Asked & Answered: Should writer’s groups allow development execs as members?
Q: I belong to a script development group in Hollywood. The group recently let a development executive in as a member and are talking about letting in other producers and development executives. I think this is a bad idea because even though they sign a non-disclosure agreement, there is no paper trail for individual projects and the script ideas can not be protected. The group argues it's a way to get their work seen and the producers/execs can give an industry perspective. I think it is a naive and desperate grab at selling a script and if the members work was good enough to get representation, they woud not have to do this. I am now considering resigning. Am I being paranoid and is this a good idea?
A: I'm of two minds about this issue. I think you're right to consider resigning, if you're concerned that you can't trust the other members of your group… regardless who they may be. There's nothing fundamentally riskier about having a development executive in your group, than having other writers seeing, hearing-about, and evaluating your work. The fact is, other writers are just as capable of ‘borrowing' material from your work, and in-fact, may be more likely to do so.
I see the value, however, in having producers and execs involved in the group. It IS a good idea that the members of such a group sign on to a code-of-conduct and, preferably, a non-disclosure/non-circumvention agreement that has some legal teeth. Maybe the thing to do is to keep meticulous records (establish the missing paper trail) so everybody knows who's present for presentations, discussions, etc., and what material is discussed. This is really just a good idea anyway.
The bottom line, however, is this: At some point, you've got to let other people read your material, or it will never be optioned, purchased, produced and distributed. So, again I repeat what's becoming a mantra…. Only do business with reputable people whom you can trust.
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I am not a member of a “writing group” and doubt I ever will be. Not my thing, simply stated.
But, I’d have thought such groups would have some sort of membership agreement initially in place, including a general set of rules also including a “legal” non-disclosure agreement. Without any such rules the thought of “free and open” discussions of creative material in an informal group setting could concievably invite the problems you are in fear of.
But, with such set of rules, pros admitted to your group would know beforehand, be bound by them, and wouldn’t pose such a problem you are in fear of. Then their membership and the experience they posess could prove valuable to the group.