Voldemort is used to dealing with desperate people. Most writers live on the edge and never see a big paycheck. Unpublished writers in particular may be insecure and vulnerable. Although unpublished, I had a lot of faith in The God Helmet. And I had money. Doubt occasionally crept in, but I was not going to be taken for a ride by Voldemort. Even though I had never seen a Hollywood contract before, I could smell right away this was a stinking turd.
Fortunately, I had secured a powerful ally in Princess Leia: Juris Doctor and Jedi Warrior, equally skilled in channeling The Force and negotiating a contract, Leia confirmed my olfactory analysis. She had never before seen a contract as crooked and self-serving as this one.
A little back and forth and we decided to have a conference call with Voldemort. Much
safer than entering a room and possibly facing off in a battle of wand vs. light saber.
First off, the facts: the offer on the table was a fleece job. Paul is not providing the wool.
Voldemort was shocked. Resistance? From a nobody? Writers take these offers all the time. You expect to make money on your first movie? Don’t be absurd. This is Hollywood.
Oh, really? It’s Paul’s property, his story. He’s got the money, a lot of it, anyway. We can do this ourselves, we don’t need you. This offer is so slimy we had to spray it with Lysol.
Oh, yeah? Well what did you have in mind?
How about a legitimate co-production agreement where you agree to do x, y and z within a specified time frame in order to earn your cut? Or have you never seen a legitimate co-production agreement?
Well, uh, sure we have. It’s just not what we usually do. I mean, usually we just sell the script or find a partner with money to produce. This is new for us, a writer with money.
(At this juncture I visualize Leia rolling her eyes 400 miles away. Her incredulity was palpable.) After a lengthy shaming silence, finally she spoke: Okay, then we’ll write up a conventional co-production agreement (and your offer will be delivered to the trash).
Voldemort was stunned. In his fringe of Hollywood he had never negotiated a production deal with a writer represented by counsel. A novice writer who wasn’t a pushover, this was a new experience. (I imagined him futilely snapping his useless wand at the telephone.)
Uh, okay. Sure. Write it up.
And so Leia holstered her light saber and motioned me to her G-75 Transport. Inside, a rebel holography terminal projected contract terms and conditions from ancient Jedi wisdom.
And this, dear reader, is the advantage of having money. For $300 an hour, Leia helped me size up the scam and fly off to write up a fairer deal. May the Force be with us.