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View Full Version : Complex situation re: past option/new agent


Pasquali56
10-28-2010, 10:12 AM
An agent at a very solid agency (talent and literary) wants to try to put a package together with one of my screenplays. It already has a strong "brand" attached (a company with a brand name that has strong international distribution/awareness) -- and some good talent, although the agency also has a lot of talent in-house that would work.

The problem is this: this screenplay was under a loose (free) option with a producer/director for the past four years. This producer is a lightweight in the industry with no credits to speak of. He pitched it mainly to private investors and just a few production companies. I believe his biggest obstacle was that he had attached himself as director, so no one wanted to take the risk.

Anyway, the agent is somewhat worried that this producer, who had given me notes that I incorporated into the script, might try to make waves. He said any buyer would want a clear title from me with no one else remotely involved who could make any claims. I told him that I've had many options before, and I've never seen a case where a producer can claim any hold on a screenplay once the option expires. Nevertheless, the agent is worried and says the producer will have to sign a release before he takes it out.

The agent suggested that I talk to an attorney to get this done (although I'm sure the agency has their own lawyers on staff). I'll probably bit the bullet and hire one, but I'm wondering if anyone here has had a similar experience -- or any thoughts. Again, my understanding is that once an option expires that the producer has absolutely no hold on the project, even on a draft that he may have helped develop with notes.

Another question I have is this: If the producer decides to be difficult, which is a possibility, and doesn't want to sign the release, what about the possibility of offering him a shared story credit? I'd hate to do this, but I would if worse comes to worse.

I have made it clear to the producer that I'm moving on and our deal is done. It was a loose option and never even technically renewed after the first year. Plus, all attachments were made by me. I'm the one who did all the legwork and made them happen. In hindsight, I should have ended the option a long time ago. Another reason to never accept free options!

Thanks.

Geoff Alexander
10-28-2010, 11:49 AM
An agent at a very solid agency (talent and literary) wants to try to put a package together with one of my screenplays. It already has a strong "brand" attached (a company with a brand name that has strong international distribution/awareness) -- and some good talent, although the agency also has a lot of talent in-house that would work.

The problem is this: this screenplay was under a loose (free) option with a producer/director for the past four years. This producer is a lightweight in the industry with no credits to speak of. He pitched it mainly to private investors and just a few production companies. I believe his biggest obstacle was that he had attached himself as director, so no one wanted to take the risk.

Anyway, the agent is somewhat worried that this producer, who had given me notes that I incorporated into the script, might try to make waves. He said any buyer would want a clear title from me with no one else remotely involved who could make any claims. I told him that I've had many options before, and I've never seen a case where a producer can claim any hold on a screenplay once the option expires. Nevertheless, the agent is worried and says the producer will have to sign a release before he takes it out.

The agent suggested that I talk to an attorney to get this done (although I'm sure the agency has their own lawyers on staff). I'll probably bit the bullet and hire one, but I'm wondering if anyone here has had a similar experience -- or any thoughts. Again, my understanding is that once an option expires that the producer has absolutely no hold on the project, even on a draft that he may have helped develop with notes.

Another question I have is this: If the producer decides to be difficult, which is a possibility, and doesn't want to sign the release, what about the possibility of offering him a shared story credit? I'd hate to do this, but I would if worse comes to worse.

I have made it clear to the producer that I'm moving on and our deal is done. It was a loose option and never even technically renewed after the first year. Plus, all attachments were made by me. I'm the one who did all the legwork and made them happen. In hindsight, I should have ended the option a long time ago. Another reason to never accept free options!

Thanks.

That's sort of odd, if you can come up with the signed option that the Producer held, and it is clearly lapsed, then the agent shouldn't be sweating it.

Bunker
10-28-2010, 11:59 AM
The only way I can see this being a problem is if the producer set you up with that agent or any talent that's currently attached to the project. I know a lot of option agreements have a clause that pretty much says, "If anything happens with the script that wouldn't have happened if I (the producer) didn't exist, then I'm still attached and get my share... so suck it."

NikeeGoddess
10-28-2010, 12:05 PM
if i were you i'd just send him a certified letter saying that your option agreement has long since lapsed and you no longer have a business deal with him.

i don't get why your agent is sweating this either. don't even think of bringing him along. he's dead weight. it's just business. happens all the time... even to a-list actors and directors.

also - if i were you i would reregister and/or copyright the latest version of the script in you name only.

Pasquali56
10-28-2010, 01:58 PM
The problem is that I don't even have a copy of our original option agreement. He didn't even know what to put in an option agreement, so he asked me to write it up. I did -- and it was a one paragraph email that basically said he had the option for one year. It was really simple -- and I was very naive to even enter into it with him. Of course, at the time he told me he had financing in place and was putting it on his upcoming slate.

Although he gave me notes and I incorporated them into the script, I never re-registered it under both our names. It was always under mine only.

With that said, the agent may have a point in that a buyer might want to see the original option agreement and when it expired. I've already sent the producer an email saying that our deal is over. Period. I would hope that would suffice. I may just play it out and first see if the agent can get anything going, then deal with it at that point.

Bunker
10-28-2010, 03:51 PM
Did he ever reply to your email that the option has expired? And if you wrote the option agreement, don't you have a copy somewhere in your email?

If not, then you should get something in writing. And it's much easier to take care of this stuff when a project has no momentum at all. If financing or talent gets attached to this script, then the producer has a serious incentive to cling to it and try to get some money or a credit out of the deal. Since nothing's happening right now, you could just drop him a line and say, "Hey, I'm going to take this out on my own and just wanted to get in writing that our option agreement has expired." Be nice, be professional.

Also, it's time to start keeping detailed records of your correspondence with this guy. Better safe than sorry.

Pasquali56
10-28-2010, 05:19 PM
I have all correspondence to and from him -- except that damn option agreement. You're right in that I need to get a release signed by him that says he no longer has the option. And sooner than later. Thanks for the input.

cshel
10-28-2010, 06:41 PM
Based solely on what I've read here, in posts like this one, it seems like these free options turn out to be more trouble than they are worth. Has anyone here ever benefitted from doing one?

umo
10-28-2010, 06:42 PM
Based solely on what I've read here, in posts like this one, it seems like these free options turn out to be more trouble than they are worth. Has anyone here ever benefitted from doing one?

Excellent question.

Pasquali56
10-28-2010, 09:37 PM
I don't know of any free options that turned into a produced movie.

catcon
10-29-2010, 08:32 AM
Agreed. Check this thread, too: 10% or 15%

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=58473

Geoff Alexander
10-29-2010, 11:08 AM
I don't know of any free options that turned into a produced movie.

I do.

Pasquali56
10-29-2010, 03:47 PM
SB, care to share what movies they were/are?

Geoff Alexander
10-29-2010, 06:36 PM
SB, care to share what movies they were/are?

When I saw the question, I thought of one that we made called "Even Money. Didn't turn out as well as we would have liked, but started with a free option and it was a hell of a cast.

Pasquali56
10-29-2010, 06:48 PM
Any others that are more recent that we'd all know?

Geoff Alexander
10-29-2010, 06:51 PM
Any others that are more recent that we'd all know?

I suspect so. Nothing else that we've done, but I'm sure we're not the only ones.