View Full Version : No money option

08-23-2004, 03:48 PM
I know it has been discussed here before, but I can't locate it.
Is there any positive reason to give a small producer an option with out any money attached?



08-23-2004, 05:17 PM
if they can circulate it to places you cannot - that's a good reason. Having other people read your work is how you get the opportunity to do assignment work.

You just have to be careful as to what kind of contract you sign. Make sure that you don't sign over the rights per se without compensation to be determined as per guild guidelines.

There are also boiler plate agreements that give the producer the right to sell the script on your behalf, but don't actually give him the right to finalize any negotiations without your consent.

In other words, see a lawyer.

08-23-2004, 10:29 PM
Thanks, Jim. I'm gonna give it a shot.

Augie Kestrel
08-24-2004, 05:49 AM
I've never dealt with options, but I think the conventional wisdom is to keep the term of the option short. I've often seen three months suggested as a good length of time. Most producers can stir up interest in three months, if it's going to happen at all.

You have to ask yourself if you want to put all your eggs in one basket (without compensation) for any period of time longer than that.

08-24-2004, 11:05 AM
The big problem with no-money contracts is that you really do want a lawyer to look at it before you sign--and that costs money, unless you've got somebeody who'll do it for free. So it winds up COSTING YOU to give somebody an option!

If the producer will go for it, try a no-money/no-contract option... basically a verbal agreement between you and the producer that he/she has the script for 3 months or so...

The first producer we worked with, a TV guy with a dozen or so produced credits and previous exec positions at a cable network and a couple of prodcos, floated us that arrangement. He had 3 months or so to show it to his contacts in the TV world, and meanwhile we were free to continue shopping it for interest to feature film folks. He just asked that we keep him abreast of any developments on our end... All verbal--nothing written, nothing signed.

It worked pretty good for us...eventually helping us get an agent who then got us our first cash option after the TV producer's efforts played out with no offers. So you never know what's gonna lead to what.

You also might be able to go the "shopping agreement" route; this is similar to an option, except that it's more limited in what rights you grant the producer, I think. They usually specify in writing, too, exactly who the producer's showing the script to, giving them the right to "shop" the script to these particular entities and basically no one else.

We were offered a written shopping agreement by a small prodco, a few industry people who were just starting out as producers. They had no produced credits but some good connections via their previous industry positions. Ultimately, we declined this particular offer--we really didn't like the idea of signing a binding agreement without receiving any money. Funny thing, we countered first by offering to enter into a verbal agreement, citing our productive and pleasant experience with the above-mentioned TV producer, but this set of producers were uncomfortable without a written agreement and that was that. Fortunately, we already had generated some other connections, so it was easy to walk away. But if this group had been our first and only offer, we probably would've taken it based on the exposure they were promising.

We came away from that experience with the observation that sometimes the less experienced and connected producers are MORE insistent on signed contracts than the ones who are actually already making their living at it.

If you do sign something for no money, though, I'd heed the advice already given and try to keep it as short a term as reasonably possible.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

08-24-2004, 01:44 PM
This is something my writing partner and I did, maybe it will help.

We optioned our Horror script for 6 months for free, then if they want to re-up it will start costing some $$.

Normally we wouldn't do this, but it looks like the production company will have the money by the end of the six months. We've had several meetings with these guys and the deal almost fell through due to sticking points for both lawyers. In the end the contract worked out for everyone, so we'll see.

I'd make sure you get a reputable lawyer to negotiate the whole thing so you don't get burned.

We're hoping to get this made and right at this moment it seems like the best route. It's a chance yes, but if at the end of six months they want to pursue it we start making money. If not it reverts back to us. We're working on other scripts at the moment so it's really no skin off our a$$es.

Best of Luck,


08-28-2004, 04:28 PM
Regarding "shopping" and "free options" and a lot of terms like that...

If a producer requests your script over the phone and - before reading it - mentions the directors he would like to show it to, is that fine? That's not shopping or an option is it? I haven't been screwed YET, have I?
I feel like one of those teenagers who wonders if she's pregnant because she kissed somebody.

Confused. :rolleyes

Evil Elf the One and Only
08-28-2004, 04:40 PM
Can someone give me a rough idea of how much it costs to get a lawyer to go over a contract like this? And handle negotiations, if they get complicated? An hour estimate (eg six hours of work) would be fine, because I know lawyers charge differently depending on their positions.

I Would Ask My Lawyer, But He'd Charge Me! (http://terminalcity.diary-x.com)

certified instigator
08-29-2004, 02:49 PM
A three month option at $600 is $200 a month.

A "producer" who cannot come up with $50 a week is unlikely to be able to circulate it to places you cannot. Fifty bucks a week! We aren't even talking a months rent here.

We writers so often sell ourselves short. That's why producers even have the balls to ask a writer to give up a free option. If they don't work hard on getting the movie made...

No loss on their part.

Unless this producer is a good friend, I see no good reason not to ask for at least $200 a month for an option.
Can someone give me a rough idea of how much it costs to get a lawyer to go over a contract like this? And handle negotiations, if they get complicated?
The cheapest I found is a close friend of my manager. She looks over an option contract for $75 - assuming it's completely straight forward. If it gets complicated her fee is $100/hr. - billed in half hour increments.

And this is a close friend. I think her regular rate is in the $175- $250/hr range if she has to do anything more than read and approve a contract. Working on it - contacting the producer - doing any negotiations - that fee will go up.

I'm sure each case is different - but I would never consider an option for less than $200 a month.

08-29-2004, 03:59 PM
zuzull -

I would be careful before agreeing to that kind of arrangement. Not knowing the specifics of your script or situation, I can't be specific but here's some stuff to think about.

If this guy works WITHIN the studio system - I would definitely NOT let him shop your script as his discretion prior to an option agreement, because once he gets a couple passes, it's dead, and you have idea or control over how he's presenting you and your work to these people.

If he's indie and these are people he's looking to bring on board to get some momentum going - then maybe yes - but first - I would want to meet with him in person and gage his enthusiasm. Also, I would want a list of who he's sending it to as well as be cc'd on the cover letter.

I always want more people to read my work, but I want to know who's giving it to whom and how, so that I have an opportunity to follow up the relationship myself at some point.

09-01-2004, 05:34 PM

I don't think any of this applies because honestly the guy hasn't even read it yet. Thanks though.

Edited to delete some unrelated side comments.

writer for life
09-01-2004, 06:44 PM
"I don't even know indie from studio at this point. "

Indie is usually anything shot for under 5 million. But indie could also mean you're simply not dealing with a studio regardless of the budget. And there are indie studios like Fox Searchlight, Paramount Classics, Miramax, etc. You definitely better know what kind of script you've got, because you need to know who you should be dealing with. If not, I suggest you do some research as "indie" vs "studio" is one of the most basic distinctions in the biz.

09-02-2004, 04:16 AM
Thanks very much for your response. I do know what I am, and this place is over $5 million. I said I don't know indie from studio because I think of "indie" as Joe Schmo with a camera- independent of a studio. I am going to go back and edit because I don't want to inadvertantly slam some cool idea about studios supporting indies when honestly, if I don't know what I'm talking about I might as well shut up. Thanks. Sorry for straying off-topic.

Hugh Jardon
09-04-2004, 04:02 PM
My entertainment attorney agreed to negotiate
my first option for 5% of the gross sale price as
specified in the agreement. Many lawyers will
take a look at your deal (free of charge) in order
to determine whether or not there's enough meat
in it for them to work on contingency. So you might
want to get a referral or make some calls.

Edited to add:

I believe his fee for reviewing contracts not based
on commission was in the neighborhood of $350+/hr.

09-06-2004, 12:52 AM
As Hugh said, they will generally look at your deal to determine if there is enough for them to work on contingency.

My lawyer's fee for contracts not based on commission is 285 per hour.