Q. I've optioned a book with the goal of turning it into a $10 million animated feature and I had a friend adapt it into a screenplay with the promise that he would be one of the first paid when we actually secured funding. We want to properly compensate him without breaking the budget. Is there a range that we should be looking at?
Okay, I'll bite. Bear in mind, I'm not an agent or a producer, and either of those will have differing opinions about what's "fair." This is a deal I would have felt good offering a first time screenwriter when I was a development exec.
"Funding" can mean two things. There's development funding, and production funding.
I would say $15,000-$20,000 payable out of the first development funding would be fair compensation for a first-time screenwriter who's written for nothing up front.
It should be agreed now that, should you get production financing, the deal will immediately be upgraded to a standard WGA deal. Your friend should get a production bonus of 2% of budget, capped at $250,000, reducible to 1% if your friend shares credit (or 0% if the writer doesn't get any credit). (Credit is arbitrated by the WGA in the case of disputes.) A 5% share of your gross revenues after recoupment of your expenses (5% of producers adjusted gross) would also be fair if your friend is making the project happen and investing his time on the if-come.
You're right to get the numbers negotiated now. Right now you can argue about slices of a hypothetical pie, and no one has cause to get mad. Once there's money coming in, you can destroy a friendship easily if one friend feels the other is taking advantage of a situation; and that can go either way. Maybe a great movie is worth losing a friend over. A development deal never is.
Labels: adaptation, breaking in