Q. I'm a novelist who is expanding my career to include screenwriting.
I've gotten many views on Inktip. One producer contacted me to ask if I would add an angel to to script, turn it into a feature film script and then tone it down to family friendly.
I asked if we could chat by phone. We had a good rapport and I enjoyed hearing her ideas. I developed a new synopsis, tweaked it after several email exchanges until she said that she loved it.
I waited a few days. Then I emailed to ask what she would like to do next. I had asked her about her budget earlier and she didn't want to discuss money.
Warning, Will Robinson. Danger, danger. A producer who does not want to discuss money at this point is almost certainly wasting your time. Real producers understand that they have to pay money to get what they want creatively. Indeed, that is literally the job description of a producer. Producers find money in order to move their creative projects forward.
A producer that won't put money down either doesn't believe in the project, not really, or they don't have the ability to bring money, in which case, flee.
After 25 years writing for major publishers, I've never been told not to ask about money. She just emailed me to ask me about the changes to the script. I haven't added those changes to the script because the changes are major, would certainly surprise the readers who followed the book series, and I'm not sure I want to write a screenplay with no budget in mind. I've never worked gratis.
Should I write a screenplay for her without knowing the budget, or if she has the funds to pay me?
That would be "no."
She has, at this point, read a script, made notes, and read a synopsis. She's invested, at most, two hours in your project. You've probably invested several days to a week.
It costs nothing for a producer to say, "Hey, this would be great if it were set in a PT boat in the South Pacific in 1943." It costs you time to rewrite. At the end of all that time, the producer can say, "Y'know what... never mind." You're stuck with a version of your script that you don't necessarily believe in.
If someone gives you notes that make your script better, there's nothing wrong with taking those notes. Even if the producer doesn't want the script afterwards, you still have a better script.
"Put not your trust in princes," as the Bible says. Assume that some portion of whatever a producer says is optimism, and another portion is fairy tales. The money is proof that the producer is taking your project seriously, and is a serious producer.
(By the way, no, you
don't ask about money. Your agent does. That is literally her job description.)