About 7 years ago I entered a drawing contest and won! (Still haven’t received the poster I was supposed to get). Then I was talking to the artist who created the character I drew for the contest, when he discovered I was a writer, he asked me to write some shorts for him. For no pay upfront, but the promise of more work and money in the future. I was a published author, but still was rather new to the business.
I did, I wrote tons for FREE, but I loved it and loved the character so I didn’t mind. I even had a few stories published (for promised of money in the future-still haven’t seen a dime) in his graphic novel which came out in 2009-we all went to the SD Con to promote.
Okay so I was still writing shorts for FREE-yes FREE because he was my friend and I trusted him.
In summer of 2011 he said he wanted me to write an entire novel for this character, I told him I needed to be paid, he promised that was coming, but first- we were going to create a TV series from this character.
I was offered a writing job from him and was hired, signed a contract-was told that I was the creator with him and head writer. We worked for about 2 months, then the contract was cut short with no explanation whatsoever and when I asked the creative executive and very good friend of my good friend he answered with anger, like I was confused. I never officially got a reason, then they told me it was “on hold” but they loved what we were doing and we would get back to work ASAP.
When I was on the job, I had zero creative freedom and was told something different from my friend every time I spoke to him, not even once a week-the exec thought we were talking daily but we weren’t. That said, I followed all his story instructions even though as a TV writer and a novelist I knew things wouldn’t work. My friend kept telling me that he wanted to hand it over to me and have me run the whole thing yet he struck down everything I suggested.
Finally come mid Jan, the project came to that screeching stop and I was out of work. I was promised a year, I got two months. It was awful. I was worried because I had moved back to LA on my own dime for this.
But I tried to stay positive because my friend and the exec told me we would be back to work in a month, two at the most. Well Feb came and went and so did March.
In April I emailed the exec checking in and my friend. NO REPLY, but they both deleted me from Facebook.
Now lemme back track, I am only on FB because this friend talked me into getting on it when we were first friends in 2006… so we were close FB friends. The exec and I had only been FB friends for like a year, but still we were all friends, actual friends.
They deleted me, NEVER REPLIED to my email asking if we were starting soon.
Then finally at the end of April 2012 my friend sent me a nasty email saying that the producer has the right to hire whomever he wants to write-with again no reason to why I was off-and I understand, I’m not a child, but again, I signed a contract. The exec emailed me telling me that they canceled the project and wouldn’t be needing any writers at this time. Again, I signed a CONTRACT for X amount and got way less than that. WAAAAY LESS.
Needless to say, this friend used me, and tossed me aside like I was garbage and a 6 year friendship and tons of free work was tossed away.
Come to find out my story ideas are being used in books and in a production without me getting credit or anything.
I don’t hate my “friend”—- I was the one that was stupid enough to give him free stories for years. I was the one that trusted his word.
I was the one who…wait! He royally screwed me over and the moral of the story, be VERY careful of doing free work for friends. It is really bad in most cases. When I talked to many TV writer friends and showrunners, they all told me they were nervous for me when I started this job and also gave me lawyer numbers etc.
I am more sad than angry, but apparently the show is going forward, even though I was told it was canceled. Another friend, an actual friend sent me the poster today and said, “Isn’t this the show you created a couple years ago and wrote the pilot for?”….
I feel like a schmuck for trusting and it’s been a struggle to turn the other cheek, but it is what it is.
This is why I will NEVER work for FREE again, ever and even if someone is a “friend” I am lawyering up when offered a real position.