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Stuffing 4 pounds of legalese into a 3 pound brain

It’s Friday evening. It’s been a gorgeous, gorgeous day. I drove around, I walked around, I had a delicious lunch. I’m home now, and I’m reading the nearly fifty pages of the draft agreement between Warner Bros. and Warp Graphics regarding the option and (oh we do so hope) production of an Elfquest movie.

At the moment, it’s me and Mr. Gumby, big time. “My brain hurts!”

Several people have gone over this document, prior to my getting it. This is not a first draft. It is, more or less, the final draft. There is no way on earth I could have made sense out of however many drafts came between first and final. Now is the time for trust; trust in the savvy-ness of the agents and the attorneys that have gone over each and every page with a comb fine enough to catch up any nasties that might bite the elves months down the line. I’ve been told that everyone further up the food chain is happy with the agreement. (Yes, everyone else is “further up”. Did you actually think that the creators get to ride at the front of the bus? Maybe if your name is J.K. Rowling and you’ve already established your fantasy world as a global juggernaut of a literary property. Elfquest’s place is a bit more humble, at this early time.) If I had complete, na├»ve faith, I’d say “Hey, you guys say it’s good, let’s roll!”

And I’d deserve to be dope-slapped. Because even though I won’t understand most of the incredibly convoluted legalese that makes up this agreement, someone’s still got to give it enough of a going-over to ask the questions that need asking down here in the creative trenches. I can’t tell you what they are, not because I don’t have a few already, but because the terms of this contract are, properly, confidential. I’m just venting and creebing because, on some level, I wish the process were a hell of a lot simpler. But it’s not. And so I’m here on a darkening Friday evening, taking this beast apart as best I can, looking for the most obvious of the pitfalls and oversights and landmines that are built into every boilerplate license agreement, by design and by default.

The agents and the lawyers have caught a lot of them, and feel they’ve caught all that need catching. But I’ve still got questions. And so, if my brain survives this evening’s fun, I’ll be on the phone, asking those questions. And hopefully hearing the answers I want to hear. Or can live with hearing.

You live and work a long time, waiting for the magic words: “We want to make your book into a movie.” Then you hear them, and what comes next is nothing you know how to expect. You navigate one Scylla and Charybdis after another; you get to watch the sausages being made in graphic and sometimes gut-wrenching detail. And yet, to paraphrase the end of the old joke, with all this sh*t, there’s just got to be a movie in here somewhere!

Back to work.


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