WRITER-FOR-HIRE GONE SOUR – 3 LESSONS I LEARNED

I think, but am I?

Cheated?

First of all, I’ll love to apologize to my readers for the inactivity on this blog since recently. For the past eighteen weeks, I’ve been pre-occupied with a screenwriting project. I was contracted in mid September last year to create twenty six episodes for a new TV series, of which I was happy to oblige. I was given till New year day to turn in the screenplay (I’ll create a post on the major problems with Nollywood, from a writer’s perspective before the month runs out). Hence, all my attention was tasked in order to meet the deadline. There was no time to blog.

Like any other hurried creative endeavors, my output was chaotic but salvageable and my client was quick to go into pre-production. Trouble came with payment-time. I didn’t have a written agreement with the client and so I ended up without my full payment.

Cheated? Definitely! Nevertheless, I came home with three distinctive lessons.

1. It’s a safe bet to be of the position that the client intends to defraud you – the writer. These filmmakers all preach trust a lot. In Nollywood, trust is such a far fetched idea, that without concrete measures like written contracts and Memorandums of Understanding, simple scriptwriter-for-hire transactions will almost always end up in disagreements. As such, access to immediate legal expertise prior to the undertaking is in a writer’s best interest. If they want to hire you to write, they should either give you a written contract or send them an M.O.U to sign.

2. As a professional, every job is an addition to your portfolio. It therefore stands to reason that any writing jobs which fall outside the brackets of your comfort, of which you’re positive that the end product won’t be the best possible version of your writing standards should be frowned upon. I was practically forced to turn in two episodes every week so as to meet my deadline. Initially, the client had asked for five a week and after much discussion, it was reduced to two episodes each week. By the time I got to episode ten, I got sick and tired of the entire process. Telling a story should be a savored experience, like tasting vintage wine. Connoisseurs could spend an hour on a half-filled glass of wine. Good writers take their time going through the motions of a story despite deadlines and a client’s impatient anticipation.
A good instance is George R. R. Martin’s postponement of the release date of Winds of Winter (Game of Thrones book six) despite pressure from HBO’s optioning and his eager fans. HBO can go ahead to shoot season six of the movie without his input, the author is busy with creating Winds of Winter to the standard he envisaged it.
As such, uncomfortable deadlines should be discussed, and if can’t be adjusted, should be steered clear of. Trust me, no one would ask about time frames and deadlines if you have sub-standard products in your resume. You’d simply get re-classified.

3. Compromise will always leave you dissatisfied in the aftermath. On a personal level, we love our clients and want to satisfy them so that they return with more jobs. We want our business relationship with the client to be transformational and not transactional. Nevertheless, the instant we allow ourselves to be served with bullshit for breakfast, don’t expect to end the day without a running stomach. B.S is when you fulfill a client’s expectations but he or she doesn’t fulfil hers, no matter how plausible the excuse is. Always put your foot down and refuse to be taken advantage of, because (and trust me) if you let it happen once, say because of your love for your client, it is bound to happen again. Don’t forget your writing is your business. If it’s freelance, then you’re self employed. You’re answerable to self, and the self disappointment in the aftermath is worse than any berating you might’ve received from your boss if you worked for someone.

And that’s it. Three lessons I learned from the WRITER-FOR-HIRE gone sour I recently experienced. If you too have gone through something similar, dear reader, why don’t you share with us on the comment box. Thank you.

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