View Full Version : Optioning/selling scripts to producers in Canada and Europe

Carlton Redford
11-04-2004, 09:14 AM
Films produced outside the US -- without an American company’s involvement -- generally have a sizeable portion of the financing coming from the respective nation’s government. Usually with the funding, comes the strict requirement that the credited writer’s nationality must be that of the funding country. Even higher-budgeted films involving a multi-national consortium of European/Canadian companies usually don’t show an American screenwriter.

What are your experiences or observations regarding sales or options to non-US producers?

Did you (or an acquaintance) receive either a “Written by” or “Story by” credit, and was the budget micro, low, or mid?

Did you or they, have a US agent (or lawyer) vetting the deal memo and eventual contract?

Thanks. --CR

11-04-2004, 12:01 PM
I've had two movies produced in Europe. On the first I got a writing credit, on the second I didn't. Government financing was not cited as the reason.

I did not use an attorney on the second deal and felt very nervous about it. Factors such as time and language differences put me in a position where I had to act quickly, fend for myself, and basically have faith that the godfather-like reputation of the person who referred me would carry enough weight such that they wouldn't try to rip me off. I wrote a number on a placemat in a restaurant and slid it to the producer. We sealed the deal with a handshake. In the end, I got full payment, though the second payment was late - but they threw in a free trip (all expense paid) to the premiere, which wasn't in the original agreement, so my gut proved right, the movie's doing very well, and today everybody's happy.

On any future deals I plan on using my attorney though and have set it up now such that doing so will be a relatively simple process.

11-05-2004, 02:11 AM
We currently have a script optioned to a Canadian prodco based in Toronto. We're Americans. They must have ways of producing material authored by Americans because that has never come up as an issue, and the contracts even state that if the Writer is a WGA member and gets some kind of release from the WGA, the deal will be conducted according to WGA rules. This situation is also clearly spelled out in the WGC (Writers Guild of Canada) independent production agreement.

For the initial option, we relied only on our agent (an American) to look over the contract. For the second option, more money was involved, so we went to an American entertainment attorney. He handled everything on the new option and didn't seem to have any particular problems dealing with the Canadians.

All fees were specified and paid in U.S. dollars.

The script hasn't been produced, but would probably fall into the 3-6 million range. Story credits would be determined according to either WGA or WGC rules, depending on the writer's guild status/membership.

All in all, it's been a fairly uncomplicated, professional business experience.

Carlton Redford
11-05-2004, 11:53 AM
Many thanks to Jim and Boski for sharing the above experiences and to others that may also do so for everyone's benefit.

WGA membership does seem to ease the road a bit, as do contractual clauses that bring the WGA into the relationship.
Several entertainment attorneys have stressed the importance of those clauses even for US writers who aren't yet members.

-- Carlton

11-16-2004, 01:59 AM
Films filmed outside the US don't need to be written by a non-American unless they're qualifying for incentives.

Additionally, none of the large German tax funds (Gemini, VIP, Apollo, etc.) are limited to German writers.

I also believe you can qualify for German tax credits based on crew besides the writer. This also goes for UK Sale/Leasebacks - although having a UK or German writer makes it easier.

Just a heads up.

11-16-2004, 02:04 AM
Canadian films written by an American (and directed by an American) can still get your standard Canadian tax credits, they just can't qualify as a Canadian production and receive still more substantial tax credits.

The only requirement for the standard film tax credit (normally around 8% of the budget, which goes a long way as a financing equity source) is that a corporation be setup in Canada whereby the US producer and Canadian production services company share ownership of the negative.

It gets alot more complicated, but most of the Canadian law firms have boiler plate setups for the reams of documents that make this happen.

Evil Elf the One and Only
11-16-2004, 02:36 AM
The production can generally qualify for major grants and tax credits if it has a certain number of "Canadian points". These can come from the director, producer, actors, etc etc, so there's no need to think there won't be a market for your work in Canada just because you're American.

Then Again, You Could Flee The Draft! (http://terminalcity.diary-x.com)

11-17-2004, 01:02 AM
Just one more point: WGA membership doesn't really help anything get going when it comes to foreign production.

WGA membership, and the insistence on a WGA contract, can actually hinder negotiations with a foreign financing entity as these companies normally balk at being responsible for WGA, DGA, SAG, etc., residuals.

The US producer doesn't want to be responsible for worldwide residuals, so this is normally a pain in the ass negotiation.

Just another heads up for writers selling in foreign lands.