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Old 04-06-2011, 01:02 PM   #1
iDV8
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Default Life Story Deal

I have obtained the life rights and written a screenplay that a production company wants. They acquire the life rights and my screenplay in the deal. Because this process has the added expense of the life rights, how is this usually calculated for the screenwriter? If it's a standard screenwriter's deal without any compensation, the screenwriter would simply eat the cost of obtaining the rights and come out the other end with little or nothing. What is a typical deal in this kind of scenario?
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:22 PM   #2
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Default Re: Life Story Deal

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If it's a standard screenwriter's deal without any compensation, the screenwriter would simply eat the cost of obtaining the rights and come out the other end with little or nothing.
Here's where I'm confused. They should not be "obtaining the rights" to your work for free unless we are talking about a free option on a limited term (in which case all rights revert to you if they do not purchase the script). Assuming this is the case, no, I wouldn't expect them to buy the life rights from you in order to secure a free option.

If I'm wrong about this being an option and they are wanting the ownership of the rights and material for free, then you are entirely right. That's a crap deal. Scripts cost money.
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Old 04-07-2011, 03:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: Life Story Deal

I knew this would be a strange one. Take these fictional numbers as an example of a production company that wants to buy the script to a true story along with the rights:

1) Let's say that you're a screen writer and you sell your script for $20,000 plus 2% of the budget.

2) Now let's say you have acquired rights to a true story (or book right) that cost you $10,000 up front plus 1% percent of the budget. The production company needs to buy your script with the life rights (or book rights) to make the movie. They don't simply offer you the standard $20,000 plus 2% of the budget do they?

The screenwriter shouldn't get paid the same standard fee (to split) if he had to make a deal with someone to acquire the life story rights (or book right) and therefor a production company would have a standard agreement in this case that would be compensatory to fairly pay for both parts... the rights and for writing the script (they need both). Am I correct?

Every screenwriter that made a deal for life rights (or book rights) didn't just eat the cost when selling the script.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:47 AM   #4
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Default Re: Life Story Deal

As being discussed in another thread, you should obviously get an attorney involved. But the bottom line is, it doesn't matter in a sense what they offer/want to pay you. You tell them this is what you want for your script and that's it. They can take it or leave it. They might leave it, but that's the way it is.

Now as part of the process there would need to be very good wording in whatever agreement that was signed that clearly stated who paid who, when, for what, etc. but you shouldn't be eating any costs. No.
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Old 04-07-2011, 09:23 AM   #5
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Default Re: Life Story Deal

I don't want to give legal advice, because as has already been stated, you really should be getting a lawyer. Entertainment lawyers work on commission, and only make money if you make money, so it's in their best interest to get you as much money from the deal as they possibly can.

I will also say that if you were the one who originated the idea and you were the one who spent out of pocket money to obtain the life rights, it sounds to me like its possible you could potentially ask for a producer credit and fee on top of the screenwriting credit and fee. You initiated the project. That's what producers do.

Again though, that's something you should talk to a lawyer about.
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Old 04-07-2011, 09:55 AM   #6
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I will also say that if you were the one who originated the idea and you were the one who spent out of pocket money to obtain the life rights, it sounds to me like its possible you could potentially ask for a producer credit and fee on top of the screenwriting credit and fee. You initiated the project. That's what producers do.
I do have a lawyer working on this with me. This question came up before I had a chance to speak about it with her (busy woman). I was just wondering if there was a standard for these things, I like to sound educated even when talking to my lawyer. I guess that isn't typical of a screenwriter to go after the life rights. My lawyer already said I should be getting a producer credit for pulling this all together.

I'm in the first round of negotiations and saw in the contract a fairly standard "screenwriter" deal and thought I should get more to compensate for the life rights acquisition that I did (perhaps in a producer's fee). I don't want to get greedy but I also would like to know what's typical, this is the first time I've dealt with life rights.
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Old 04-07-2011, 10:07 AM   #7
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Default Re: Life Story Deal

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I don't want to get greedy
Why not? You originated the deal and the script. Really: get greedy.

You deserve to be a producer on the project. Your producer deal would probably include the life rights in some way.
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