But here's the thing: there was no contract. I asked for it several times, and there kept being nothing but promises. I heard a lot of "You can trust me, I'm one of your own!"
Immediately, this head writer and I butted heads, mostly because he felt he was improving upon the concept by changing everything the source material provided. I'm not talking about the natural evolution of an adaptation, but flat-out changing aspects that define a concept. Like making Snoopy a serial killer Dobermann, or requesting Wayans Brothers' jokes for a Shakespearean comedy.
As much as these things bothered me, I tried to stay zen. I would fight for what was right for the project, but often I gave up. I tried to elevate the material, but there were commercial considerations straight from the producer. I wanted to talk to the producer (after all, I "understood the concept", right?) but the head writer wouldn't let me. I was talk-blocked.
Lately the scripts stopped arriving. I asked the head writer, who said the producer was having some problems. "I'll keep you informed. They'll get to you soon."
This was last week.
Today I find out through a third party that the head writer actually finished all the scripts without ever telling me.
Here's the thing: he didn't steal any money from me. He took work away from me, but no money, and I can't demand I get paid for work I didn't do. However, I don't know if he told the producer that I was doing the writing and simply keeping that money from the original agreement he had made with the producer. No contract=no way to prove it, and I have no way of contacting the producer.
Mostly, I'm annoyed that he lied to me. We work in the same environment, with the same people, and have mutual friends. We clearly were having a difficult relationship, but he chickened out of having to deal with what is a natural part of the writing process, which is butting heads. All he accomplished is to lose my respect.
The lesson is that verbal agreements clearly mean nothing in this industry, and it's unfortunate, because oftentimes it's the only way to do business.