View Full Version : an acceptable option agreement?

David Raphael
02-02-2005, 05:05 AM
Hi all,

I was recently offered an option for a thriller I wrote and wanted to run it by you:

a two year option with an option to extend for another two years. 10% upfront with an equal amount after two years if the extension option is exercised by the producer.
Against a total of $43,000.

Anybody out there know the ins 'n' outs of contracts like this?


02-02-2005, 06:22 AM
Seems like a long term since it could pull the script off the market for 4 years -- but $4300 upfront is pretty reasonable.

For a point of comparison, my recent option agreement had about the same payout for the purchase, $1000 for the first year, and extendable for a second year if they shell out another $5000. I'm (er, was) an unsold, unoptioned writer.

It's worth while to look at other considerations too. How likely do you think it is that the producer can get the film made? Does the producer have a good track record? Will they work hard to keep you through all the re-writes so you can get a 'written by' credit?

Also, you might be able to get some non-monetary benefits. If you don't have an agent yet, see if the producer will get you one -- producers, even ones without much of a track record, often have a lot of contacts and it's pretty free for them to hook you up if they've already got your script optioned.

02-02-2005, 07:19 AM
Is $43K the total purchase price?

David Raphael
02-02-2005, 07:21 AM
yes, 43K is the total purchase price


02-02-2005, 07:25 AM
Then if this is a feature, that's pretty low. I don't even think that comes close to Guild minimums but I could be wrong. I often am.

02-02-2005, 08:46 AM
I just optioned a book for $1,000 up front, $2,500 for second year, and $5,000 third year, with purchase price of $125,000. Of course it depends on budget, and film size in figuring out final purchase price.

02-02-2005, 09:29 AM
Options are all over the place when it comes to the terms and details and option amounts etc.

Purchase price, too, varies, usually depending on what kind of distribution is intended for the project: Direct to video is probably the lowest TV MOW somewhere in the middle and theatrical release at the high end. Price will also depend on whether or not the buyer is a guild signatory--though I've heard that the WGA minimums are often used as a reference point for deals done outside the guild.

In terms of dollars, without knowing the producer's distribution intentions, it sounds like you have a typical first deal. For purchase of an original screenplay for a low-budget theatrical release (production costing $5 million or less), the WGA minimum as of 5/04 was $34,740; it's probably a little higher at the moment, but it sounds like your deal is actually higher than current guild minimum for a low-budget project. However, the high-budget minimum as of 5/04 is/was $71,112.

Two things I'd try to change, though, if possible. The time frame and the option fees against purchase price. Our first option was set up so that the initial option amount ($1,000) WAS against the purchase price, but any renewals after that were NOT against the purchase price. This is pretty standard from what I've read and been told, otherwise producers can basically just keep optioning your project until they own it! Also, only the FIRST option renewal was at the producer's discretion; we made the choice after that.

For what it's worth, we've found that even relatively small independent prodcos DO have some money to play with, despite the tendency for most of them to play broke when dealing with writers. What started as a 1k option for us has gone on to produce a 10k and 12.5k renewal, neither of the last two against the purchase price and both renewals at OUR discretion.

I agree with sppeterson on the option period: Two years seems long--that's definitely at the far end of the spectrum, I believe. A year is more typical from what I've experienced and seen.

You really could use an agent or a lawyer at this point to look the offer over and request a few changes in your favor.
We found ours by using Scriptblaster's agent Blast after we had some interest in the script and it was being read at a number of places. You're actually in a better position than we were when went fishing for an agent: you actually have an offer on the table. I gotta believe some emails or phone calls would land you somebody to help out at this point.

Good Luck

02-02-2005, 09:30 AM
I also am an unproduced writer. I recently received the following offer for my thriller, which I've accepted: $10K for a six month option, another $10k to renew for another 6 months. $35K if they want to renew the option for a year after that. Talent signing bonus of $25k, set-up bonus of (I think $25k). Purchase price varies depending on the budget and on whether it gets set up as an indie or studio flick: $300k - $600k if the script is set up with a studio, $125k - $250k if set up as an indie flick.

Personally, I think $4300 is not that much to tie up your script for two years. If there's not much room to negotiate the money, try and ask for $2500 for only a year. Don't give them two years to lounge around with your script and do nothing.

02-02-2005, 10:45 AM
Showtime optioned my script for $5K for three years. I tried to get them down to 18 months, but they wouldn't budge. But I was pretty much guaranteed that the movie would get made if I signed with Showtime, and it was.