Free Option? - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Q. A producer wants to option my script and send it to Téléfilm next week for script development financing. He’s offering a symbolic $1 fee for the option, and says that it is common for our industry (Québec and non WGC member). The production company is well known and has a good reputation, I’m not concerned with ill intent, I’d just like a confirmation that indeed it is common, especially for an up and comer without screen credits and not a member of any writing guild. I understand that as a member of a guild, it’s a hard thing to accept, but from my perspective, is it something I should expect?
Normally I'm against free options. An option fee is not only money in your pocket. It is also an indicator of how solid the producer is, and how serious he is about your project. A producer who can't scare up even a thousand bucks to option your script is either not very serious or not very solid.

Normally I would say that if a producer is balking at paying money, you can offer him a shopping agreement: he can take it around, and he's attached, but you won't actually negotiate your deal until it's set up somewhere. This naturally puts you in a much better negotiating position; but hey, if he wants to lock down your material, he's got to put out.

However, here in Canada, and especially in Québecistan, producers rarely have any cash lying around. All but the strongest have to take projects to funding agencies even to get you an option fee. So it's not unreasonable for a producer to ask for an essentially free option. The shopping agreement doesn't work in features, because the funding agencies require that the producer have an option.

So while an experienced writer might expect to get paid something for an option, a writer with few or not credits might have to sign a free option.

However, since it's free, you should expect a very, very good agreement. I would ask for the following, whether you're in the States or Canada:

  • Once there's funding, you get an option fee equivalent to the WGC minimum (which is 10% of the script fee).
  • All minimums should be equivalent to WGC minimums: script fee, production fee, royalties, etc. .
  • Credit to be determined, in the event of dispute, by a mutually approved arbitrator, using the criteria of the WGA MBA or WGC IPA.

(Actually, if all possible, get a deal that says that once there's funding, the option deal becomes an actual WGC deal. (Technically you sign a short-term non-Guild "option to option" deal that grants the producer the right to execute a long-term, as-yet-unsigned WGA or WGC agreeement.) You really, really want to have the Guild behind you.)
  • Right of first refusal to write the first rewrite at no less than WGA or WGC scale. If you don't have this, they can pay you the option payment, and then give the rewrites to a slew of fancy writers. Otherwise, the producer could spend $80,000 on rewrites, fail to make the movie, and you wind up with a couple of thousand bucks because he chose a fancier writer than you.
  • It's a good idea to ask for a clause that says if the option expires, you get the rights to all your rewrites back, subject to a payment on the first day of principal photography of any amounts you were paid to write them. Otherwise after the option expires, the producer still owns your rewrites, and that amounts to having veto power of any future deal you might do with a third party. There's no good reason for a producer to refuse this, since if he doesn't have the option anymore, the rewrites are useless to him.

Once you have signed an option agreement, you lose all your leverage. So make sure it's a really robust agreement. If they're not paying you, they really have no right to nickel-and-dime you on on the option agreement. And if they're being sticky about the terms of the free option, then you really shouldn't feel bad about walking away.

Labels:

1 Comments:

Speaking of Writers Guild of America (WGA) a/k/a "Gilded Writers of America," there's some alternative history of WGA-East of early 1970s posted on "Writers Guild Office Boy" blog beginning at following link, which might interest readers:
http://wgofficeboy.blogspot.com/2008/07/writers-guild-office-boy-1970-i.html

By Blogger b.f., at 7:55 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.