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Old 07-11-2020, 11:29 AM   #1
Satriales
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Default What to do...

Pardon the length here...

Had a script that was just sitting there. Was the first script that my manager took out wide. Got me out there and in rooms. A big producer called in May and said he wanted to get it made. He has a first look deal.

They are finishing up with life rights at the moment and we have an A (+?) list director who is ready to move forward. Next, they are going to take care of me with a paid option. Based on the fact that my current quote is: a non-guild assignment for half of WGA scale and a WGA option, I feel like Iím about to get boxed in here.

I feel like the option exercise ceiling amount is going to be low here given that I donít have a quote. But the thing is, even when deducting insurance and finance costs itís going to be budgeted at 50M. But thereís no way Iím getting 2.5%, obviously. HALF of that is a pipe dream, it would seem. Half a percent feels realistic.

I also feel like the first look is working against me here. If the studio wants to do it, Iím in even less of a position of leverage. (Which is, I guess, inherent to only having one producer with one territory on a project)

A good scenario to me feels like getting this thing to the open market without locking myself into a set price with a hard ceiling. This project will necessarily require a big name actor talent to get made at the required price point, and given the director and subject matter Iím more than moderately optimistic this would be picked up.

But again, what is the producerís incentive to give me more in any scenario? Itís coming out of his budget. (I could argue Iíve done quite a bit of work as it pertains to securing life rights - which I have...but I donít think that moves the needle)

Am I looking at any of this incorrectly? Do I *decline* a paid option and say ďhey take this out and see?Ē I feel like Iím missing a piece of the puzzle here.

Yeah yeah talk to my lawyer.

Thanks!
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Old 07-12-2020, 10:02 AM   #2
finalact4
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Default Re: What to do...

Before you sign the deal you have the most leverage, but I'm not sure I understand the dynamics fully.

Quote:
They are finishing up with life rights at the moment and we have an A (+?) list director who is ready to move forward. Next, they are going to take care of me with a paid option. Based on the fact that my current quote is: a non-guild assignment for half of WGA scale and a WGA option, I feel like Iím about to get boxed in here.

I also feel like the first look is working against me here. If the studio wants to do it, Iím in even less of a position of leverage. (Which is, I guess, inherent to only having one producer with one territory on a project)
Who is "they" that are finishing up the life rights? It's obviously better if you own those rights and not the producer. If the producer will owns the rights they have a lot of leverage over you, because you won't be able to execute the sale of your spec to ANYONE else once they secure the life rights. They can go off and make their own version with another writer, right? Is that the situation?

Paying you guild minimum (as the writer) shouldn't be a big deal for them. The studio will be a signatory, correct? So, they're used to paying those fees. If they own the rights, they could lowball you, then hire another writer to rewrite you. They will most likely do that anyway. But with the right floor/ceiling they will still have a lot of room to do that.

How is your relationship with them? Can you look at their last few projects and determine how often they kept the original writer on board?

You can ask for 2.5% of the bonded budget with a floor and ceiling payment less the option fee. Include the right to rewrite one step and polish the script at guild +10% for high budget. That way you'll get something and your quote goes up.

If you owned the life rights, I'd say you could go higher than what's shown below. I might be misunderstanding the situation, so I'm not sure. Is your manager signing on as a producer and maybe he will own the life rights?

Floor - $250,000
Ceiling - $500,000

This doesn't seem unreasonable, though it's low for the budget. What does your manager say? And yes, your lawyer will be a big help here.

Just a few thoughts.
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Old 07-12-2020, 10:22 AM   #3
Satriales
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Default Re: What to do...

The life rights piece isnít a huge concern because I have a family member in my corner. I trust the producers to not screw me. The script is in a really good place for them and they arenít going to get a better script from scratch, especially at my initial price. So something untoward happening as far as that goes isnít a big concern.

And yeah, theyíll at least have to give me the minimum. And my manager is not involved with the rights and we generally donít talk money until itís on the table. I try to bug him with more writerly things.

But yeah, your numbers FEEL right to me...just that the ceiling was a bit high.

In just thinking through this I just arrived at the conclusion that in such a scenario where you have one producer taking one package out...and itís a first look deal...youíre kind of boxed in. But Iíll stop crying because this isnít a terrible scenario to be in.

As far as their last projects uhhh Iíll take that answer offline.

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 07-12-2020, 03:00 PM   #4
AnyOtherName
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Default Re: What to do...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Satriales View Post
Pardon the length here...

Had a script that was just sitting there. Was the first script that my manager took out wide. Got me out there and in rooms. A big producer called in May and said he wanted to get it made. He has a first look deal.

They are finishing up with life rights at the moment and we have an A (+?) list director who is ready to move forward. Next, they are going to take care of me with a paid option. Based on the fact that my current quote is: a non-guild assignment for half of WGA scale and a WGA option, I feel like Iím about to get boxed in here.

I feel like the option exercise ceiling amount is going to be low here given that I donít have a quote. But the thing is, even when deducting insurance and finance costs itís going to be budgeted at 50M. But thereís no way Iím getting 2.5%, obviously. HALF of that is a pipe dream, it would seem. Half a percent feels realistic.

I also feel like the first look is working against me here. If the studio wants to do it, Iím in even less of a position of leverage. (Which is, I guess, inherent to only having one producer with one territory on a project)

A good scenario to me feels like getting this thing to the open market without locking myself into a set price with a hard ceiling. This project will necessarily require a big name actor talent to get made at the required price point, and given the director and subject matter Iím more than moderately optimistic this would be picked up.

But again, what is the producerís incentive to give me more in any scenario? Itís coming out of his budget. (I could argue Iíve done quite a bit of work as it pertains to securing life rights - which I have...but I donít think that moves the needle)

Am I looking at any of this incorrectly? Do I *decline* a paid option and say ďhey take this out and see?Ē I feel like Iím missing a piece of the puzzle here.

Yeah yeah talk to my lawyer.

Thanks!
1. Did the producer bring in the director? If so, there's really no way to pry yourself free of the producer-- first-look deal and all-- without also losing the director.

2. I don't understand why you think you don't have leverage here. If the studio likes the material and wants to make a movie with an A(+)-list director and one of their on-lot producers, they HAVE to make a deal with you. They don't have a choice. Literally their only other option is to go to Spielberg (or whoever) and say "Sorry, Steven, your movie fell apart because we refused to pay the writer $100k more."

So if you find yourself in that position, find a good agent and go at them hard. Get your payday. I have a friend whose first-ever sale was for $600k even though she had no quote because one of the studio's favorite directors wanted to make it (it will never get made, but still).
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Old 07-12-2020, 04:35 PM   #5
Satriales
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Default Re: What to do...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnyOtherName View Post
1. Did the producer bring in the director? If so, there's really no way to pry yourself free of the producer-- first-look deal and all-- without also losing the director.

2. I don't understand why you think you don't have leverage here. If the studio likes the material and wants to make a movie with an A(+)-list director and one of their on-lot producers, they HAVE to make a deal with you. They don't have a choice. Literally their only other option is to go to Spielberg (or whoever) and say "Sorry, Steven, your movie fell apart because we refused to pay the writer $100k more."

So if you find yourself in that position, find a good agent and go at them hard. Get your payday. I have a friend whose first-ever sale was for $600k even though she had no quote because one of the studio's favorite directors wanted to make it (it will never get made, but still).
I have zero desire to lose the director or producer. My observation is that I have little leverage.

If Iím signing an option agreement with a sale price baked in prior to taking it to the studio, what leverage do I have? Unless the studio is somehow involved in the option but I donít believe that is the case. I donít think I have leverage with the producer. They know this script was just sitting there for the taking. Again, itís possible Iím not seeing the whole picture.
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Old 07-12-2020, 04:59 PM   #6
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Default Re: What to do...

Hey Satriales:
It's worth considering what AnyOtherName is suggesting. I think they have a valid point. It doesn't really matter if there isn't anyone else right this minute that wants to do this project, what matters is that they do, right?

And it's not about being greedy, it's about knowing your worth and having the confidence to say so. Did you check out Scriptfella's youtube about the 7 things you should always have in your contract?

Here's the link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQo4UUNJI-M&t=193s

I remember when I got the first option agreement, they wanted to take it to A-list actors, directors, financiers and package the deal for a studio, so we worked on a shopping agreement so we could each negotiate our own deals directly with the studio, or third party.

You could do that as well. I might still have the example if you're interested.

Their job is to get the lowest price. Your job is to get the highest price. You will not start at the same point.

The only thing I see as possibly troublesome is if they get the life rights and then the deal falls through. But then, you could solicit the spec and have any new parties buy the life rights from the producer, if they were inclined to sell.

Maybe just reach out to your lawyer before touching base with your manager? That's what he's there for.

Good luck,
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Old 07-13-2020, 10:26 AM   #7
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Default Re: What to do...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Satriales View Post
I have zero desire to lose the director or producer. My observation is that I have little leverage.

If Iím signing an option agreement with a sale price baked in prior to taking it to the studio, what leverage do I have? Unless the studio is somehow involved in the option but I donít believe that is the case. I donít think I have leverage with the producer. They know this script was just sitting there for the taking. Again, itís possible Iím not seeing the whole picture.
NOOOOOOOOOO, don't let them option the script with a sale price baked in before taking it to the studio! I can't over-stress how terrible of an idea that would be! Have them take the script-director-producer package into the studio and let the studio pay. If the studio passes, you can take it around to other buyers and let them bid against each other.

(The one exception: if they're offering serious option $$ and you desperately need the cash, I suppose there's a bird-in-the-hand argument to consider. But that's the only reason I can think of to agree to something like this. It benefits both you AND the producer to let the studio cough up the cash. If I'm missing something, send me a private message, because right now I'm getting heated on your behalf. )
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Old 07-13-2020, 10:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnyOtherName View Post
NOOOOOOOOOO, don't let them option the script with a sale price baked in before taking it to the studio! I can't over-stress how terrible of an idea that would be! Have them take the script-director-producer package into the studio and let the studio pay. If the studio passes, you can take it around to other buyers and let them bid against each other.

(The one exception: if they're offering serious option $$ and you desperately need the cash, I suppose there's a bird-in-the-hand argument to consider. But that's the only reason I can think of to agree to something like this. It benefits both you AND the producer to let the studio cough up the cash. If I'm missing something, send me a private message, because right now I'm getting heated on your behalf. )
This is exactly my quandary. Not so much a quandary because, yes, I’m absolutely against signing an option with the price baked in unless they are giving me 10% of a very favorable number. So I guess that’s why I was feeling a bit boxed in. I have a good enough relationship with the producer where they wouldn’t/shouldn’t take offense that I reject their option offer and ask them to just take the package to the studio, correct?

Thank you!

Last edited by Satriales : 07-13-2020 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 07-13-2020, 01:38 PM   #9
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Default Re: What to do...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Satriales View Post
This is exactly my quandary. Not so much a quandary because, yes, Iím absolutely against signing an option with the price baked in unless they are giving me 10% of a very favorable number. So I guess thatís why I was feeling a bit boxed in. I have a good enough relationship with the producer where they wouldnít/shouldnít take offense that I reject their option offer and ask them to just take the package to the studio, correct?

Thank you!
They shouldn't be offended at all! It's a completely reasonable request, and it prevents them from being out-of-pocket upfront. It's also, incidentally, good for the producer if the studio has to pay you lots of money upfront, because then the studio is more invested (literally) in the project.

What's your situation rep-wise? Are you negotiating all this yourself? Ideally, these should be convos your agent is having with the producer. I think you mentioned you had a lawyer-- do you feel like your lawyer is earning their keep?
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Old 07-13-2020, 02:21 PM   #10
Satriales
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Default Re: What to do...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnyOtherName View Post
They shouldn't be offended at all! It's a completely reasonable request, and it prevents them from being out-of-pocket upfront. It's also, incidentally, good for the producer if the studio has to pay you lots of money upfront, because then the studio is more invested (literally) in the project.

What's your situation rep-wise? Are you negotiating all this yourself? Ideally, these should be convos your agent is having with the producer. I think you mentioned you had a lawyer-- do you feel like your lawyer is earning their keep?
Manager and a lawyer. I havenít involved my lawyer yet because the offer wonít come until the rights are secured. (Director wants rights secured before moving forward)

I have agents at a couple places that are basically like ďcall when thereís money involvedĒ and this brings up the issue of whether or not I want to essentially buy myself an agent with this deal. Are they worth an additional 10% of value above a lawyer? Normally, Iíd say it would be worth it just to get an agent. But Iím going to have to fire this person immediately. (One place is WGA franchised, however)
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