a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Title Page

So there was a question in the comment section of the post below, that I figured I'd repost up here so that I could get some input on it.

The question is about what to put on one's title page, copywright info or WGAw or nothing. Whether it's seen as amateurish to do so -- or whether a producer won't read your script if it doesn't have it on it.

I can't speak to the latter, but I can speak to the former -- it always seemed a little amateurish to me, a sign that the newbie writer is trying to validate the script by putting these signs-that-this-is-an-actual-screenplay on the cover. Or that he/she thinks that a producer definitely won't steal their idea because look, there's the WGAw number, but if it's not on there they definitely might swipe it all and your girlfriend too.

Not a break-the-bank, sway-my-opinion-going-in thing. But a sign of an amateur, definitely, because pros don't do this -- and I think a lot of the more experienced amateurs just don't bother.

But I have no idea if a producer would require the scripts be registered before reading the script. I think registering one's script is probably a good idea in general, but I can't speak to anyone in the business requiring you to have that protection and plastering it on your title page.

Title, name, maybe an address, phone number. That's all mine ever have. Though that's just me. I can't say that has helped me or hurt me in any significant way whatsoever.

But if anyone can speak to any aspect of this, feel free to weigh in.


At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually stopped registering with the WGA, but my manager told me a producer he was talking to wouldn't read it unless it was WGA, even if it was copywritten. It's like having life insurance when you're 28. It's makes you feel good, but it doesn't do anything. I don't think it's a hard, fast rule with everyone though.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Scott, you're in a more priviledged position than most. You're KNOWN by people in the industry. But what if you're NOT KNOWN. My point is what what works for you may not be the best advice across the board; we're not all treated the same...

Personally, unless told NOT to do it, like for a contest, I actually like to put the WGAw number and copyright notice on the script. It establishes your authorship over a given piece of material, which can be researched and verified by potential buyers -- IF they're really serious about pursueing your material.

IF you're a real writer anyway, all you wanna do is get your material read, and get your shot. IF you get a read, title page smittle page -- your script is now standing on its own merits.

Still, nice of you to respond to that person's question. Back in first grade that would earn you a star on the ol' star chart. Though we're not in grade school anymore wish you were here in Washigton so I could give a cookie for your good deed. Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray for Scott!

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

If I'm known in the industy at all (debatable) it's certainly not as a writer.

And I don't think any potential buyer is going to research your authorship of the material. First of all, registering your script has no real legal standing as to authorship -- it's really just to prove that it existed at a certain time as your work, in case you need to prove that in the future.

But you could register a retyped version of Gone With the Wind (or a script you swiped from the guy down the street), and it doesn't given you any legal rights. Because the people you are registering it with have no idea what you are registering.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Christine F said...

Thanks for the info Scott. Having read so many scripts, as well as being a writer yourself, I figured you'd have an opinion. I have registered, but I think I'll leave it off the title page. Thanks again!

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, I've been reading for about three years this point if I know one thing it's that readers rarely agree on this kind of thing, but I'll give you my perspective: I don't mind scripts that say "Registered WGAw," but when they throw the number on there, or get into copyright, it is a little annoying, in a "don't flatter yourself" kind of way. But these days I rarely look at anything on the title page besides the title; it's so rarely relevant. I generally know the author's name ahead of time and I certainly have no interest in contacting them.

for what it's worth I recently submitted something to a production company and they had me sign some legal documents since I don't have an agent. Since the script is registered, both sides are protected. So I would always register with the WGAw (skip the copyright office) before sending material out, whether or not you put the notice on the script itself.

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Alexander Allrich said...

Of the handful of requests I received for one of my scripts, most came with a reading agreement I had to sign with the understanding that the script was WGAw registered. So if a production company cares one way or another, it will be communicated in some manner other than the title page of the script itself.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger japhy99 said...

I agree that it looks kinda amateurish.

Smart to register a script of course, but I don't think pointing out that you did so does anything for you. It's almost like stating that you've written it in industry standard format. Should be a gimme and pointing it out might make 'em raise an eyebrow.

If you have registered you're as protected as you can be (which isn't much) and any producer or prodco worried about establishing ownership will give you a release to sign.

My humble opinion anyway...

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

After I finish the script, I register it, then forget about it. When the certificate comes I stick it in my file folder of registered scripts.

When I was just starting out I used to put the number on the title page. Now that I've been at it a while the only thing that's on that page is the title and my contact info.

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think it's important to reiterate what Scott said: WGA registration is only helpful within the entertainment industry. It has no legal merit.

If you wanted to go to court and sue for copyright infringement (and you should consider the political implications of doing that beforehand), you MUST be registered with the US Copyright office. That's the only acceptable evidence in federal court.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Nien Numb said...

All I put is the title, name, and contact info. Like what's been said already here, most companies already know (or assume) that you've properly protected yourself.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Tim said...

It does look amateurish, Scotty. Plain and simple. For all the reasons mentioned by you and the above posters. No one's going to steal your script, therefore no need to staple a VIN number to it.

To reverse-spin this idea, I'd be suspect of any contest or script service that demands a WGC number on the title page. Those f*ckers be shady.

Over and out.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Sandford Tuey said...

My entertainment lawyer advises to always put name, contact address and phone number plus email, so producers can get a hold of you quick and easy.

He also recommends copyright under the contact info so it is unobtrusive but hidden there. This establishes date and ownership and lasts longer than the Wga registration time period.

I have had two screenplays optioned and no producer cared what was on the title page. They only cared how good the story is and how well it was told.

My agent told me the reason most professional writers do not need to put WGA registration or copyright on their title pages, is because an agency sends their scripts out and the agency representative follows up and deals with the producers so no need for that data.

Sandford Tuey


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