in about 40 hours at most. And I did all the writing, formatting, it took me nine months, but am now done. I paid for all the ink, and paper, and submitted the script to a manager to read, she wants us to polish up to bring to the next level. I contacted my partner, and she no longer wants to be a part of it, says she has no time. I typed up an agreement that she would get 25% of the earning if it would ever make it. Thats more then fair… But, she is not returning my calls. I don’t know how to get her name off of the script, I sent it in to the writers guild a while back, and her name is on it… I would like to change her title to creative consultant, but, how can I do this when she is a deadbeat. I want to start working on it again to bring it to the next level, but want her name off of it since she is no longer a part of it.. HELP. what do I do??

Your problem is very common, but you will not like the answer. Writing partnerships often fail and the only real solution is to come to agreement with your partner over handling of the material. Given that she will not speak to you, this is not likely to occur. Absent some agreement with her, you are not entitled to unilaterally “get her name off the script” for the simple reason that she helped create it.

You may want to retain an attorney. The attorney may be able to get her attention and negotiate something. However, try to get an attorney who will help you for a nominal fee. Do not make the mistake of investing much more money and time into this script unless and until you have an agreement with your former partner that satisfies you before you make the additional investment.

Should you get your partner to seriously negotiate, you should seek to negotiate away any credit for screenwriting by her. At most, she should share a joint “story by” credit with you and you should have the screenwriting credit. Also, her credit (and yours) must be subject to the terms of the WGA if the script sells to a signatory.

Your circumstance is cautionary to anyone considering a writing partner. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Choose your partner carefully – writing a script takes a long time and represents an enormous personal commitment. Casually initiating a writing partnership is a big mistake.
  2. Address partnership problems as they arise. Do not ignore them and continue to invest time and money into your script. Partnership problems tend to get worse and worse if they are not addressed up front.

This should not dissuade anyone from working with a well-chosen partner. Some of the best writers around are writing teams. Writing with a partner can be very rewarding. Just choose the right partner.

I hope this helps. Good luck….

3 thoughts on “SPLITSVILLE”

  1. I interviewed Will and Grace creators Kohan and Mutchnik a while ago. They said it’s exactly like a marriage – you spend the whole time arguing and don’t have sex. That’s pretty much my experience, having co-written for ten years. The main rule is to leave egoes at the door: the best idea wins, doesn’t matter where it came from.

    There have been times when one or the other of us hasn’t been as focussed as the other, though almost always when we’re in the ‘marketing’ phase of a project. Other times, we’ve either had the luxury of being able to kick the writing in the head for the session, or the non-focussed one realised they were below par and got themselves together.

  2. I would not expect wodrnes of interior and exterior decorating from a 16 y.o., let alone a 16 y.o. with a kid. It may be a white trash kind of property, but trust me, almost every property in her neck of the woods is like that. At least she had a decency not to pretend that she is something that she is not.

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