More Friday Questions comin’ attcha.
Liggie starts us off:
When screenplays are sold in collectible stores (three brad-bound, Courier font, etc.) or in a book format in bookstores, does the screenwriter get a royalty from that?
No. When actual shooting scripts are sold on remainder tables in bookstores (or on the streets in Manhattan), no one involved in the production from the studio to the writer are compensated. Technically, these merchants are selling stolen property.
I’m somewhat ambivalent about this issue. On the one hand, others are profiting from my work. On the other, these scripts generally sell for just a few bucks and when I was starting out, the only access I had to a television script was through these bookstores. I bought an ODD COUPLE script and a MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW script and learned to write by studying those two scripts.
If a script I wrote can inspire or instruct others then I feel I’m paying it forward. That’s worth more to me than the few cents I'd be making from the sale.
As for scripts of mine included in a published book, the studio owns the copyright so I have no say. Our “Room Service” episode was included in a book of FRASIER scripts. It would have been nice to share in the royalties, but honestly, it was an honor just to be included. There have been some damn fine FRASIER scripts over the years.
Rob Larkin queries:
I'm curious as to how you and your writing partner David Isaacs pitch an idea or story. Do you decide beforehand who will do most of the talking or is it spontaneous?
For some reason I usually start the pitch and then we do it together. David will pick up the ball for awhile then toss it back to me, etc.
I hear stories of writers carefully rehearsing their pitch, even memorizing it. We never do that. We have a beat sheet that has the main points we need to convey and generally a few jokes, but beyond that we’re spontaneous. We’re having a conversation with someone, not delivering a slick sales pitch.
And as important as pitching is, we try to make sure the idea is worth pitching. Ultimately, that’s what sells a project – the idea.
Ken, what's your take on Tom Lehrer? It came up on the web recently that he couldn't give a damn about copyright on his songs, or performing at all. This is the man who lick-started the UK satire boom.
I love Tom Lehrer. For those not familiar with him, he was a mathematician and taught political science at M.I.T. in the '60s and in his spare time composed and performed satiric songs. He developed a huge following, record albums followed, and his songs were quite popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the early ‘70s he quit show business and resumed his academic career at U.C. Santa Cruz. God bless him, he is 86.
I always found his material to be hilarious, so smart, and so unique. He came along at a time when folksingers were taking themselves and the world sooo seriously. He was a breath of fresh air.
Here’s an example of Tom Lehrer:
Last night's Big Bang Theory seemed to have a dozen people between the written by, teleplay by and story by. Does that mean it was just a bad story that need intensive care?
No. It means that the writing credit is meaningless. Every BIG BANG THEORY script is room written, and since the WGA forbids you from listing fifteen writers for one writing credit, they rotate credit among the staff. So the writer who got shared story credit and the writer who got shared teleplay credit did as much or as little as the other dozen writers who received no credit that week.
What’s your question? Leave it in the comments section. Thanks.