In an attempt to look like I run a respectable screenwriting blog here, I'm answering a question that was sent in (okay, it was a comment, but "sent in" sounds better) by Andy. Hello Andy! Andy wrote:
Could you tell us things like how long they give you to do another draft/amendments, and what happens if they suggest something that you really hate. Also who has the last say - the writer or the director or the producer? Or the distributer even?
If you've sold a script or a pitch, you normally get about 8 weeks to do a first draft. Once they've read this draft, they'll come back to you with more notes, and you then do the revisions, which you usually get 4 weeks to do, or half the first draft time. "Revisions" isn't a plural thing, it just means another mini-draft, based on their notes and/or your discussions with them. It doesn't mean a complete rewrite, or at least, haha, it shouldn't. But most companies like to get as much work out of you for as little money and time as they can ("we love it, but could you just do these tiny few changes, nothing major, take you about an hour, tops..." - substitute "fortnight" for "hour"). Then, depending on your contract, they'll either move forward (attach a director, etc), get you to do another draft, or smile politely and tell you that your services will no longer be required.
Doing a draft or revisions will involve the infamous "notes". You've heard about notes. "We love the script! It's amazing! Perfect! Here are our notes." Okay, it's not always like that - I've been lucky so far, in that I only ever got notes from a few people at once. For Severance, I mainly dealt with 3 film company people at the start, and then one person from that team along with the director and producer. So usually 3 people at a time. For Curfew, I've been working with one guy, with occasional meetings with the big boss, and the financing boss. We've all heard the horror stories of writers getting notes from the execs, the director, the producer, the actors, etc, etc - all different, all contradicting each other. No idea what I would do in that situation, hopefully I'll never have to figure it out. I'll fall off that bridge if I come to it.
Because Severance was a spec script, there were some suggestions made to improve it when they first bought it, all of which I really liked - except for one small thing. It wasn't a huge deal, didn't change the story or the flow, it was just a small shock moment that could have been played one of two ways. I thought it didn't work their way, and even showed them two versions of it to prove my point. They still felt it was better their way around. Fair enough, I thought, I'll go with the majority view. So I did it their way. And now I prefer it the way it is. If it had been a big thing that I thought fucked the whole movie up, then of course I would have had to make a stand, and argue my case fully. And that's all you can do - if they suggest something that you think is awful, just say so, without being arsey about it. Explain in detail why and how it isn't right for the story, but try and offer a different solution. Sometimes, as the saying goes, they don't want the thing that they want, they just want a different thing. Again, I've been lucky with notes. All the notes I got for Severance were great, and improved it no end.
As for final say, the writer has final say up to a point. You don't have to write anything you don't want to. But if they feel that they're not getting anywhere with you, then they don't have to keep you on after your contracted drafts. If you're able to have proper discussions with people though, there shouldn't really be problems like that, and you should all be in agreement on what needs to go into the draft. When I was working with the film company, then they ultimately were the bosses. Once the director and producer came on board, then it was still a team effort, but they were pretty much in charge, because they were responsible for making the movie into a physical thing. Once you finish all your drafts, the movie making process takes over, and it passes out of your hands. You can still take part in the process, help out and so on, but once that script is locked down, budgeted and so on, you have to leave it alone. Unless they need you to come on set and fix stuff while they're shooting it, which I imagine is a whole different kettle of fish. The distributors generally have no say, as they usually see the finished product and decide whether they want to buy the distribution rights.
Again, it's about finding the solution to the problem they're highlighting - maybe it's not the solution they came up with, but if it works, they'll be happy with it. Obviously, there may be situations where you're working with complete idiots with no idea what they're doing, but I don't know how to deal with that yet. I'll let you know if I work with any...
Hope that's answered the drafts and notes question properly, feel free to chip in if anything's unclear, or if you have your own experiences with this side of things.