A screenwriter’s life

This was his moment. The opportunity he’d been waiting for. There he was at Studio Production. It was actually a stroke of luck: a common friend had shown his script to a contact at Studio Productions that had fallen in love with it. Steve got the call to come and sign the contract.

After two years of drafting, asking friends for comments, nagging people for contacts, chasing up agents and producers… In fact, it wasn’t a stroke of luck. It was a lot of hard work.

Opportunity. A rare thing that when it comes you must seize it.

The production contract sat in front of him. Lots of caveats - the production budget still had to be cobbled together. The casting hadn’t started. But this was it. Steve’s script was going to go into production.

He’d asked around. A pretty standard contract.

There was this huge figure on page 6 that would represent pay and rights acquisition.

“Wow”, thought Steve, “so, how much will I get if this actually gets aired”. He flicked through the contract looking for residuals or ongoing payments in case his film was sold to another broadcaster or on-demand service. He couldn’t find it…

No ongoing payments. “Can we change that?”, Steve asked. “No”, came the reply. That will be the total fee.

Steve did the maths. “But I spent two years working on this,” he thought. That huge figure on page 6 suddenly looked a lot smaller. And then came the conditions: partial fee deferral until completion of filming. Promotion obligations. There was still a good six months of work to get the thing shot, edited and post produced. The huge figure on page 6 looked even smaller.

But opportunity doesn’t come around every day. This was the foot in the door.

Pen hit paper. With a swish it was signed.

It was a roller coaster ride. Actors dropped out. Rewrites were ordered. But it happened. And people loved it. Cinema, DVD, TV.

10 years later, Steve had dropped out of the film industry. His next project didn’t really work out and he just couldn’t make it work financially.

He sat there in his sofa and switched on Netflix. Inspiration failed him. He clicked on “Our selection for you”. And there it was. His film had just been added to Netflix and he didn’t even know about it. And he certainly hadn’t been paid for it as there is no right to remuneration in his country.


Opportunity is what the European Parliament and Council have now to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Europe in future. And it’s not just first timers such as Steve. Established screenwriters and directors are also cut off from any financial reward for the success of their works, when being shown in a country without any right to remuneration.

By including in the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market an unwaivable right to remuneration for on-demand exploitation, some small percentage of the money made from selling, renting or streaming films on-demand can benefit the creator.