I've got a question about your experiences with mini-series development, but before I move on to that perhaps it would be polite to write a few words about myself since I've been lurking for months and only posted several times...
I'm 27 and write for TV. Live and work in Croatia, Europe, so much of your experiences would serve as examples only, nothing that I can directly use, since the business done here is only now beginning to resemble the situation in which most of you work. So far I've gotten two jobs writing for TV series over here both sprouted from some spec work I had done which got me the assignements.Here's the question: How does development usually work? Yes, I am aware there is no specific answer to this but I'd really appreciate anything you might share. My current poroblem is that I am working with a director who is adapting a national bestseller into a mini-series for the national TV station, working through an indie producer who hired him for the job and he got me on board because of previous cooperation with me.

The producers have optioned the rights and they (say they) have no money for development. The TV station is looking at our proposal but they want to see a treatment before they even think about signing any kind of agreement. In the end the director and I will have to write the complete mini-series screenplays without knowing if the project will get our equivalent of a green light.
Obviously I am young and need the credits and the contacts and I am considering doing it all for free until the buyer decides. If they pick it up, I'll expect payment. But the question really is about the development aspect of the job: prodcos should pay for it, that much I know. What if they simply wont?
Appreciate anything you may have to say. Thanks!
I've got a question about your experiences with mini-series development, but before I move on to that perhaps it would ... pay for it, that much I know. What if they simply wont? Appreciate anything you may have to say. Thanks!

Not knowing how things work in Croatia this may not apply, but I think this is a lousy deal for you, and a very good deal for the prodco.

Basically it's slave labour. Someone thinks highly enough of you and your talent to want you to work for them but at the same time they think they can take complete advantage of you. Your work has a value. If you give it away for nothing you gain nothing except a little bitter experience.
The producers hold all the cards because they have the option on the rights and you don't. In other words they (in effect) own the rights and you don't.
You get to work your ass off, and write the entire order of scripts for absolutely no compensation, and no guarantee that they won't simply say "thanks very much, we have the greenlight and now we have the money, we're going to hire a much more experienced writer than you."

So... my take is this. You have options of your own.
1) Demand payment for your work. Not payment that is contingent on somefuture condition. Payment now. And not a token payment. Fair market value.
This will provoke a reaction. Either they will come round and offer you (probably only a token) payment. Hold out for a fair price, or negotiate a deal that gives you reasonable future comensation.

If they cry poor, do not believe them they had the money for the option. What they're saying is you are worth precisely nothing. Or they will say goodbye. If they say goodbye you have lost nothing.
2) If they do make an offer, don't take it until you have a contractthat gives you a piece of the finished product whether you are the writer of record or not in other words you get a percentage even if they go with another writer.
See if you can get them to give you a credit (and therefore a share in the profits) as a producer in return for a reduced fee.
3) If they cut you loose, or you decide to cut them loose, so long asyou're working for nothing, why not wrtite your own script? You will own 100% of it, and you will get a great deal more satisfaction with the potential to see it produced.
4) YOU NEED A CONTRACT!! Are there any agents in Croatia? Is there aWriters Guild in Croatia? Do the broadcasters have a pay scale for commissioned work? Are there any entertainment lawyers who handle this kind of thing? If yes to any of the above, consult them, and have them handle the negotiation.
5) Do not yield to pressure from the producers. They will almostcertainly tell you about pressing deadlines and all their problems those aren't your problems. Prepare yourself mentally to walk away. Remember, it's a shitty deal and you are losing (literally) nothing and it will not have any bad effect on your future career. So long as you're ready to walk, their pressure can't touch you.

So long as they aren't paying you, and you don't have a contract, you hold more cards than you think you do presuming they really want you (and it sounds like they do). Let them feel the pressure by not being affected by them.
Let us know what happens, and keep posting now that you're not lurking.

The only thing Merian C. Cooper would tell me was that it was going to have 'the tallest darkest leading man in Hollywood.' Fay Wray
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Obviously I am young and need the credits and the contacts and I am considering doing it all for free ... the development aspect of the job: prodcos should pay for it, that much I know. What if they simply wont?

Get a contract stating that you own all rights to the script until they pay you in full. Paying you presumes that they've sold the series, so ask for a fair amount of money. If the series sells and they refuse to pay, you can threaten to call the broadcaster and kill any deal they might have because they don't legally, own the script.
While you're at it, ask for other guarantees, which the producer should be willing to give you in lieu of upfront money: a guarantee to write the other scripts, etc.
Talk to a lawyer, or an agent to negotiate the deal.
jaybee
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4) YOU NEED A CONTRACT!! Are there any agents in Croatia? Is there a Writers Guild in Croatia? Do the ... handle this kind of thing? If yes to any of the above, consult them, and have them handle the negotiation.

Thanks MC! Very useful stuff. No agents here. Nor a Guild. The broadcasters do have a pay scale which works for me. Since they don't own the material they are considering either co-producing it or buying the finished series. In order to get them as co-producers they require the screenplays upfront.
I'll probably end up talking this over with a local lawyer that has experience with entertainment. Everyone likes the idea of doing the mini-series but they seem to lack the understanding how no one should write it for free.
Get a contract stating that you own all rights to the script until they pay you in full. Paying you ... can threaten to call the broadcaster and kill any deal they might have because they don't legally, own the script.

This sounds reasonable and doable. If I could get a contract that says I own the script though the option on the book is theirs. You'd be suprised how under-legislated all this is over here.

I could sign a contract saying they pay me once the series sells (in this case: goes into production). Then they may claim they've ditched my screenplay and used another writer. Not saying this is anything more then normal paranoia, but if that does happen there is nothing I can do short of taking them to court... which I somehow can't afford without them paying me.
Jaybee, thank you.
I'm off to meet with the director. He's looking at the possibility of entering the project as a producer as well. If he does that approximately one million Croatian citizens are expected to watch my writing on prime-time TV next year. Wee!
I've got a question about your experiences with mini-series development, but before I move on to that perhaps it would ... pay for it, that much I know. What if they simply wont? Appreciate anything you may have to say. Thanks!

If you want to know all the aspects of how development works in Hollywood get this book -
http://www.hcdonline.com/news/index.aspx#likedit
I Liked It, Didn¹t Love It: Screenplay Development from the Inside Out By Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis
ISBN 1-58065-062-7
As many Hollywood hopefuls know, the most commonly used rejection line spewed by Hollywood studio executives when they do not buy a script is, ³I liked it, didn¹t love it,² but what happens when the studio honchos like your script? What happens to your screenplay or novel when it is submitted to a studio or production company? What happens to it after it¹s optioned or sold? What does ³in development² really mean?

After living the lives of studio and development executives and for the past 15 years and selling their own screenplays, Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis are able to answer these elusive questions about the development process.
"Rona and Monika bring a wealth of experience to the development process from both the studio and independent producer's perspectiveŠit was only natural they'd write a book about itŠ (It¹s) a book that should be read by everyone who wants to understand the process (and) that movies don't just get made."
‹Fern Field, Writer/Director/Producer (Monk, Heartsounds, Kane & Abel, Counterstrike)
³ŠI wish this book had been around when I was starting outŠIt would have saved me years.²
‹David Madden, Executive Vice President, Fox Television Studios, and Producer (Save the Last Dance & Something The Lord Made)

*
In your case, you just have to get whatever you can get, anyway you can. I don't think advice from anyone here would help you due to your situation and where you are located. Good luck.

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.
Alexander Hamilton (The Farmer Refuted, 23 February 1775)
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I'll probably end up talking this over with a local lawyer that has experience with entertainment. Everyone likes the idea of doing the mini-series but they seem to lack the understanding how no one should write it for free.

So they're no different from all other producers the world over, then...

No producer thinks he should ever have to pay for the script untit they've paid for all their other bills and bought that new car. Then, and only then, if there's money left over, the writer gets a little money for his trouble.
If they claim to being excited about the project, but won't actually offer money up front, then they're not really that excted to begin with. I'd say do everything to get some money upfront along with the contractual provision that you retain the rights until you've been paid in full - maybe a grand or two, if only to get them to put their money where their mouth is, literally speaking.
You mentioned that this is an adaptation, and this makes a big difference. In that case, owbnership of the script is not so straightforward. You might own the execution, but they own the concept. You definitely need to get a lawyer involved.
However, I'd say that their willingness to give you some money upfront would be a good indication of their commitment to the project. None of their employees work for free, not even themselves, so if the girl typing letters gets money then why shouldn't you? If they categorically refuse to pay you any amount, I'd seriously consider walking away from the deal as it looks unlikely you'll ever see any money at all.
jaybee
I'll probably end up talking this over with a local lawyer that has experience with entertainment. Everyone likes the idea of doing the mini-series but they seem to lack the understanding how no one should write it for free.

Don't "probably" end up talking to a local lawyer with entertainment experience. You can't afford not to.
You need somebody who knows what's going on who's looking out for your interests. Period.
Writing a synopsis to pitch without payment strikes me as fine. It's a normal part of the process over here (although your lawyer will advise you what you need to do to protect yourself.) But once the network has seen the synopsis and said "we're interested, go away, write the script, and come back," over here, at least, every writer would have one response: "Pay me."
If the prodco doesn't have a firm commitment from the network, then there's no reason to think that the thing will be shot, no matter what sort of assurances they give you (and they'll give you a lot of assurances). If they do have a firm commitment from the network, then they can pay you.
-Ron