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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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.

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I appreciate your "biting". This gives us information that we probably would've eventually come across, but helps us now while we create these hypothetical budgets for those that are asking.

By Blogger Steven E. Gordon, at 1:44 PM  

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