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Optioned -- for $200,000?

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  • Optioned -- for $200,000?

    I've been thinking about this all day and have concluded that they'll be paying me $200,000 to option my screenplay. Here's the logic behind that ...

    Last week a Hollywood executive producer emailed me to ask if my script was sold or optioned. When I told her, no, she offered to option it. She went on to say it could be filmed as early as next fall and that I would receive a payment of $200,000 as early as this January. In my haste and excitement I didn't establish if she meant an option payment or the full price of the script. I'm new at this and had all but forgotten the script -- in other words, I wasn't ready for the call.

    I've since found out a couple of things: first, the woman is associated with a production company that has produced no less than six major movies, several of which were the Ninja Turtle movies of 20 years ago. In fact, there's a new Ninja Turtle movie coming out that cost them $175 to make. Apparently, this woman's parent company is actually in the business of securing financing for major movies -- movies with budgets of $100 plus. I make this point because if all this is true, I'm talking about an option deal that is unlike 99% of option deals. Here's why...

    When a producer has the ability to raise $100 million dollars, a $200,000 option payment makes sense. If nothing else, it shows the millionaires and billionaires you're committed to the script -- you believe in it. Honestly, how do you ask someone like, say, Richard Branson, to commit $100 mil to your movie if you won't commit a measly $200,000? How do you convince him the script will generate $200 million at the box office?

    Secondly, an usually high option payment on the front end removes the screenwriter from the back end -- no points from gross receipts have to be promised. The writer gets screwed -- but he's screwing himself! One percent of $100 million is a million bucks. Two percent is two million bucks. What writer without a track record wouldn't jump at a $200,000 option payment even if it means no points on the back end? What agent or lawyer wouldn't?

    The point is simply this -- at this level of play there's compelling reason to give such a large option payment.

    Finally, at this level of play you're dealing with people who know a $100 million dollar script when they see one. These are not agents, lawyers, screenwriting pundits who've never sold a script; these are world class poker players -- they know how to size up a script; they know how to play their hand.

    In other words, we're not talking about 99% of producers. We're talking about the 1% who -- because of their track record -- can pick up the phone and have a $100 mil check Fed-exed to their office the next day.

    If this is what I lucked into, all the rules go out the window.

  • #2
    Well all I can say is I really REALLY hope this works out for you! All I ask is that you write an article here on your experience if this goes through :)
    Distribber - Keep 100% of your film's revenue


    • #3
      Absolutely -- in fact the contract is due tomorrow. I'll post it as soon as it comes in.


      • #4
        All I'd say (as I'm out of my league on this) is have a good entertainment attorney review any contract before you sign.

        Best of luck!
        Screenwriter and script consultant:


        • #5
          Speaking of scams, one scam I intend to avoid is the lawyer and agent scam.

          Ill post the option contract here and we'll all go over it. I'm certainly not going to pay an agent for a deal I got on my own -- and paying a lawyer 5% for just reading the contract is even more ridiculous. And with both, the check comes in their name and they cut you your percentage on their bank draft.

          Screw that!

          And I know how lawyers say it's impossible to protect yourself without them -- but that's all old school urban legend. The internet has all the information you need, and forums like this will provide the rest. I'll consider paying a lawyer maybe 100 bucks to read the contract -- but 5%? That's insane!!!!


          • #6
            Gary Lloyd, make sure you get an entertainment lawyer. Better safe than sorry...


            • #7
              "Gary Lloyd, make sure you get an entertainment lawyer. Better safe than sorry..."


              I don't think so -- although I would concur in 99% of the deals a lawyer is necessary.

              Here's why I don't think I need one ...

              First off, the people who'll finance this movie are English millionaires and billionaires. As you know, the English have the highest tax rate in the world. This means the English millionaire who doesn't double his investment within a year loses maybe a third of it to taxes. The lady who emailed me with the option offer is flying to London as soon as I sign the contract.

              Here's the point: this is not your standard business model. We're talking $100 -$150 million in play here. Your garden-variety entertainment lawyer doesn't operate at this level. He operates at a level that stops at $20 -$50 million -- a level where people nickel and dime you. But how do they nickel and dime me when the budget is $100-$150? How can I get ripped off if the movie grosses $200 mil and I'm locked in at 2%?

              I don't need a lawyer to get locked in at 2% of the gross. Sure, a lawyer wants you to think you do, but, sorry, I don't buy it. No lawyer is getting $50,000 of my dough for reading a contract. And what about greedy lawyers who wind up killing deals? Do you trust lawyers? I don't. I trust forums, though. I believe there's enough collective savvy here and in the other forums to tell me everything I need to know about my option contract. I'm going to post it and let you guys have it. Sorry, you'll be working for free, bro.
              Last edited by garylloyd; 10-15-2013, 12:08 AM.


              • #8
                I would get a lawyer just to be safe dude. Think about it this way:

                So what if you have to give them 5%? If this is actually scam free, then you just got your big break. Your life as a screenwriter just got a lot easier probably. The credits you'll get from something like this is huge.

                Why risk the chance of screwing something over, because you didn't want to pay some money. Sometimes spending money is necessary.


                • #9
                  Sure, that's the conventional wisdom on the issue, but I'm thinking out of the box.

                  Lawyers like to cloak what they do in mystery but at the end of the day, all they do is read contracts. But there are a gazillion contracts online -- contracts that protected writers just like me. Why can't I just insist on the same terms the guy who wrote "The Butler" got?

                  Look -- this lady called me. She represents one of the richest producers on the planet, and she called me. We were on the phone for 30 minutes, then she emailed me again to give me her cell. She said if I have any questions, feel free to call her over the weekend.

                  The contract will lay out the deal and I'll study and research it. There are books out there on this stuff. This is not rocket science.


                  • #10
                    More power to you man. I'm just saying that MAYBE this is a time to think conventional and not out of the box.

                    I hope everything works out great!


                    • #11
                      No lawyers ... or agents.

                      And I have no intention of writing another screenplay after this one. The odds are too daunting.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by garylloyd View Post
                        No lawyers ... or agents.

                        And I have no intention of writing another screenplay after this one. The odds are too daunting.
                        Why not? You just got past the most daunting of odds...getting your first script noticed. The credits from a production company like this could land you more sales for other scripts, or maybe even an agent.


                        • #13
                          Here's the deal: I write the best romantic comedy around -- the wittiest! -- bar none.

                          If this movie is produced it will definitely land an Oscar, possibly several.

                          The thing, though, is the people at the gate don't know from nothing. The Nichols judges didn't know -- I didn't make the first round. The agents didn't know -- not one would touch it. It took the people INSIDE the gate to recognise the kind of money they could make with my script. They knew.

                          They knew they could raise $100 mil with it.

                          I was outraged when my script didn't make the first round of the Nichols. I looked at some of the scripts that went on to the second round and couldn't believe it. One was a zombie movie by a 19-year-old who was obviously somebody's nephew. And if you think I'm slamming the Nichols now, wait until I get my check.

                          By the time this lady emailed me, she and the executives of her production company had already met and discussed my script several times. They are scheduled to go to London to pitch scripts and wanted mine at the top of the list. London is where the big money is. I'm talking concerns with billions of pounds that have to be moved quickly before the Queen takes her bite.

                          Want to write a script that will get financed in a heartbeat? Give it a British angle. In other words, "Follow the money."


                          • #14
                            I'm no expert in contracts, but I would HIGHLY suggest that you hire a competent entertainment lawyer to go through any contract before you sign it, especially if the numbers you are talking about are accurate.

                            I am sure you can find a good lawyer who charges by the hour, and doesn't take a percentage off anything.

                            Even if they charge 5%, I'd say it's worth it, since now they make sure that you get the best deal possible and don't get screwed.

                            Here is an article about this issue:


                            I understand that you are on cloud nine at the moment, but it's important to still keep your feet on the ground and make sure everything checks out ok.

                            Getting your script optioned is a great thing, but it doesn't mean that it will get produced. Now you've got your foot in the door, so even if nothing comes out of this particular deal, you can leverage it to network with some people and maybe get an agent to shop the script around.

                            In any case, Iv'e got my fingers crossed for you, hopefully you can get your script produced!


                            • #15
                              Oh, boy, just when I thought I had it all figured out, somebody throws a monkey wrench in the works.

                              Ok, I'll bite -- who do you recommend?