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By Hammad Zaidi | December 10, 2013

Welcome to Going Bionic #189. There’s exactly three weeks left in 2013, which means now is the time to get answers to the questions that will shape your career in 2014. Simply put, it’s time to do some “winter cleaning.” I mean now is the time for you to cut bait on dead projects and stagnant relationships, so you don’t carry your “cinematic baggage” into the New Year. Thus, here are three simple tactics to help you charge into 2014 like a lean, mean, creative machine.

Get Your Deal in Writing, or Walk Away.
Side Note: I have mentioned this many times before, but I continue to see it happen every day, so I’m urging it again.

One of the most frustrating things I deal with on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis, is watching my friends get screwed on film deals because they didn’t have a signed contract at the time the deal sold and/or became funded. It’s amazing to me how scared most filmmakers are to get their deal in writing. Whether they think it’s going to cause a disruption of harmony in their partnership, or create an environment where they could be kicked off the film, filmmakers are always making excuses as to why they can’t get a signed contract in place.

Many filmmakers mistake their good working relationship as being job security, but in no way is that notion true. In fact, it’s about as far from the truth as possible. That’s because not only do you have to worry about your working situation on your project in question, but you also have to worry about the legal team behind the entity that is buying your project. Simply put, all they care about is who owns the property. In other words, if you must have a signed deal in place before the project sells, or you will be left out of the deal.

The solution in the above situation is far easier than you think. Just demand a signed deal, and if you don’t get it, walk away. Yes, walk; and don’t worry about the time you spent working on the project. If the people you are working with are unwilling to give you a signed deal, they never had the intent to keep you on the project anyway. Besides, it’s always better to attach yourself to projects where you’re adequately respected.

How To Navigate Working With Friends
Working with friends is far more complex than working with strangers, because friends won’t value your worth like strangers will. Oddly enough, your friends are more than likely getting your genius for free, and strangers are more than likely to have to pay you for your services. Thus, if you are working on a project with a friend (which I have done both successfully and unsuccessfully in the past), it is vital for the both of you to set your friendship aside and figure out all of the contractual bullshit sooner as opposed to later. The longer you wait, the more uncomfortable things will get. The key is for you is to be completely up front about what you expect to get out of the deal. This includes your credit, the placement of your credit before or after your friend, your expected involvement, duties, and time frame of commitment, and most importantly, your compensation. Do not; under any circumstances assume everything will be equal, because it never is. Thus, you should meet with your friend and discuss what’s most important to you both. Then, you should be willing to give up a few “demands” in order to come to close a fair deal. Of course, if you and your friend can’t see eye-to-eye on working together, then try to amicably dissolve the working relationship and keep the friendship.

Rewrite or Develop Your Best Project
Relax. Not much new is going to happen for your career this year (unless you have a project that’s already been submitted), so you may as well take the last three weeks of the year to spend your time creating, reformulating and rewriting. While it’s always best to have multiple projects to offer potential financial suitors, you have to have at least one project that has “intriguing elements” that will get you submissions and hopefully meetings. These include having a well written, high concept screenplay, a notable attachment or a healthy chunk of financing. With the New Year looming, you have to decide which project(s) are developed enough to be on the top of the list of your development slate. Should you be wondering which ones to pick, go with the ones that have had the least resistance from the powers-that-be, i.e. the places you are submitting to.

Should you engage in these three tactics above during the last three weeks of 2013, you will certainly shed a lot of stress and dead weight. More importantly, you will clear any pesky career roadblocks that may hinder your forward progress in 2014.

Alright, filmmakers, that’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday! Until then, have a great week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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