What should I look out for when submitting a script to Disney?
I've been published by Disney... know a few things upfront:
Disney is a work for hire, "one pay"/"no-royalties" company. Meaning, they'll pay you $ for the script, then change it and use it however they want. Your name will NEVER be on it. EVER. You will NOT receive credit for your work. You'll never even be told if they decided to publish it or not.
Disney BUYS the copyright.
Once Disney has bought your script, you are OUT OF THE PICTURE... FOREVER.... you have no right to the story, you do not own the copyright, and Disney WILL sue your ass to hell and back if you dare try to publish that same story idea elsewhere.
Buy the script means exactly that... they buy the script from you. Your name will not appear anywhere on the published product.
Disney has a reputation for very shitty pay. It's not unusual for them to pay you $100 for a script that they'll make way more on. Don't start dreaming of getting $2,000 or $20,000 pay. If you are writing a film script get an agent who is brutal at getting the best deals, because Disney will NOT pay what it is worth, and should it go on to be a big hit, once they've bought it, you'll not get a penny of the millions they rake in.
Let me repeat this: Disney DOES NOT pay royalties! Disney does not credit authors. Unless you are Carl Barks or Don Rosa, don't plan on seeing your name anywhere.
Before you work for Disney, be sure you are prepared to be completely, totally, 100% stripped of all copyrights to your work.
Research the term: "work-for-hire contract" and KNOW what it ACTUALLY means BEFORE you sign one.
Get a lawyer who knows how to read contracts, before you sign anything, because one wrong move from you in any future publishing you do, will bring the Mouse's full fury down on your ass. Do a quick Google search of how many thousands writers, actors, etc Disney has burned, because they didn't fully understand the contract they signed with Disney. For example, if you give Disney an idea for a Rapunzel story, then don't you dare ever write or publish anything to do with Rapunzel ever again, or you'll find them suing you for breach of contract, with them claiming you stole back the copyright that you had previously sold to them.
I'm always afraid they're going to take my ideas without offering to buy the script.
Okay, you do realize Disney is the 3rd largest business on the planet right? They are NOT in the habit of stealing work.
What they ARE in the habit of doing though is buying ideas, then having their staff writers rewrite those ideas. In other words, they may pay you $500 one time pay for your idea/lead, then hand it to their staff writers, who write it into a script. The staff writers will be in the credits and they get paid huge amounts of money, but the person they bought the idea from, will not be credited and will never see more than that $500.
This is known as Contracted Pay or Work For Hire. Literally tens of thousands of writers get paid buy Disney to send them ideas. Most of these ideas will never become scripts. But many writers who don't understand the nature of Contact Writing or Writing For Hire, will later see Disney put out a movie based off their idea and claim Disney stole it. This is a case of the author not understanding the contract they signed, and is NOT Disney stealing their idea, because in fact, Disney did pay for the idea, and as stated very clearly in the contract, the author relinquishes ALL RIGHTS to their story idea and agrees NOT to publish anything based off the idea.
Know too that this is very typical for mega giant companies like Disney. So, taking your film script to say WB instead, isn't going to give you any advantages here.
EDIT: I mis-read the e-mail. It's a lead that wants samples of writing, not actualy scripts.
EDIT: I mis-read the e-mail. It's a lead that wants samples of writing, not actualy scripts.
Yes. This is true. Disney is what is known as an "On Spec" company. Meaning they do not accept scripts outright. You first have to send them your idea.
And unless you have IMPECCABLE writing skills, Disney will ONLY buy the idea itself, but not your script.
Many writers, not realizing Disney does this, get all hyped up over Disney buying their idea, thinking that means Disney wants their script, then they can't understand why Disney didn't buy the script as well.
While it varies depending on the editor and the project. Typically what they want is a 5 page summary of the story, with complete beginning, middle, and end. The first page being a breakdown of the characters. NEVER end your summary with some snarky bull crap like "if you want to know how it ends, you'll have to read the manuscript"... that should be a no brainer, but I was a magazine editor for years and you'd be surprised how often writers send queries like that.
It sounds like you are referring to a specific request for writers that Disney has sent out? If so, read the submission guidelines VERY carefully and follow them to the letter. Disney is VERY strict. No matter how good your idea is, it WILL be rejected for something as simple as a misplaced comma. Disney only wants to work with professionals. Disney is a stickler for spelling and grammar. You might want to check both of those as your post here if full of them on huge levels that Disney will in no way tolerate, so make sure you have someone else edit your work before you submit it.
Keep in mind, Disney has an image to maintain. They WILL do a background check on you before deciding to hire you and or buy your work. If you have a criminal record, they will reject you. If you are a troll online, they will reject you. If you smoke or drink, they will reject you.
Interestingly if you are a vegan animal rights activist, that will push you to the top of the list and increase your chances of acceptance. For some reason they prefer to work with "family friendly vegan animal rights activists".
If you have done ANYTHING in your life that is in any way NOT family friendly, Disney will find out about it and you will be rejected.
Even if you think you can hide behind "throw away accounts" on places like Reddit, know that Disney WILL know it's you. These things are not as hard to find out as people think... so easy in fact, ANYONE with Chrome browser can find out who you are, just by heading into the "developer tools" section of Chrome.
If you have a plan to work with Disney, you need a 100% clean record, online and offline. They will not work with you otherwise. Jail time, traffic tickets, nudes on FaceBook, snark on Reddit - these are all things that will get you rejected if you submit your work to Disney. They pride themselves on this. Assume Disney is God or Santa Claus and sees all and knows all and you can hide nothing from them, then live your life squeaky clean, because that's the only way Disney will work with you. The second Disney even suspects any tarnish on your professional image, they are going to cut ties with you.
I know all of this may sound negative/scary, but I say it because I've seen far too many young writers get all hyped up about writing for Disney, and then feeling like Disney ran them through the cleaners.
In most cases, it is very simply a misunderstanding on the part of the writer, who neglected to do their research on what "work for hire" and "contracted pay" really meant.
Most publishers pay authors royalties. Work for hire contracts are rare and unusual in the field of publishing. Writers assume they always own their copyrights and when they are faced with a work-for-hire contract they are often shocked to learn that they are being stripped of their copyrights to that work.
The reason so many rumors exist about work being stolen by Disney, is because authors so rarely encounter the work-for-hire contract in their careers, that they rarely know what it is, what it means, or how it works. Far too often these authors jump at the chance to sign a contract with Disney without first reading the contract or even knowing exactly what it is Disney has bought from them.
If you don't mind selling your copyright and having your name stripped from the work, then work-for-hire contracts can be a good income.
On the other hand, if seeing your name in the credits and retaining your copyright is important to you, then Disney is NOT the company you want to work with.
Like I said, I've written for Disney, and so I'm familiar with their work-for-hire contract methods. It can seem like a scary thing for authors who are used to retaining their copyrights and being paid royalties. But, if you really want to work for Disney, the the work-for-hire contract is something you'll want to look into and read up on before you sign one. They can be tricky to read and understand.
Does disney accept un-agented submissions? I honestly don't know and they may just send your script back unread unless you have a more specific lead.
Yes they do; I've never had an agent; the trick is to NOT contact Disney directly, but rather contact one of their hiring editors instead
You must remember that Disney themselves publishes NOTHING... you have to find the publishing houses they work with.
If you want to write for Disney, the easiest way to do so is through Egmont: http://www.egmont.com/ who is the actual publisher of MOST of Disney's books and comics. Egmont is the division of Disney that I personally worked with. In my case I was writing comic book scripts for Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck, and it was a matter of contacting the hiring editor for the magazine (comic) itself. (Who's name you find listed in the copyright page of the current issue of the comic in question.)
So, I was writing for an established line, in which case you go through the publisher of the line itself and not Disney "headquarters".
However, if you are talking about movie scripts. That I've not done, so I don't know their process for movies. I'm only familiar with their process for books and comics.
I do know that Disney RARELY buys movie scripts, because they have a team of in house staff writers who do that. They buy ideas and have the staff writers build the script together, based off the idea they bought from a work-for-hire writer. (I know this because I had once looked into doing this job, but decided against it as it required I move to live near the studio, and really don't want to move.)
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