I Am Riz

Okay, I’m back. Had a few deadlines to meet this week. Which I did, of course. Exciting, exhausting times. Here’s a quick round up with a decent post to come this weekend.

  • A second review for Five, this time from the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand, which is now available for rental (the film, not the review) – and if your local doesn’t have it in stock, demand to see some Made in New Zealand.
  • The Writers Guild‘s newfangled online forum is awful quiet. Are we Kiwi screenwriters so reserved?* Or are there enough distractions with TV, DVDs, Playstation/Wii, online gaming, Bebo/Facebook/Myspace and, uh, blogs/blogging?
  • People who spell definately and your rather than definitely and youre in correspondence to me will join my growing list of newfound friends asking me to help free up some money.
  • I now have a Data Book listing. I almost feel like I’ve arrived. Except for the nonsensical www.dfmamea.com/http://if.dfmamea.com link.
  • And finally, having prepared a well-I-didn’t-need-your-money-anyway post as a follow-up to my grant application, they approved it. Yes, of course I’m chuffed – especially once the panic attacks subsided – and am beginning to savour the impending adventure.



* I keep wanting to start a thread about the winding up of the Signature telemovie initiative: Isn’t it a bit short-sighted to finish up now? Won’t the wheel have to be rebuilt if when the broadcaster change its mind and returns to cheaper reality observational-documentary television-making? … But I’m too chicken.


dfmamea.com: Year One

Holy smoley – it’s a year already.

Plug-time because it’s important to give credit where it’s due. All praise to:

  • The Goddess who says nary a word when she catches me blogging instead of Writing;
  • The Webmistresse, whose redoubtable webskills made the site a reality;
  • you Readers, all five of you, for making my visitor stats look good, and providing the occasional but welcome break from the email- and comment-spam.

Jesus loves you.


After Your First Paying Gig

The dust clears, you’ve finished your first ever paying project and you’re feeling affirmed by the cheque burning the crease of your palm. Your first question, of course, is, Do Credit Suisse accept KiwiBank cheques?

Other questions soon assail you:

  • What are my financial obligations? Do I need an accountant? If I can’t afford an accountant, what’s a handy accounting tool I can use – a spreadsheet or something more powerful? If I must start from scratch, who/where can I get the information, in plain English, to get me started?
  • What is my work worth? What if the producer laughs when I show them the Guild Recommended Minimums? How can I set my price?
  • What are my legal obligations? Do I need a lawyer? If I can’t afford a lawyer, what’re the bare essentials I need to know regarding my contracts?
  • How do I get more work? Do I have to market myself? How do I market myself? Do I need an agent? How do I get an agent? Do I need a manager? How do I get one? Do I have to network?

Yes, your first gig tastes sooo sweet – you’re no longer some wet-nosed I’ll-get-around-to-it dreamer. You’re a professional screenwriter now, baby.

As Spiderman discovered, with great power comes great responsibility.


Pro Bono or Bust

A while back, Danny Stack posted about working pro bono. It was, of course, an excellent piece – a case for being careful, weighing up the risk, and going in with your eyes open.

I’m with the New Zealand Writers Guild – “no writer should work for nothing”, particularly if you’re already a professional writer.

The following came to mind when I read Mr Stack’s post: casting director Di Rowan – who introduced the world to Anna Paquin and Keisha Castle-Hughes – said in an interview with Onfilm:

“[People] say to me, “Could you just cast this one part? And you’re not going to charge me, are you?” That puts me in a terrible position. I feel like saying, “Hang on a minute, I’ve got a builder here at the moment, I’ll just ask him if he’ll do this day for free and if he says yes, I’ll do your day for free as well.”

Hell, yeah.


Point and Click

Between searching for bill-paying work, and drafting pitches for writing work, all I’s gots for ya this week is more linkages.

  • John August has an interesting post on publicity. I admit to being Kiwi-bloke-ish in my self-promotion: essentially a “build it and they will come” approach. (This blog and the attendant dfmamea.com site was a tentative step in the self-promotion direction. It’s provided a fantastic avenue for procrasturbation.)
  • Whilst clearing up my massive RSS backlog (and inadvertently deleting a mass of ‘Important’-flagged ones), I found a wealth of left-field ideas and approaches to film distribution from Tim Clague‘s Projector Films blog. The ideas are a bit scary and newfangled for a conventional and blissful ignoramus like myself, but they’re exciting and exhilarating, and any day now, I’ll understand it all.

Point and Click



The following has been kindly reprinted by the New Zealand Writers Guild. They didn’t commission it – it was a chest-clearing exercise.

If I learn nothing more from this year, it’s that contracts are a sign of how serious things are. (To those of you for whom this is, like, so obvious, what can I say? I am – or was – an idealist.)

So. The first thing the Writers Guild told me when I joined three years ago? Don’t work without a contract.

And what’ve I done in that time? I’ve worked in good faith. It’s gone like this: the terms of the contract are verbally agreed in the early days; writing commences whilst a draft contract is bounced around; the script is finished; a contract is agreed and signed; and throughout, money changes hands. In the end, someone has themselves a script, and I was paid to write it.

Sure, I’ve had a few projects explode in my face, some of which has provided fodder for my writing. But for the most part, I’m a trusting soul and I like to give the benefit of the doubt. This doesn’t mean I’ve provided all the work to date with the copyright already assigned. I try to be reasonable and flexible; sometimes this has been interpreted as being easy.

As I shift towards projects with ‘real’ money, what I’ve noticed is that the expectations and the contractual/political manoeuvring move up a level. Besides my writing having to be more than professional-looking, each gig is a potential career-maker or -breaker (or -extend-just-a-little-longer). The expectation as a writer I can deal with. But the contract shenanigans… oi vey.

All that stuff that was verbally agreed up front? Worth the paper it was written on. All the work that’s been done in good faith? Taken for granted and/or leverage to get you to continue to work in good faith and/or a very possible waste of your time.

The earlier that contract is signed, the sooner everyone knows how to behave.

Negotiate and sign that sucker now. Work long. And prosper.