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Old 02-18-2009, 06:43 AM   #1
mikeb
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Default Options make the trades?

Curious...

Do options make it into the trades? Variety, HWR, DDP?

I'm seeing a lot of six, sometimes seven figure deals... (Jonah Hill?) but I'm not naive... I know scripts are almost always come with an "option" price in the contract first, and most people won't make money on specs until cameras begin filming. Even if they have a 600,000 against 1.1 million in contract, is the script sometimes "optioned" first? And then the reader receives payment?

I guess I'm not as familiar with the business system as I'd like to be. But I'm four scripts deep now and have been focusing on the craft more than the business end, and when I go out with the script that those in my circle seem to love, I want to be prepared.
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:46 AM   #2
Johnnycomelately
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

I've had one script optioned. I was paid some money up-front (not a lot, but fair) against a certain amount if the script was produced.

Every time the option was renewed (3 times) I was paid again and all the while I was working with the producer on rewrites. The terms were in the original contract negotiated by my entertainment attorney. She asked for the world, and I settled for a lot less, happy to have the opportunity to work with a respected producer on my first script, especially since she was on one coast and I'm on the other. I felt pretty lucky.

It never did get produced, but I own the rewritten version and I think I learned more about the business end of things than the writing end

That's my experience so far. Others probably have a vastly different story.

BTW - my option never made the trades, but this was several years ago.

Last edited by Johnnycomelately : 02-18-2009 at 08:03 AM.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

So I'm assuming that with the trades that say, "600,000 against 1.1 million..." there's no option there? That the 1.1 million is the production money, but they still get 600,000 up front (or after their required rewrites).

But with an option contract, let's say, the deal would say something like, "10,000 for a 12 month option, with 200,000 if the film goes into production."

Or are there other steps in an "option" contract? Such as... "10,000 for 12 month option... 50,000 if a studio buys the pitch, 150,000 more if it goes into production?"

Or is it something like "10,000 for the option, 120,000 if the studio buys the project, and another 100,000 if it goes into production?"

Are my numbers funny? I'm just curious in option contracts... what's the main goal, here? To get the studio to buy it? Or do they need the studio to buy it AND go to production before they get a big chunk of the change?

Perhaps someone with more business experience can clear up some of my confusion?
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:34 PM   #4
jddobkin
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

If your attorney is good there should always be steps in your contract.
For instance.

25k 12mos option
WGA rate for polish by predetermined date
WGA rate for page re-write by predetermined date
250k upon principal photography

there is usually a option renewal price also put into the contract in case production doesn't start by contracts end.
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Old 02-18-2009, 06:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Oftentimes, stories that appear in the trades are essentially press releases sent out by a production company, manager, studio, etc. to which a trade reporter attaches his byline.

The prices and terms mentioned in these "articles" may be accurate or they may have only a passing connection with what actually happened, especially with dollars actually received upfront by the writer.

Huge sales have been announced while the writer sees little or no money for many months.

These press release/articles seldom seem to differentiate between options and sales.
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Old 02-19-2009, 11:12 AM   #6
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Thanks for the input, guys.

I know it's not a simple concept and that two options are almost never the same, but I was just curious.

I raise these questions because I've written four scripts right now without really trying to learn big details of the business side. I figure if I engrossed myself in that it would backfire -- I'd either read too many posts on here talking about "script requests" from agents, managers, prodcos, etc, and get caught up in sending my stuff out before it's ready.

I've had people tell me this last one that I'm definitely ready, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can, but it's tough.

My last question: It's almost always producers who option scripts, correct? Studios almost never touch anything without a complete package unless there's a major star/director attached first, right?

So if I want to get a script optioned, I go to the Prodcos I think would be interested and work my way from the top dogs to the medium-size dogs and down, right?

But the only way to get most of the top and medium dogs to read it, you need a referral or an agent or a manger, right?

And to get an agent with some pull who can get your stuff out there to the top dogs, you need a big-time referral, right?

Am I following the chain well enough?

What would you guys suggest to me, who's got two scripts he's really confident with and has never written a query letter before? Who do I send stuff to?
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Old 02-19-2009, 03:42 PM   #7
JeffLowell
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by boski View Post
Yes and No--I think options typically come from producers, more so than studios. I've heard studios tend to just buy scripts outright.
Not in my experience. To use one of my scripts as an example:

John Tucker Must Die was optioned by MGM, and with the option, they also hired me to do two guaranteed rewrite steps. I did those, did a couple of optional steps as well. The option was renewed along the way, but both option payments were much less than what I made for the rewrites.

The option finally expired.

Fox optioned it and hired me for more rewrite steps. Movie went forward, got greenlit. They bought it from me one week before it started shooting - once they were sure it was getting made.

All in all, before anyone bought the script, I think I did seven or eight paid rewrites on it, and got four option payments.
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Old 02-19-2009, 04:04 PM   #8
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Very interesting, Jeff and boski.

Thanks a lot for the advice. It more or less confirmed what my mindset was about all this -- that it's really hard, and the path is long.
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Old 02-19-2009, 04:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Interesting. So in your type of case Jeff, typically when would the announcement of the sale hit the trades? When Fox actually buys it? In other words, most of the spec sales we read about today probably first started out as options, correct?

That part was always a little unclear to me since DDP doesn't specify.
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Old 02-19-2009, 04:26 PM   #10
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Default Re: Options make the trades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rantanplan View Post
Interesting. So in your type of case Jeff, typically when would the announcement of the sale hit the trades? When Fox actually buys it? In other words, most of the spec sales we read about today probably first started out as options, correct?

That part was always a little unclear to me since DDP doesn't specify.

Yeah. Kind of the reason I started the thread... was just curious how all that worked.

But in Jeff's case, I doubt it hit the trades when they actually bought it... because he said it happened a week before the movie started production. The stuff we read about is years away, I'm sure.
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