Monday, July 14, 2008

Hollywood Legalese

I had a total slugfest this weekend -- as in being mostly motionless, not hitting people. I came to the shocking realization that if I was really tired and having trouble keeping my eyes open, then maybe I needed rest (imagine that!). Of course, that was when one of my neighbors started doing something with a power saw, so I never got an actual nap (and it was a bit suspicious how the saw would go quiet, but then the moment I closed my book and prepared to nap, it would start up again), but I did read something pleasantly mindless and let myself drift in and out as needed, which was nice. I seem to need a completely unprogrammed weekend every so often. Not that my weeks are that busy or strenuous, but a couple of days of doing nothing much while not thinking much about work can make a big difference in my energy levels.

And, boy, am I going to need my energy levels this week. I finally got the contract for the film option (yes, it takes that long), and it's more than 40 pages of Hollywood legalese that I have to read, since I'm not stupid enough to just sign something Hollywood sends me. I wish I had Katie on stand-by, since if there were a way Hollywood lawyers could magically veil portions of the contract and then drop the veil when they want that clause to kick in, I'm sure they'd do it. Not that I can scream or complain about anything at this point. Everything that can be negotiated has been (which is what's taken so long). It's a take it or leave it situation, but I need to know exactly what I'm taking. I know I'm signing away some big things -- like they have the right to make further movies based on these characters without necessarily following the subsequent books in the series (like with The Princess Diaries movies, where the sequel wasn't based on a book). I'm not at the point in my career where I have the clout to retain more control, but I might never reach the point in my career where I have the clout to retain control without the boost that a movie based on my books could give me. So, yeah, I'm going to have a fun day. Good thing I have plenty of chocolate in the house.

I got the book Good to Great that I mentioned last week, and I read it in practically one sitting on Friday. It was a business book that almost read like a novel. The "good is the enemy of great" concept was just the starting point, and from there they broke down what made companies that had achieved real greatness (in terms of performance) from companies that were merely consistently good. If I still had a day job in corporate America, I might have found the book depressing, since I've never worked for a company or organization that met any of the guidelines for being "great." They were all in the fairly self-destructive loops of companies that never achieved greatness or never sustained it. I've had a few bosses over time who met the characteristics of the great company leader, but they were middle managers stuck in organizations that definitely didn't allow them to do their thing (which is why they all ended up leaving in frustration). My guess is that this is one of those books executives give each other as a gift and put on the shelves in their offices without reading it because most of the problems I see in businesses in the news today could have been avoided by even thinking a little about the findings in this book (and it's really a research report, not just an idealistic "how things should be" book, so the findings are proof that it works). No publisher I've ever worked with fits the model of "great" company. In fact, they seem to a large extent to do the exact opposite. The problem is that it takes going against a lot of human nature to achieve greatness, which is why they only found 11 companies in the Fortune 500 that met the parameters of greatness (and some of those have recently been in the news as failures, so even that greatness hasn't been sustained indefinitely). I'd be curious to find out if any follow-up work has been done to see if someone has managed to turn a company around by following these principles.

However, I think I've extracted some wisdom from the ideas on what makes a company great that can apply to a writing career, and that will be my Wednesday writing post.

And now to go tackle that contract (whimper!).

No comments: