Thursday, August 27, 2009

Script Contributor Ray Morton Responds to Blog Question!

Hello Readers of Five Scribes,

I didn't know how to answer Audra's question regarding the blog I did on Script Magazine, and specifically Ray Morton's article, so I went straight to the source!!

What a great guy, he didn't even blink---metaphorically of course, since I emailed him my request.

Read on.....

Hello Leslie, Audra and Five Scribe Readers,

Reader Audra Harders posted this question in response to your blog entry about my SCRIPT magazine article Going Global: Screenwriting in the International Marketplace:

"Also, you mention remakes of our movies as hits in foreign countries. If that happens, does the original screenwriter get any compensation?"
To answer Audra's question -- under the terms of the Writers Guild of America's Minimum Basic Agreement, the credited writers of a movie that’s being remade (no matter where that remake is being done -- in the US or overseas) are entitled to compensation depending on their final credit determination (e.g. "Story by," "Based on a screenplay by," etc.) on the new film.

For example, if the writers of the original film end up receiving a “Story by” credit on the remake, then the Guild’s MBA requires that they receive (or share with others if the credits determine it) the minimum story rate.

In the past, most remakes used the original script as a departure point to work up an entirely new approach to the material. In these days of rather (IMHO) unimaginative remakes, in many instances much more significant pieces of the original screenplays are often used, earning the original writers a more significant credit (for example, Phillip Dunne, author of the screenplay for the 1936 version of Last of the Mohicans, received a co-author credit on the 1992 version and Halsted Welles shared credit with Derek Haas and Michael Brandt on the 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma, which was based on his 1957 original).

Sometimes so much of the original screenplay is used that the original writer ends up receiving sole screenplay credit on the remake (e.g. 1998's Psycho and the recent redo of The Omen). In these instances, the writers (or their estates) were entitled to the minimums for those credit levels.

However, many writers have what are called “overscale” terms in their original contracts which guarantee them a higher-than-minimum rate for their story if their work is remade. That rate would be negotiated at the time the writing contract for the original film is negotiated. This is usually is something "getable" only by upper echelon screenwriters -- it's unlikely that a first timer would have the clout to negotiate such terms.

Hope that helps.


Ray Morton is a writer and script consultant.

His books Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic Film and King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson are available in bookstores and on-line at and Barnes and, among many other sites.

Morton analyzes screenplays for production companies, producers, and individual writers. He is available for private consultation and can be reached at



Donnell said...

Leslie Ann, way to go to the source. Wow, what a comprehensive in-depth answer. Makes you wonder when the script credits are divvied up, how they determine percentage. And I appreciate his honest about first time screenwriters probably not having that much clout. What incredible credentials he has. Well done, and thank you!

Audra Harders said...

Leslie! Thank you for putting so much effort in digging up an answer for me.

Ray, thank you for the explanation of the differences in compensation programs. To me, it only seems fair that the original author receives some sort of compensation considering they did come up with the idea.

But then again, I was brought to play fair.

Leslie, thanks for all your work and may your marvelous screenplays be extended to foreign rights and remade many, many times!!

Nancy said...

Leslie Ann, thank you for getting that fab answer for Audra. Ray's post is wonderful concise and clear!

Thanks, Ray!

Nancy Haddock