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Old 05-23-2016, 07:46 PM   #1
pickerman123
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Default A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

Hi all:

I've bumped into some prod cos, managers, agents, producers etc.. who have legitimate credits (moderate to high budget) and the one dollar/zero option seems to be more and more common.

It's not enough the odds are stacked against the writer but on top more and more of those at the gates want us to sign over our work that we've worked on for god knows how many months or years.

This is getting out of hand. The disrespect in a business where disrespect was always prevalent has made screenwriting less and less attractive. I'm lucky I love to write and don't do it for the money first.

It was amusing to have a producer think I was a desperate screenwriter who writes for free, gives the work for free for a year or six months or whatever without recompense.

I would LOVE to hear from others regarding their experience with any prod co., manager, producer etc... who had legitimate credits and thought they could muscle you into coughing up your work for free -- and sending them packing.

Rich
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Old 05-24-2016, 12:42 AM   #2
EdFury
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero.dollar Options

I know I say I don't write for free or option for free. And there are no exceptions. If you like my work enough to try and make it, you can invest in the script to start. Doesn't have to be a lot, but it has to be something worth my while. My manager agrees. But then he knows better than to suggest anything else. This begs the question... Would I walk away from an option if someone insisted it be free? Yes. I would. And have. They came back about two weeks later and paid. Value your hard work.
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Old 05-24-2016, 05:23 PM   #3
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

What Ed said.

Late Night Writer
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Old 05-25-2016, 02:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

I wouldn't do a free option contract. But there is a grey area in "Let us take a stab at this unofficially" which is basically a bullsh*t free option in and of itself. But sometimes it works out. Blumhouse did that with my script SOLO. They dug it and asked if they could try to package it. I asked for an option, and there was a sense of "sure, we'll talk about it soon...". But because it was an 8 year old script that no one else was pursuing (and Blumhouse certainly isn't starving for material), I let them try to put it together with no option in place. Within a month they found a director and did some scouting trips. Once they found a location that fit their budget, they finally optioned it (because they had started spending $ and needed to protect themselves). Then they cast it, and production begins in Malaysia in 18 days (June 13 - woo!). So I was a pushover on this one, but it was also an 8 year old script that I'd been using as a sample for years; so my advice is know your project's worth but also use your gut about each situation. As soon as they want it in writing, get paid!
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Old 05-25-2016, 06:08 PM   #5
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

I really don't understand this business. I seem to do a lot of work for free. Please tell me if the following is a normal scenario:

You pitch an idea to a producer and they love it and go with you to pitch it to a studio. The studio passes but likes the idea and says they'd prefer to read the completed screenplay. So then you write the screenplay with the producer giving notes. Mind you, you're doing all of this for free until the producer, who is attached, finally takes it out and sells it to a studio. Who knows when or even if that will ever happen, in which case you'll never collect a paycheck.

Isn't this the way things work, or am I the only writer who is doing this?
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Old 05-25-2016, 06:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

I wouldn't say that's how it works, but it often works like that. If you believe in the studio's interest and the producer's passion, do the work. If you don't, move on. It's always iffy to write a spec with a producer, though, because that producer can turn out to be more leg-iron than springboard. If they try to sell it and fail, the project is dead unless the producer wants to try to package. Sometimes they'll try, other times they'll just stop returning your calls and you can't do anything else with the script without them. Trust your gut.
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Old 05-25-2016, 06:58 PM   #7
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfessorChomp View Post
It's always iffy to write a spec with a producer, though, because that producer can turn out to be more leg-iron than springboard. If they try to sell it and fail, the project is dead unless the producer wants to try to package. Sometimes they'll try, other times they'll just stop returning your calls and you can't do anything else with the script without them. Trust your gut.
I was afraid of this. But I think it's too late to back out now.

Thanks for the advice.
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Old 05-26-2016, 12:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by sallain View Post
I really don't understand this business. I seem to do a lot of work for free. Please tell me if the following is a normal scenario:

You pitch an idea to a producer and they love it and go with you to pitch it to a studio. The studio passes but likes the idea and says they'd prefer to read the completed screenplay. So then you write the screenplay with the producer giving notes. Mind you, you're doing all of this for free until the producer, who is attached, finally takes it out and sells it to a studio. Who knows when or even if that will ever happen, in which case you'll never collect a paycheck.

Isn't this the way things work, or am I the only writer who is doing this?
The only way anyone should do this, if you choose to work for free, is to have a written agreement with the producer that if he/she can't get it set up in 18 months from delivery of the script that you, the writer, own it outright with zero attachments. There is NO WAY you should do the damn hard work to create and write an original script only to have nothing to show for it and no sole ownership when you're done and it doesn't get made. You need sole ownership so you can take it elsewhere or develop it more yourself. But then, I wouldn't write it for free.
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Old 05-26-2016, 06:50 AM   #9
docgonzo
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by EdFury View Post
The only way anyone should do this, if you choose to work for free, is to have a written agreement with the producer that if he/she can't get it set up in 18 months from delivery of the script that you, the writer, own it outright with zero attachments. There is NO WAY you should do the damn hard work to create and write an original script only to have nothing to show for it and no sole ownership when you're done and it doesn't get made. You need sole ownership so you can take it elsewhere or develop it more yourself. But then, I wouldn't write it for free.
Seems to me 18 months is too long for this. Wouldn't six months suffice?
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Old 05-26-2016, 09:45 AM   #10
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Default Re: A Question About Those Zero Dollar Options

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Originally Posted by docgonzo View Post
Seems to me 18 months is too long for this. Wouldn't six months suffice?
You want them to agree to this. And truthfully, 6 months isn't enough time to set up anything these days. 12 to 18 months is reasonable from delivery. It would in fact constitute a free option for that producer with you getting the script back free and clear if nothing happens. You would also have to have in place in the same document your sale price. What you get paid if it's made. Which you'd also have to agree to. You have just as much right to negotiate what you want as any producer does.
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