View Full Version : Prod Co Makes Offer - How Long Can They Wait?
07-29-2004, 08:54 PM
I was lucky enough for 5 production companies to ask to read my script. So, of course, I've been day dreaming - imagining all 5 wanting to buy it, offering 3 picture deals. (It can happen :rolleyes ) Here are my questions for you pros:
1) If one tells me he wants to buy, how long can I tell him to wait so that I have time to contact the other 4 and tell them they better read the script and make an offer quick? What would be a reasonable amount of time? Two weeks?
2) In selling my script I still want a piece of the action. I want a set dollar amount PLUS parts of the box office proceeds; payperview; hotel, dvd/vhs, and airplane sells, heck - even action figures if that comes about. How likely am I to get this? What are your experiences?
07-29-2004, 10:36 PM
First of all, a read is a long way from a sale.
Secondly, if one production company says they want to buy it, you get an attorney and start negotiating. A deal in the hand is worth a hundred maybe deals. You could call the other prodcos and tell them you are negotiating to sell the project which may or may not cause them to get moving on your script. Telling a prodco you are negotiating with another company is an old Hollywood ploy. It's nice if it's true, but a lot of the time it isn't. If you try to stall the company that wants to buy your script, you could end up losing the deal and ending up with nothing.
Thirdly, unless you have previous sales you didn't mention, or have a script that everyone in Hollywood wants, or something else you didn't mention, your odds of getting the things you mentioned are pretty close to zero. Maybe after you have three megahits you could get a couple of them but I doubt it.
A few directors can command such deals but you can count them on one hand. I'd think more about just getting a sale for a decent amount of money and save the other things until you're a superstar.
08-02-2004, 04:57 PM
Congratulations on the read. I think you're jumping ahead of yourself though. Production companies typically don't buy scripts outright, they option them (for money if you're lucky) then they look for a studio to pay for the film. But that's a long way off.
If you do get to the point of making a sale, you should get a lawyer or an agent to negotiate for you. But as a first time writer you can't typically expect more than scale. (see WGA website for more info). Then you're guaranteed 2 rewrites on your project. After that you are replaced with someone else. If you're lucky, you get sole credit once all is done. If you're unlucky, you'll get story by and someone else will get that screenplay by credit. As for perks... wait till you're famous.
08-04-2004, 03:07 PM
Getting a read is wonderful when it happens the first time. Still pretty good after the tenth or more. But it's a long ways off from getting an offer. Best of luck!
08-05-2004, 07:57 PM
Production companies typically don't buy scripts outright, they option them (for money if you're lucky)
Doesn't every legit company pay for an option?
Or does is only happen if you happen to get lucky?
09-14-2004, 12:06 AM
I don't think companies can be defined as legit or not simply on the basis of whether they are willing to pay for an option.
A well connected producer who offers no money up front is no doubt of more value than a producer with no real contacts in the industry who offers a few hundred bucks.
There is always the argument that, when someone pays $$ then they are more committed to pushing the project. So it all comes down to how you feel about the people involved and how well you can work together (IMHO).
09-14-2004, 03:05 PM
nobody pays for an option these days. It either sells or it doesn't.
no well connected producers offer money or a contract up front. They take your script to the money people and if there's an offer then they are the producer and your lawyers/agents hammer it out.
the exception is if the production company is independent/small and they want to develop the script (often times without you) or go out to directors (who will often times rewrite it). Then you might get a holding fee.
09-14-2004, 04:07 PM
A small prodco's paid us 12k to keep the same script under option for the last 18 months. The biggest payment--10k--came because THEY wanted to be the ones to take it to the studio buyers. And they can't develop the script without us until they pay for one rewrite--then, of course, they're free to do what they want.
Another DD'er recently optioned her script to a producer for 20k--the details are in the Business Forum, under, "The first time I got paid" thread. So some people are still putting up option money; might be rare, but it still happens.
Are you speaking primarily of what happens when a script goes out wide to producers, who then take it in to their respective studio buyers, and a deal either happens or it doesn't? I know that's a fast-paced scenario and there's really no time for options or anything else.
But what about MM's scenario, when you're shopping it to a few prodcos/producers first, hoping to hook some interest, and option money, before it goes to the big buyers? This seems like a scenario where a script that's perceived as marketable/commercial by the prodco and gets them excited could pry loose some option money--especially if the writer's clear intentions are to continue shopping it elsewhere in the hopes of finding option money. That's basically how we got the prodco to ante up 10k.
Being relatively new to this, and watching from the writer's side of the table, I don't know how all this works, but I find it hard to believe that if a prodco/producer is sufficiently excited about the marketability of your script, that they won't put up option money to secure it--before you take it elsewhere. I mean, to exaggerate a little to make my point, if they think you just handed them the next big blockbuster, will they really just let it go because the writer wants option money? My limited expereince says not--but I'm still asking...and wondering. What's the broader industry experience?
09-14-2004, 05:11 PM
"Are you speaking primarily of what happens when a script goes out wide to producers, who then take it in to their respective studio buyers, and a deal either happens or it doesn't? I know that's a fast-paced scenario and there's really no time for options or anything else."
My experience is any well conncted producer or prod. company with a studio deal who can go straight to the top with one phone call NEVER puts out option money. There no reason.
The reason why you got option money is because the producer was less well connected and neded a year or whatever to get attachments or wait for people to call them back or your script was risky and wasn't high concept enough.
Like I said if its a small producer/indie who needs attachments to get the money for development (especially a director), they will option your script... maybe. But any real player will never do that.
"if a prodco/producer is sufficiently excited about the marketability of your script, that they won't put up option money to secure it--before you take it elsewhere. "
If they are a player who can talk to the SVP at the studio they don't need to do that. In investment banking (which I worked in) or advertising do the people who spend hours making deal books and pitching to clients get "option money?" as they shop their services for a 3rd party client? No. Never.
If they are a small time hustler, wanting to sell your package to a bigger fish they may need to put a hold on it. However, this doesn't happen that much simply because the volume of scripts. Why pay 10k when some other kid will give you his script for free?
If they are intending to actually produce your movie you may get money from a B-level studio or prod co. and then get the rest when it's in production.
However, for an A-picture, the Agents and the WGA prevents this practice in practicality. First, no agency would stay in business if they let scripts get optioned because its small money. Also it's against the WGA to structure deals like this unless the writer gets 10% of the purchase price upfront. Managers don't need a option because they are getting a free one already by having you as their client.
I dunno.. I may be wrong, ask someone on here who work at an agency if their writers ever get options. They'll probably tell you "only in TV"...
09-14-2004, 08:38 PM
"My experience is any well conncted producer or prod. company with a studio deal who can go straight to the top with one phone call NEVER puts out option money. There no reason."
So the sad truth for us writers is that the prevailing practice among the connected-producers and prodcos is to shop scripts they do not own without the writer's permission--"a clear contravention of Writers Guild Policy" acccording to Ron Suppa in his book THIS BUSINESS OF SCREENWRITING. Because in order to make that phone call to the studio SVP offering a project for consideration, doesn't the producer/prodco presumably have to have some form of agreement with the writer? Or do they just pick up the phone behind the writer's back and pitch the project?
Regrettably, I suspect you're right. But I still can see the opportunity--however small--for getting option money if the producer/prodco actually calls to get the writer's permission before shopping your script to their studio contacts. Isn't it at this point that the writer, at least theoretically, could ask for option money before the producer starts shopping your script? If the producer declines, then you take your project to the next producer on the list. Or is the prevailing industry practice for the producer to hang up the phone and call his SVP contact anyway and pitch the project?
I don't know--sounds like these guys got you coming and going...
09-14-2004, 09:35 PM
"in order to make that phone call to the studio SVP offering a project for consideration, doesn't the producer/prodco presumably have to have some form of agreement with the writer? Or do they just pick up the phone behind the writer's back and pitch the project?"
I don't think you or this author has a clear understanding of how this business works when it comes to selling specs to studios.
Let's say you don't have an agent and send your script to a hot shot producer. He loves it. Do you think he's going to pay out of his own pocket $500,000 or even $100,000? unless it's Brian Grazer, hell no.
But you just gave him permission, by virtue of you sending him your project to set up your project. You're saying, "give me money for my work." He's going to do whatever it takes to get the rights to it by paying you.
So he calls his guys at the 5 or 6 studios and says, "hey, I got this script and it's hot. I'll send it over."
See? This is why you use an agent so you can have this scenario happen SIMULTANEOUSLY all over town.
There is no reason for any option to be negotiated at this point. In fact, no bidding war can happen if the script is optioned. At that point, the purchase price has already been determined. If you optioned it at this point, you just screwed your self out of a larger payday.
After everyone has passed and the script is sitting there dead and someone comes along and says, "hey, i'd like to tie it up for a year and see if I can get a couple of actors attached" then you might be able to finagle 10k or or whatever.
"I still can see the opportunity--however small--for getting option money if the producer/prodco actually calls to get the writer's permission before shopping your script to their studio contacts. Isn't it at this point that the writer, at least theoretically, could ask for option money before the producer starts shopping your script?"
This doesn't benefit you, having one producer attached. You want 10 or 20 trying to get you paid. The option whether it $1 or $50,000 benefits the producer because then they don't have competition and they can offer it to the studio for much less. It hurts you don't have a chance to sell it to someone else for better terms.
This is why I will never do another option again (I have done 3 or 4) with one of my projects. It's always an inpedement to buyers. And there is simply no point to give someone exclusivity. They either can get me paid... or they can't. They either can get Brad Pitt... or they can't.
If they can't get the studio head or brad pitt's manager on the phone and send the script over right away and they need 6 months, then they are NOT FOR REAL. They have no power. Anyway, that's what I've learned.
09-14-2004, 10:01 PM
You're right, I definitily don't understand this process if this is true:
"But you just gave him permission, by virtue of you sending him your project to set up your project. You're saying, "give me money for my work." He's going to do whatever it takes to get the rights to it by paying you."
I didn't realize that just sending the project for consideration gave the producer legal right to start trying to set-up the project without some further agreement--verbal or written--with the writer. That is news to me.
You make some great points about the downside of options. However, when our script went out earlier this year, we were told by our manager that the option held by the prodco probably would not be honored by the studio if they wanted to buy the project. That was news to me, too!
Our rep told us it was common for studios to start from scratch with the writers, discarding the pre-existing option, and negotiating a new deal entirely. Of course, the writers are free to reject this process, but what beginning writer would? Have you ever heard this before? Is it common practice?
"Since the 80's the business has moved at a rapid pace. Many scripts being written (thanks to computers), more agents, everything moves fast. Everything is tracked and analyzed. So when a spec goes out it's immediatley on everyones radar and goes to the buyers. At least this is how its supposed to work...."
I understand about a spec going wide--makes sense that no producer/prodco options come out of this fast-paced process. But that's not what MM (or myself) did with our scripts. We got them to individual producers first. That's the situation most of us newbies find ourselves in at first--long before attracting an agent and getting the "spec going wide" treatment.
Sounds like the emerging wisdom from sid's observations and my parrticular experience is that if you're looking for option money, you're better off dealing with smaller prodcos and producers (as counter-intuitive as that seems!)
But the downside there is that they probably won't have the direct access to the studio buyers more well-connected producers would. So it could take a while for them to put a deal together.
On the other hand, it sounds like the Big Producers won't lay down a dime in option money, but they'll get your script directly to the Big Buyers. But if it goes out wide and craps out, chances are slim you'll ever see a dime out of that particular script.
That's why I liked what happened with our script. We earned 12k on it before the studios ever even saw the thing. It crapped out when it went wide to the studios, but we still have the consolation that it earned some dough. I was hoping to duplicate that scenario with future scripts and bigger prodcos for bigger option money, but it sounds like that's not the way it works as you move up the food chain.
09-14-2004, 10:18 PM
Just to clarify--as far as you know, is the prevailing practice for producers to shop scripts without the writer's permission? When you say these guys are just picking up phones and calling their studio contacts, that's what it sounds like to me. Is that why these folks aren't paying for options? What do they do BEFORE they make that call to the studio SVP? Presumably they're supposed to talk to the writer, right? Or is the prevailing situation that
When you send a script you just gave someone permission to get it produced. They may tell you "yeah, I sent it to Warners" but most times no. you won't hear notes or if they passed or whatever. Also, if you are doing it through a rep you will hear NOTHING except good news. They don't need your permission to do anything.
"I was hoping to duplicate that scenario with future scripts and bigger prodcos for bigger option money, but it sounds like that's not the way it works as you move up the food chain."
The fact that you got 12k means you got REAL lucky. I guess it was a minor guy looking for a leg up had to take a chance with you guys so he thought he'd pay up to prove he was serious.
But if you want the big money, this is how it works (generally. there are always weird exceptions)
1) script goes to agent
2) agent sends script to 50 producers
3) Hopefully at this point 5 or 10 or however many producers like it send it to studio they have deal with
4) studio buys script with producer attached and pays writer and producer.
if everyone at the studio passes at point #3, you might get an option after that from a smaller outfit.
It's awesome you got 12k. But in fact, you may have limited yourself to ever getting any more money for your script because you agreed to the option. [BTW i made this mistake too but I was desparate] You see, in normal scenario, you could have had 5 producers take it to five studios, instead of 1 producer trying to get it sold.
09-15-2004, 09:37 AM
Here's a step-outline of how our situation went down, just to give folks an idea of one possible variation, and how circuitous the road from cold-query to studio exposure can be:
1) script goes to TV agent
2) agent options script to small prodco of MOW's and low-budget independent features. (about 20 produced titles in all)
3) small prodco unable to set-up a deal for an MOW with TV networks.
4) small independent producer w/ two projects in studio development reads script, likes it, sees it as a possible studio feature.
5) agent coordinates a deal between small prodco option-holder and small independent producer to partner in taking project to studios/big prodcos.
6) script goes out to all majors and a few big prodcos: New Regency, Gold Circle etc.
7) all but one major pass within a week or so.
8 one holdout requests a meeting with writers "to discuss moving forward..."
9) meeting happens (along with several others at studios/prodcos while writers in town) production SVP suggests some changes, asks small independent producer about small prodco's involvement, meeting's adjourned.
10) major passes early the following week
11) writers weep :D
09-17-2004, 12:08 PM
sidneyfalco has it about right.
And as others have mentioned, if an offer seems
forthcoming, you won't need to worry about how
much time to give them, because you'll be having
your entertainment attorney hammer out the details,
and this customarily takes a week or two to iron out.
09-17-2004, 02:11 PM
Marc Hernandez of Crescendo posted this link in the Agent's forum under the "Securing Representation" thread.
This page also has an article laying out the basics about options.
09-21-2004, 09:34 AM
Ditto Cole! He nailed it for you!:smokin
Best of luck whatever you decide to do!;)
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