The Downside of Non-Disclosure Agreements

There’s quite a bit of work I do that I am not allowed to speak or write about. As you may guess, this can be quite frustrating. However, there is a big reason I cannot mention my assignment work. It is also is the main reason only vague references to things often appear on this blog.

As I have mentioned before, I am often bound by…

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Yeah. It’s a bit of a mouthful. Perhaps that’s why people usually just refer to them as NDAs.

Non-disclosure agreements often appear in many industries and business-y type situations. These are put to great use in the entertainment world because nobody wants you to give away their “big secret project.”

So screenwriters, and many other people, are asked to sign an agreement to not talk about the project they’re working on. NDAs exist to control information and who can release it to the public. It’s all about perception and press and selling your product. If keeping a project under wraps wasn’t such a big deal, then Quentin Tarantino might not be abandoning his film “The Hateful Eight” for a legal battle.

I understand the point, the use, and the need of an NDA… and yet I still hate them a great deal. For a screenwriter, your work is at the beginning of a project. So by the time the world finds out about what you did… you’re a bit older and more grumpy.

Or maybe I just need another cup of coffee.

Even more frustrating is the fact of not being allowed to show the great piece of writing you were hired to do. It can be solid work, great work, amazing work… and nobody else can read it. You cannot share your writing without potentially extreme consequences. Unless I have been severely misled, legal battles are not friendly conversations over beers in a courtroom.

It is true that some people will know about the things you’ve written, some may even manage to find a copy through unknown sources. However, if you are responsible for sharing work you agreed to keep under wraps because of an NDA… the courtroom beers are on your tab. I hear that’s a steep bill.

Right now there are many screenwriters with great work that they cannot show… not even if a producer wants to see that specific piece of writing as a sample of his or her work… cause, you know, they want to hire you…

And that’s another good reason to have great writing samples of original work to show people — because work for hire covered under an NDA is never for sharing.

At least not yet.

There is a common practice of using scripts as writing samples for projects that have already been released into the world. Once the movie is out, the TV episode has aired, or the webisodes have gone viral, many people are okay with sharing those scripts as work samples.

But even in this case, screenwriters tend to tread lightly. Sending along a script to a producer or executive as a sample is one thing… plastering your assignment work all over the internet can still potentially lead to trouble.

On that note, I’m going to stare at the pile of completed freelance TV scripts on my desk while I have another cup of coffee.

Yep. Just going to sit here and not tell you anything about those episodes I wrote…

But I promise there will be news soon.

-Zac

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