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Should I try to attach myself as director to my first script?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: I'm a first time writer-director and some interest has been shown in my spec screenplay. I want to attach myself to the project as director but the producer is reluctant and favors an established director. Is it worth sticking to my guns or am I shooting myself in the foot?

This is a frequent issue with writer-directors, especially first time ones. Do you have a sample reel such as a short film or even commercials or music videos which you can show the producer to demonstrate how you can direct? A good sample reel can demonstrate how a director works with cast, tells a story and offers a certain cinematic "style" given the budgetary and other restraints of a short project.

Does your script have a low enough budget for the director to offer you the opportunity to direct? You should bear in mind that if a producer agrees that you can direct the film, the producer may want to have deal terms in the screenplay agreement which are more favorable to the producer such as a lower purchase price and the producer’s right to have you write many rewrites at no or nominal fees in exchange for the producer offering you the chance to direct. You also should discuss with the producer who could work on the project as a director of photography, line producer, first assistant director so that you have a solid support structure.

At the end of the day, the question is whether your directing the project is a dealbreaker for the producer. If so, then you have to be prepared to walk away from the producer’s proposal to produce the project--which possibly may be either your best or only chance to get the script produced. You have to do some careful and difficult thinking about this issue. Hopefully this is not your only script and you can hold out to get the chance to direct your next or a subsequent project which is often the case with many screenwriters venturing into directing.

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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