View Full Version : Help! What camera should I use and legal issues for script writing?

03-10-2008, 03:37 AM
Hi guys,

I have someone writing me my very first script for my first Independent Film, obviously I am not a avid writer which is why I haven't done one myself yet, but I think as more creativity flows and with creative writing classes which I will be starting will develop me into a good writer.

However, I was wondering can I run into legal issues if he is willing to write it for free or should I make him sign anything or anything like that. I don't want to end up getting sued for something that was originally my concept idea but him writing it into a script.

I also was wondering about a decent camera for my first film. Any of you have good suggestions for a camera that works really good for making films but is still relatively cheaper than most newer cameras out there!? Not looking to spend a whole lot on this budget for this film, most of the actors are local and are willing to participate for free but I just want to make sure that I do this decen the first time and get better with more experience.

Any help you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to write me at privately or post on the forum, I ll try and check as much as possible.
Thanks again guys. :D

03-10-2008, 09:54 AM
Ideas area dime a dozen. It's the script that makes all the difference. If I had a dime for every idea I've had, I'd already be a millionaire. You can't copyright an idea or "concept", only the execution of it. Thus, if he writes the script, he owns the copyright unless you have something in writing that shows you hired him to write it based on your idea or concept. You should at least have a "Story by" credit and he gets the "screenplay" credit. Coming up with an idea or concept is the easiest part of writing a script. Actually turning it into a viable, structured screen story is the hard part. This is how I handled it on my first script:

Cyber Nation


V. Patrick Turner

Story by

R. K. Brooks & V. Patrick Turner

And the ampersand ("&") actually has meaning. If I wrote it "R. K. Brooks and V. Patrick Turner", it would mean the original idea came from him, but I revised it and made it my own.

03-10-2008, 10:44 AM
Have him sign a contract if you think that you A. Need one (ie: either you don't completely trust him, or you're not going to live up to his ideal of what you should do) B. You think that you may make some money off of the film. You may "know" that you're going to do the right thing if you make a few bucks and cut him/her in, but the right thing may not mean the same with him/her. I offered percents of gross. If you make nothing you pay nothing, if you make a buck they get a percent. You could also go percent of net, they pick from the pot after all expenses et al. If you do that you might want to pay them for supplies and stuff from the gross.

In any case, you really can't get blood from a turnip. If you don't make money there isn't much to sue there. And as long as you're fair, you shouldn't have a problem.

As for the camera, there are different options, one of which I'm going to ask for some imput. I'm looking for a new camera (for documentary and features). I'm leaning to a JVC-GY-200 U right now (, but there are other good cameras for various prices. Alot here swear by the Canon HD, and if you don't see a need for your film to be on hd the Canon GL-2 did a great job for me on a little seen feature that I made.

Oak Street I'm sure will come on and tell you all about the Canon. Hopefully while he's here he'll address the JVC too, as I'm dizzy looking for a camera myself, and would be happy to get any help I can get!!


03-10-2008, 11:57 AM
OK... if this is a short film, and you both understand that the product has no commercial value (trust me, it doesn't)
then you don't need a contract.

However, as a writer who has been on the other end of this particular stick, there is a reason you can't copyright an idea... it's because everyone has them. They are therefore valueless. However, a script is a completely different matter... and it takes real skill to write one.

The problem with the kind of relationship you're talking about is this... you have an idea... you say to the writer... "Hey, what if zombie robots attacked our town, and only the village washing machine repairman could save everyone."

The writer then spends weeks developing characters, researching, working out the story arc and then writing the thing in a form that both an actor and a director can understand.

She then brings it to you, you read it and you go "Well, I think the zombie robots should be bigger and more violent... could they carry axes?"

So the writer goes away and makes changes based on your ideas... and in the process has some great ideas of her own.

The problem is, the writer is doing 99% of the work... but the "ideas guy" is giving the notes and at some point the ideas guy starts to believe they are writing the script... and the writer is just a glorified typist.

Writer's always get the short end of the stick in these kind of relationships... and the truth is, you need her/him more than she needs you.

At some point this tension ALWAYS turns into back biting and arguments over whose script it really is...

This is the reason these relationships ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS need to clarified in a contract.

The deal is... you either release the copyright to the writer, in which case you agree an option fee... or you retain copyright and pay the writer a fee as a "writer for hire"... or you make the writer a co-producer in the project and they take their chances on a reward on the back end.

03-10-2008, 03:44 PM
Very well articulated, clive.

I’ve been the writer in that scenario. I’ve worked for weeks on
developing interesting characters, making the story points work
dramatically, creating detailed sub-plots, writing moments of
humor to break the tension and creating believable dialogue.

Only to have the “ideaman” change a location from the mountains to
the desert or a car explosion to a trick rolling over or changing
a character name and he thinks he has done the hard work.

It can be frustrating. And it can create tension because, as you
mention, the “ideaman” who isn’t an avid writer, needs me more
than I need him.

My suggestion, braindead, is to have a contract. Spell out exactly
what YOU expect, what you feel is your concept and what are his
contributions. And how the final credit will read.

This should all be in writing. It should happen before he starts
writing, but now is better than later.

I also was wondering about a decent camera for my first film. Any of you have good suggestions for a camera that works really good for making films but is still relatively cheaper than most newer cameras out there!?
What does "relatively cheaper than most newer cameras out there"
mean to you? $200? $1,500? $4,000?

Does this thread help?

03-10-2008, 04:06 PM
Ahh... sounds like you're interested in self producing the movie.

That's a big leap, and this is a very, very hard industry.

If you're looking to raise investment, my suggestion would be to find a name actor interested in developing the project with you. If the script is good enough to hook the right person, you'll stand more chance of levering a budget.

With no previous film experience you'd have to look to bring in a producer and may find yourself side lined fairly quickly.

At this stage... DON'T use the slide show as your pitching tool... pitching is done very specific ways in the industry and the wrong way can mess your deal from the start.

You might want to research ANIMATICS... God bless Google

03-10-2008, 04:23 PM
Thank you so much for writing back about this.

I totally understand that the writer is doing 99 percent of the work and I am not trying to take away any possibility of both parts making money and not paying for "services" done. Because, if this film made money then most definately I would include him on that part, as he did spend his time writing the script.

As I mentioned this was the first project that I have involved myself in and I just didn't want to incurr any problems while going through the project. That's all. But I do appreciate all the advice you guys have provided.

As for camera wise, I was looking towards spending anywhere from $500 CDN to $1500 CDN on a camera, something not TOO special or spectacular but something that does the job quite well. What software do you guys use to edit your films??