A writer will be writing a screenplay based on her published book. A producer would like to engage me as a future director of the film in navigating that writer in her writing process, by giving a direction, comments, suggestions, analysis of the script, etc, to make sure the script is written according to my vision of the story.
If I get involved with the process without an agreement would I have a legal claim if for some reason I ended up not directing this film?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Probably not. Even if you did, you would have a very difficult time trying to prove it, or even entering evidence into a subsequent court battle. The rule of thumb is "if it isn't in writing, it didn't happen."
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You likely would have a claim under equitable theories, such as unjust enrichment. Under the theory of unjust enrichment, you will have to demonstrate that the writer and/or the producer benefitted, at your expense, and that equity and good conscience require restitution. See Leibowitz v. Cornell Univ., 584 F.3d 487, 509, n.9 (2d Cir. 2009). I, however, would still want my rights to be better protected by a contract, rather than leave my damages to be determined by the judge or jury.
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