PLANET GRIFFIN returns to broadcasting depth to bring up something that I've been following since March of this year... With the sale of MARVEL yesterday, one of the Marvel programs that went up for sale was one of their latest experiments, a screenwriting program whose guidelines are loosely based on their 'New Parent's' Fellowship program ( The Disney Fellowship pays out a $50,000 a year salary to develop new programming for ABC Family/Disney Channel. Disney Fellowship Programs are considered among one of three of the best programs for a newcomer to make it. ). The Marvel Screenwriters Program places half a dozen neophyte writers exclusively on staff, salaried up to $100,000 a year ( speculated by Variety Entertainment) to produce works based on specific writing assignments by Producers--- assignments ranging from adapting new characters from Marvel's library, assisting script re-writes for adaptations already in production or aiding other hired writers to develop sequels for pre-existing franchises. Marvel Comic writers are not excluded from this program, either.
Now, with all of that said, here's where the true ignorance begins.
Before any prospective writer are allowed in to meet, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement and a 70 page, non-negotiable contract--- a contract that also gives Marvel complete ownership over everything the writers create during the 1 year term PLUS first look/last refusal to any and all projects the writers have previously written for at least 2 years in the future.
Allow me to be among the first to speak openly on this one... To those who feel this type of fellowship, that literally gives M.U. that kind of power ( 2 years BEFORE and 2 years AFTER your first day of work ) over you and your works, is worth selling your soul over, than I say you're a far better fool than I.
If you need a little clarification over 'First Look' and 'Last Refusal', allow PLANET GRIFFIN to break it down (Bear with this folks, I KNOW what I'm talking about.) --- Say you write a script that's considered 'High Concept' enough to reach various levels of multimedia at once (y'know, movies, TV, video games, etc.). Your agent is constantly on the phone, fielding million dollar bidding wars over your material. Because you're under contract with Marvel, they can simply say, "Buy it cheap... He works for us..." Marvel pays Writer's Guild minimum for the material, and then bury it until your contract is up... Once that happens, they can blow the dust off and fast track it into production, secure in the knowledge that that ironclad contract you signed keeps you from filing any claim against them. Moreover, you're locked in for 2 more years AFTER your term expires (or is terminated), making all your networking INERT and on hold if you should get a job offer with another studio.
And I thought carrying original work into the Marvel Bullpens area was a joke.
I'm pretty sure even a Megalith corporation like Disney can see what kind of crap Marvel's Screenwriting Program is, and under the future hierarchy, change it to be more like their fellowship program... Which is like, as stated by a close source, "From slave labor to temporary sharecropping." Of course, after Disney's last run-in with Pixar (a contract fallout which almost cost the Mouse House to lose their golden goose, so to speak), they may ultimately decide to leave well enough alone and let them 'do what they do'. Considering the fact that Marvel's box office emergence is still in its infancy, Marvel's scripting deal is a ballsy move... DC Comics stock in the film business has a far better track record than M.U.'s, so it's easy to see why Marvel's so anxious to get that 'Dark Knight' money.
As a suggestion from an underground independent, I will say this... I'm not so far removed from sanity to not see that business IS business--- big or otherwise--- and that such a deal is still really mindblowing an' all, but if you're really wound up so tight that your 'exclusive people' are nothing more than idea generators that they can't even lay claim to what's in their OWN head, than you should remember what Frank Miller said about 'not giving thanks, because he didn't believe in rewarding thievery'.
Wake up, young bucks... Your young comic life is NOT your own... It's now part of the new $4 Billion Dollar Mouseketeers Club. This IS PLANET GRIFFIN... Keeping your knees clean and your back straight. No bowing down. No bending over.