SHOPPING AGREEMENTS - Complications Ensue
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Monday, March 21, 2005

A friend of mine has a very charming script. A producer wants to show it around town to try to get interest, and wants him to sign a letter saying that if they get it set up somewhere, they're attached, but he makes his own deal on the script.

At first glance this isn't a horrible idea, because at least someone's interested, and their interest separates his script from the slush pile.

But I recommended against it. Any producer who can't afford a couple thousand bucks to option your script, really option it, is living hand to mouth. That means they're not very substantial producers. If the script goes to Warner Bros with them attached, it may get rejected because of the producers. But you can never send it back to Warner without them. So your script is now exposed. Which means it's dead.

That said, I have in the past signed stuff like this, or just made oral agreements to the same purpose. If you can't get an agent to push your scripts around, at least you get some action this way.

But, none of the producers I've allowed to shop my scripts has ever done any with one. So I'm not sure I benefitted...

3 Comments:

Alex,

A while back I was approached by film producer with a so-called "shopping agreement" for a feature spec I had written. When I checked his background, I discovered he had a handful of producing credits and had worked at a couple film studios. As a result, I signed the agreement (after first reducing the term from 12 months to 6 months). He succeeded in getting the script read by a number of mid-size production companies, leading to a paid option from one of them. So, I think it was a good decision. However, I would only recommend doing so if, following ample due diligence, one finds that the producer has sufficient credits and experience to back up his promises.

By Anonymous Marc Prey, at 8:42 AM  

A producer who cannot afford to option your script is not so much a producer, as a hustler, more another go-between.

By Anonymous Wrywriter, at 1:44 PM  

I agree. A real option is definitely much better than a shopping agreement that attaches a producer for life for certain places. Even if the option fee is nothing (which is not that uncommon), when the option is over, if the producer has not exercised it (i.e. paid you for your script), you are free and clear. The only downside is that options normally contain the purchase price as a term, so you need to know what you want for your script in the event this producer actually gets it set up somewhere. One solution is to base your fee on a percentage of the production budget with a guaranteed minimum so you don't get caught short if Bruce Willis decides to do it.

By Anonymous Jon, at 1:27 AM  

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