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Old 09-16-2018, 01:46 PM   #1
sallain
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Default WGA Option minimum

I probably just need to call the WGA on Monday, but just in case there's a well-informed WGA writer on this board: What is the minimum option amount for an original screenplay?

I find the minimums document very confusing: https://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/contracts/min2017.pdf

It says: "Company may option literary material from a "professional writer" for a period of up to 18 months upon payment of not less than 10% of minimum."

Is this 10% of option c on the list: Original Screenplay, Excluding Treatment or Sale/Purchase of Original Screenplay
Low: 50,039 High: 102,435

Or is it 10% of the minimum they are offering you for purchase of your screenplay, i.e. the floor figure in the contract?

If it's the amount in option C, is the low column for films with a budget under 5 million and high column for those above 5 million? So would the WGA minimum option amount for a film with a budget over 5 million be $10,243?

What's to stop a producer from saying the budget for the film is under 5 million, even if it ends up being a lot higher at the time they make the film?

Last edited by sallain : 09-16-2018 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 09-16-2018, 02:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: WGA Option minimum

As always, I'm sure some others will jump in, but working from the general rule of thumb and the WGA minimums, it generally breaks down to this...

A writer should be paid somewhere around 3% of the film's budget for their script. The WGA is saying if that if script is optioned then the option paid out is at least 10% of the full purchase price (the 3%).

$1 million dollar movie. $30,000 to buy script. Thus, $3,000 to option it for say 12 months.

And anyway to protect yourself? Absolutely. I've noted this before in other threads, but you put in the contract, which you both sign, that there is a floor/minimum price and a ceiling/maximum price. The floor is to protect to you mostly. It's is the least/lowest amount you will be paid no matter what. Thus, if they suddenly lost half their budget, they'd still have to pay you $30K, for example. Or simply walk away. The ceiling is to protect them for having to pay you millions for your script simply because Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts sign on. Granted you could note, well the budget is bigger so I should get paid lots more. But your script isn't suddenly worth $1.2 million. It's just not. Maybe for the next deal, but one (writer, director, actor) generally has a quote based on their last project and unless you've been selling stuff for that much previously you have to work your way up to those big payouts, in the vast majority cases. It can suck, but that's (generally) how it goes.

If the film is budgeted at $5 million, then the purchase price should be around $150k. Thus a year option would be roughly, $15K. I'd be a little surprised if one gets that without being a WGA member, having an agent and/or real track record. But ask, if you want. Give it a try. (Pardon me for not recalling if you are in the WGA or not.)

I think it might be easier to think of it this way vs. some the charts and breakdowns. Or at least I hope it is in this situation.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: WGA Option minimum

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Originally Posted by Done Deal Pro View Post
If the film is budgeted at $5 million, then the purchase price should be around $150k. Thus a year option would be roughly, $15K. I'd be a little surprised if one gets that without being a WGA member, having an agent and/or real track record. But ask, if you want. Give it a try. (Pardon me for not recalling if you are in the WGA or not.)
Thanks so much for the response! I am WGA and I have an agent.

So the 10% is not actually based on the WGA minimums but on the purchase price? So being WGA, I would not be allowed to accept an offer if it doesn't meet that minimum (10% of floor purchase price), correct?

Last edited by sallain : 09-16-2018 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: WGA Option minimum

"The 10%" is 10% of the purchase price which may or may not be fully defined in the purchase agreement. A producer could say, I will give you $50,000 for the script -- no more, no less. Thus the option for a year would be 10% of that.

But when you are working with 3% of whatever the budget might be and also a floor and ceiling it's a bit tougher to say what the exact amount 10% is actually going to be, of course. It would have to be more of a best guess, if you will.

I'm sure your agent can offer a much "better" answer, but in terms of the option amount you are paid out, I think it'd be safe to say, it would be at least 10% of the 3% lowest purchase price you would accept or be allowed to accept to sell the script ultimately to the producer.

In other words, if you or some writer says, "I don't care about any budget problems. You are not getting my script for less than $50,039. I'd rather not ever sell it for less than that." Thus $50K is your floor, so you should be paid $5K for a year's option. I note $50K since that is the least you can accept as a WGA member. A non-WGA member could plug in different/lower numbers as desired.

And yes, I'm next to positive you can't accept anything below whatever the WGA minimums are as a member. I'm pretty sure they don't have make the same arrangements for their members that SAG does with agreements like the Ultra Low Budget agreement, etc. (They might somewhere buried deep in all their text but don't think they do.)

Again, your agent might argue something slightly different or fight for a bigger option depending on your past deals and/or the producer you both are dealing with.

Does that help at all?
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:25 PM   #5
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Default Re: WGA Option minimum

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Originally Posted by Done Deal Pro View Post
"The 10%" is 10% of the purchase price which may or may not be fully defined in the purchase agreement. A producer could say, I will give you $50,000 for the script -- no more, no less. Thus the option for a year would be 10% of that.

But when you are working with 3% of whatever the budget might be and also a floor and ceiling it's a bit tougher to say what the exact amount 10% is actually going to be, of course. It would have to be more of a best guess, if you will.

I'm sure your agent can offer a much "better" answer, but in terms of the option amount you are paid out, I think it'd be safe to say, it would be at least 10% of the 3% lowest purchase price you would accept or be allowed to accept to sell the script ultimately to the producer.

In other words, if you or some writer says, "I don't care about any budget problems. You are not getting my script for less than $50,039. I'd rather not ever sell it for less than that." Thus $50K is your floor, so you should be paid $5K for a year's option. I note $50K since that is the least you can accept as a WGA member. A non-WGA member could plug in different/lower numbers as desired.

And yes, I'm next to positive you can't accept anything below whatever the WGA minimums are as a member. I'm pretty sure they don't have make the same arrangements for their members that SAG does with agreements like the Ultra Low Budget agreement, etc. (They might somewhere buried deep in all their text but don't think they do.)

Again, your agent might argue something slightly different or fight for a bigger option depending on your past deals and/or the producer you both are dealing with.

Does that help at all?
Yes, thanks! This is actually not a low budget film, so the numbers make even less sense.
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Old 09-20-2018, 08:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: WGA Option minimum

Quote:
Originally Posted by sallain View Post
I probably just need to call the WGA on Monday, but just in case there's a well-informed WGA writer on this board: What is the minimum option amount for an original screenplay?

I find the minimums document very confusing: https://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/contracts/min2017.pdf

It says: "Company may option literary material from a "professional writer" for a period of up to 18 months upon payment of not less than 10% of minimum."

Or is it 10% of the minimum they are offering you for purchase of your screenplay, i.e. the floor figure in the contract?
It's 10% of the appropriate WGA scale minimum. You, of course, can try to negotiate that amount upward, like you can with any minimum, but option fees are usually pretty hard to get much movement on. (In any event, your energy is usually better spend negotiating the final sale price upward that essentially negotiating 10% of the final sale price upward).

Quote:
What's to stop a producer from saying the budget for the film is under 5 million, even if it ends up being a lot higher at the time they make the film?
If the amount you've been paid isn't the appropriate minimum given the budget of the film, they have to make it up to you. They owe you the difference.

Since initial option payments, at least, usually count against the purchase price, you're getting the money either way. Just, theoretically, you should have been paid more of it sooner. I don't think there's any compensation for that, but, in those circumstances, you're usually going to be pretty happy anyway.
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