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Old 10-21-2014, 08:25 PM   #1
CrissCross
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Default Conference call with Producer

My writing partner and I have a conference call with a producer this week. She's very interested in our script and has already asked if we'd be ok with a "free option". I'm ok with it simply because I haven't really been out marketing the script for a while. What are some important questions I need to ask ? Obviously I want to know if she has the means to get this made and how she plans on doing so. I'm sure she can bs me to death, but that was my initial question. I also plan on asking about her experience, even though I've googled her and looked her up on IMDB. I plan on having her send me the option agreement since I don't want to start off by losing money on this deal. I will get my Entertainment Lawyer involved from that point forward. I would really appreciate it if more experience people can fill me in on other things I need to ask and do. Thank you.
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Old 10-27-2014, 03:43 PM   #2
mixj
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Ask how long she wants the option, how much you get paid if the script sells, how much of the back end you get, and tell her up front what you want. Ask her plans for the film, ie. how big she sees it being distributed (theatrical, dvd, on demand etc.).
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Old 10-29-2014, 11:17 AM   #3
EdFury
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrissCross View Post
My writing partner and I have a conference call with a producer this week. She's very interested in our script and has already asked if we'd be ok with a "free option". I'm ok with it simply because I haven't really been out marketing the script for a while. What are some important questions I need to ask ? Obviously I want to know if she has the means to get this made and how she plans on doing so. I'm sure she can bs me to death, but that was my initial question. I also plan on asking about her experience, even though I've googled her and looked her up on IMDB. I plan on having her send me the option agreement since I don't want to start off by losing money on this deal. I will get my Entertainment Lawyer involved from that point forward. I would really appreciate it if more experience people can fill me in on other things I need to ask and do. Thank you.
This is a tough one for me to answer because I don't believe in free options. In fact, I hate them. They show zero respect for the writer and his/her effort to create something that has interested this producer. And it's not free, it costs the writer. It costs for an attorney to look at the agreement. It costs in terms of tying up your property for an extended period for nothing in return. I'm not talking about holding someone up for thousands, I'm talking about a few hundred dollars. When a producer gives you nothing for your script they have zero invested, meaning it doesn't matter to them if they get the project funded or not because they are out nothing. I've seen it a million times. They have a couple of people in mind to take it to and if they say no, they look no further because they have no investment to lose. I'm tired of seeing writers taken advantage of this way.
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Old 10-29-2014, 02:14 PM   #4
grumpywriter
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

What EdFury said. Don't do a free option. Call their bluff and ask for what you think you deserve for it. The first script I optioned, the producer wanted it for free for 18 months. I said no way, specified the terms/fee I wanted, and he walked. Then five months later he came back with exactly what I asked for.
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Old 10-30-2014, 01:55 AM   #5
ihavebiglips
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Insist they put some skin in the game.
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Old 11-05-2014, 10:22 AM   #6
Ronaldinho
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrissCross View Post
My writing partner and I have a conference call with a producer this week. She's very interested in our script and has already asked if we'd be ok with a "free option". I'm ok with it simply because I haven't really been out marketing the script for a while. What are some important questions I need to ask ? Obviously I want to know if she has the means to get this made and how she plans on doing so. I'm sure she can bs me to death, but that was my initial question. I also plan on asking about her experience, even though I've googled her and looked her up on IMDB. I plan on having her send me the option agreement since I don't want to start off by losing money on this deal. I will get my Entertainment Lawyer involved from that point forward. I would really appreciate it if more experience people can fill me in on other things I need to ask and do. Thank you.
I understand the "no free options" argument, but I think there's something more important going on here that hasn't been discussed, which applies whether its a free option or one with a nominal fee attached.

And that is this:

Do you share a vision for the movie?

Get her to talk about how she sees the project. Does that sound like your movie? If not, does it sound like a movie you are excited to make with her?

One of the most important aspects of any sort of option deal is that all the key creatives involved (writer, director, producer, star) are trying to make the same movie. If you don't have this, then you'll find yourself getting lots of notes that don't make any sense, and they'll get frustrated with your execution of notes. You'll go in circles because you're not trying to make the same movie.

Try to think of this not about "my vision vs her vision," because every time a new key contributor joins the project, the project changes some to accommodate that person and what they bring. This is a good thing. But you need to keep your eye on what that combined vision of the project is, and make sure it's something you believe in.

As far as free options go, if you are going to sign a free option, make it short, and make sure you retain all rights. That is to say, while one-year options are standard, for a free option you might limit it to six months, and then have her need to pay you something. Like Ed, I don't like free options but I'm aware sometimes they're your only option.

But ...

If you're going to sign a free option, make sure you have a sense of how much work she expects to have to do on the script. It's one thing if there are a few little points to massage. It's another if you're going into a development process. I will say this: going into a development process when you're not being paid is soul-destroying, and you should resist it. If you're not being paid, you should not apply any note that you don't think makes the script better. (e.g., if the note came from a friend, your reaction would be: "Wow, great idea, I can't wait to go apply that!")

This is about protecting your passion for the project and your love of writing. It is vital.
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Old 11-05-2014, 04:03 PM   #7
kmcg
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

You say you've looked "her" up on Imdb -- are the credits "real" -- or are they shorts?

Has she worked with others or only on self produced/directed/written projects? In other words -- can she really put together a package for a feature length script?

If you haven't gotten any traction with the script... What do you have to lose?

Agree with the others... free options? If she has any cred she should be able to come up with something so that she is vested in getting it made.

Does she represent a "real" indie prodco?

Otherwise my second question remains the most pertinent one... what have you got to lose?

If they're not asking for rewrites and you've not had any bites on the script... no problem... although I'd still try and get something up front and minimize the option period... if they want additional work... then I'd definitely want more $$ up front.
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Old 11-09-2014, 02:55 PM   #8
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Been there with free option twice in past 3 years and of course they share your vision and promise to get you the big bucks and yes they did something 6 years ago on imdb and/or this is their first project so you all just need to work together so you can both make it. This is what I heard too, I gave in and guess what, when it was time to reoption for money, I got "no I own it forever and I'll sue you", Costed me money for ent. lawyer to tell me the contract was never valid and second option the guy wanted me to renew for same bad terms and even though he did have an actor from 70s that is mostly famous slightly involved, he had paid someone to raise the money to do film and wouldn't give me any money, and at end of 18 months he had nothing more than when he started so he admitted the option was over but both cases I had to petition Imdb to get it off their site because they wouldn't take it down but they did after I sent them copy of registration and told them they were violated copy write laws.

No more of this wasted time and junk for me, and the one who shared my vision rewrote parts to shop and it was so terrible. Never again. He couldn't come up with 500 after he had it 18 months, so no more. But each to his own. Just don't get your heart set on it. If you don't think much of the script you got nothing to lose but getting involved with people who will love you at the beginning and badger you by sending vicious emails and calling you five times a day when you wont answer after you tell them that you don't want to renew, taught me a big lesson.

Snowman
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Old 11-09-2014, 03:15 PM   #9
LateNightWriter
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

What Snowman said. Been there, never again. I now only do shopping agreements if they don't want to pay. I retain ownership, territory is limited, and 90 days max. If they don't like it, I take my script and walk away.

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Old 11-09-2014, 08:52 PM   #10
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Default Re: Conference call with Producer

Quote:
Originally Posted by LateNightWriter View Post
What Snowman said. Been there, never again. I now only do shopping agreements if they don't want to pay. I retain ownership, territory is limited, and 90 days max. If they don't like it, I take my script and walk away.

Late Night Writer
This, 100%. The producer almost ALWAYS wants an option agreement, but in the words of the great Western philosopher Willie Nelson, 'If you ain't got the money honey, I ain't got the time..." No money, no option. Then it's a shopping agreement, usually slanted in my favor. Or a handshake shopping agreement.
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