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Old 03-24-2005, 04:19 PM   #1
whateveryeah
 
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Default Do producers even option anymore?

I have a question about something I've seen in the industry, and wonder whether it's just been my personal experience or the indication of a greater trend. I've had three different producers by now express interest in various projects, then ask me to tweak them slightly (i.e., free rewriters, I suppose) so they can shop them to a few, named, specific contacts of theirs in the business. I realize this constitutes a verbal shopping agreement of sorts and have really had no problem with it as I've seen it as a way to get my scripts through doors that I, as a currently unrepresented writer, never could alone. I also know, of course, this involves reduced risk for the producers in terms of not being tied to a messy (or costly) option agreement if the project doesn't readily sell. Then again, to me it seems risky for them to put time and effort into giving notes and then shopping a work they don't have guaranteed rights to. After talking with other screenwriters, I've come to feel my situation is less than unique. Are producers going more and more this unofficial "gentlemen's understanding" route rather than paying out options, or is my perception as an as-yet-unsold-unproduced-bottom-feeder skewed?
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Old 03-24-2005, 05:25 PM   #2
kullervo
 
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Hey, they get you to work for free, they get your script for free, and they know the people they're showing it to-- you don't. So they know their buddies will screw you faster than they'll screw them, and they probably won't be cut out of the deal. Sounds like a dandy little money saver to me.

kullervo
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Old 03-24-2005, 05:31 PM   #3
English Dave
 
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It's called 'taking the piss' a favourite pastime of producers with a newbie unrepresented writer. Do you think an agent would let them do this?

No risk, no money down, and a desperate eager to please writer working for free. Manna from heaven

But what are you gonna do? They know you don't have a lot of choice.
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Old 03-24-2005, 05:55 PM   #4
whateveryeah
 
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Default Re: Do producers even option anymore?

Yes, yes. I'm quite aware I'm being pissed on, but also am quite over the barrel. My supposed protection is the MBA, under which I qualify as a "professional writer" credentialed in other areas. Still, the first producer actually laughed at this when a deal came to be set up at a television studio. When my lawyer told me to stick to my guns for the minimum, the deal fell through. Since, I've been quite up front with any interested parties that I'd expect MBA minimum at the very least, as that's what the WGA contracts office and legal advice tells me I'm entitled to. So far, no one else has laughed, but then I haven't sold yet either. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have taken that earlier credit and gone ahead and gotten screwed. :\

As bad as these verbal shopping agreements are, I believe those dollar options are worse offenders. At least without anything in writing the screenwriter is also free to walk and take a better deal.
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Old 03-24-2005, 06:17 PM   #5
English Dave
 
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Default Re: Re: Do producers even option anymore?

I know exactly what you're saying whatever because we've all been through it. But even before I was represented I didn't work for free. Don't believe the carrot they dangle in front of you. If they're not interested in the project enough to put some money down they're not interested in the project enough. Full stop.

You are the writer. You are the guy with the talent. Without you these guys would be selling Toner. I know it's hard to turn down the prospect of some exposure or a credit no matter how small the chance is of it ever coming off. But there is a far better chance of it coming off with a producer who has a stake in it.

There are a lot of shysters out there preying on writers who are willing to grasp at the slimmest of chances. That's how they operate. Have some respect for yourself and your work. Stick to your guns. No payee - No workee.
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Old 03-24-2005, 09:33 PM   #6
landis26
 
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Default Re: Re: Do producers even option anymore?

English Dave is right. I had a well known producer tell me he didn't have any development money. Yeah, right. But.. sometimes it's worth it to take a chance.
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Old 03-25-2005, 10:25 AM   #7
SbScript
 
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>It's called 'taking the piss' a favourite pastime of producers with a newbie unrepresented writer. Do you think an agent would let them do this?

No risk, no money down, and a desperate eager to please writer working for free. Manna from heaven*so* much fun, my favorite hobby.

Please.
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Old 03-25-2005, 11:41 AM   #8
English Dave
 
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I'm sorry SB, do you have a point? From your post, correct me if I'm wrong, you seem to be intimating that you are a producer?

If you are then fantastic, you can explain the producing mentality that thinks writers live on fresh air and work for the hell of it?

A producer who asks a writer to work for free isn't really a producer, they are a wannabbee or a shark.

If you are a writer then perhaps you have an example from your own experience of how the free work you have done at the behest of a 'producer' has enriched you financially?

It would be interesting to see if this was a frequent occurrence. It is one I've never come across.
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Old 03-25-2005, 01:32 PM   #9
SbScript
 
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Re: Do producers even option anymore?
>I'm sorry SB, do you have a point? From your post, correct me if I'm wrong, you seem to be intimating that you are a producer?

If you are then fantastic, you can explain the producing mentality that thinks writers live on fresh air and work for the hell of it?

A producer who asks a writer to work for free isn't really a producer, they are a wannabbee or a shark.

If you are a writer then perhaps you have an example from your own experience of how the free work you have done at the behest of a 'producer' has enriched you financially?

It would be interesting to see if this was a frequent occurrence. It is one I've never come acrossI'm sorry SB, do you have a point? From your post, correct me if I'm wrong, you seem to be intimating that you are a producer?

If you are then fantastic, you can explain the producing mentality that thinks writers live on fresh air and work for the hell of it?

A producer who asks a writer to work for free isn't really a producer, they are a wannabbee or a shark.

If you are a writer then perhaps you have an example from your own experience of how the free work you have done at the behest of a 'producer' has enriched you financially?

It would be interesting to see if this was a frequent occurrence. It is one I've never come across(in the writer's opinion) they'd be fools to not do it. Your blanket assertion that "a producer who asks a writer to work for free is a wannabee or shark" is false.

Of course it isn't a frequent occurence that a newbie writer sells a script, even if they've executed notes for free, because people don't often sell scripts, under any circumstances.

Can I give you an example of a writer working for free and realizing financial gain in the end? Many. Writers do this for agents and managers all the time in the hopes that this will help their reps make a sale. Why not enter into the same sort of relationship with a Producer?

Specifics? Sure. A friend of mine agreed to a free option for a Producer who'd recently gone out on his own. The guy had a track record and no development money. He rewrote the script. Then they attached a director. He rewrote the script. Then they attached a name actor. He rewrote the script. Then they set it up with a ProdCo, which took a one year *free* option. He rewrote the script.

They exercised the option, paid him 250k, and the movie just wrapped.

I guess he should have told them "No payee - no workee."

Of course, if he had he would have "No money - no movie."
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Old 03-25-2005, 03:35 PM   #10
English Dave
 
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Lets take a look at this SB. Your friend was working with a KNOWN producer with a TRACK record possibly, allthough you do not say, with the blessing of his agent or manager to whom this producer was known? He took a risk and it paid off. The problem is these rare occurances are held up by the charlatans with nothing in the way of track record as an enticement to other writers to take the same risk. They prey on unrepresented inexperienced writers. Are you trying to tell me this doesn't happen, every day? And many, many times more frequently than your lucky friend's experience.

Note the word OPTION. Perhaps no money changed hands initially but your 'friend' was obviously protected by contract. Another aspect noticibly missing in the examples I am referring to.

There is a huge difference between a writer re-writing his own material to produce the best possible script at the request of his agent or manager and doing free work for 'a producer' on some iffy project at the producers request and with no contract or payment.

The producer you refer to was IMO a wannabbee because he had no money to put into a project and relied soley on the goodwill of the writer working for nothing! The only thing that seperates him from the rest of the wannabbees is that he is one of the tiny minority who actually make good, probably due to his previous track record working for a bigger company.

Allowing for writers hyberbole of course my assertion is false that any producer who asks you to write for no money is either a wannabee or a shark . There will always be exceptions. But as a general rule it is more true than not.

Your lottery winning friend is an exception and will no doubt be held up as a dangling carrot by some of the unscrupulous low life who frequent the fringes of this industry.

There will always be writers who are willing to do almost anything to break in and there will always be 'producers' willing to take advantage of this. What I am saying is go in with your eyes open. Think about the fact that maybe the time would be better spent fashioning a great spec of your own, because I guarantee you that will open many more doors than yet another would -be producer clinging on by his fingernails.

Out of interest, the name of the movie is?
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