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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Simplyscripts Collaborative Effort  ›  To Charge for Options - Features Moderators: Mr. Blonde
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eldave1
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 12:12pm Report to Moderator
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There was a thread related to a feature script option and I thought it would be a good separate thread topic. Feature options.

My view: Unless you think your script is otherwise dead in the water and you don't give a crap about it anymore - never do a free or bare bones ($1) option for a feature.

Just went through this experience. I signed a six month option for a feature with an additional six month option at my sole discretion (thank God I included that it was going to be at my discretion - more later). My payment should they decide to buy the script was going to be 3% of total budget plus 5% of the producers pool. And man - there was no doubt that they were going to make this movie. They loved the script!  It was their top priority! They already had started sales and distributions strategies!!! - Uh- huh - right.

I sign the agreement and from that point forward felt like the unwanted man from a one night stand. Excruciatingly difficult to get basic updates and status. Fast forward six months and the option is due to expire. They want to extend. I say no - not without an option payment and - "poof" they disappear. Six months down the drain and worst I had turned down another offer during that first option period (now they are no longer interested). One of the worse parts is that of course you told your friends and family you got a script optioned and now must unwind all that as they ask you - so, how's the film going?

Optioning a feature script at no cost is like selling your house on a no cost option. You really haven't done anything other than keeping your house off the market for a period of time.  I will never do it again.

My minimum option price for now on is going to be 10% of the cash purchase price. The only waiver I will male from that is if there are some kind of trigger points. e.g., a six month option, producer must either pay the 10% option price at three months or void the option at the point. Working on the language - but something like that. You may even make it milestone based. e.g., XX % of film funding obtained, director attached, etc by certain points. Regardless, I am never going to do this for free again.

Shorts are a different beast in my view - (there is a separate thread on that). But for features - show me the money.

Hope this helps others.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Angry Bear
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 12:26pm Report to Moderator
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I optioned The Hit to Mind's Eye for $1. You can look them up, they do reputable work. I was ecstatic. Here we are and the two year option is about to expire. For two freaking years they had my script and now I will get it back.  

I no longer do $1 options either and I only do 3 months unless they pay more.

I have followed several friends of mine who have done similar things with other production companies and this is what I've found. Production companies option several scripts for one dollar or so. They put them on their list of films in development. Makes them look big and important when people look them up on imdb and see they have ten films in development. In reality, they are just out shopping your script and the others around trying to find funding. Sad, but true.

Sorry it happened to you too, but your scripts are good enough, I know someone will make them eventually.


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eldave1
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 12:42pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Angry Bear
I optioned The Hit to Mind's Eye for $1. You can look them up, they do reputable work. I was ecstatic. Here we are and the two year option is about to expire. For two freaking years they had my script and now I will get it back.  

I no longer do $1 options either and I only do 3 months unless they pay more.

I have followed several friends of mine who have done similar things with other production companies and this is what I've found. Production companies option several scripts for one dollar or so. They put them on their list of films in development. Makes them look big and important when people look them up on imdb and see they have ten films in development. In reality, they are just out shopping your script and the others around trying to find funding. Sad, but true.

Sorry it happened to you too, but your scripts are good enough, I know someone will make them eventually.


Thanks much. Your description of the portfolio building these folks do makes sense. I was wondering why they would bother if they weren't interested - now I have an "ah-hah" moment.

When I get a quite moment - I think I going to ask Don to set up something akin to 'The Business of Scripts" section - somewhere where we can consolidate discussions of options, purchases, agents, etc, etc - haven't got in organized yet - but think it would be a cool section


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Marty
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 12:55pm Report to Moderator
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Dave,

Thank you for this.

I obviously have nothing to add mostly because I have never been fortunate enough to be in this scenario, but thank you.

All the best,
Marty
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Mr. Ripley
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 12:56pm Report to Moderator
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That will be cool.

99% of getting your film made is if we do it ourselves. 1%is out of pure luck.

Gabe


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Cacutshaw
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 1:04pm Report to Moderator
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I dollar optioned my feature script, Heels, to some local producers and the exact same thing happened. Once the agreement had been signed, I heard very little from them except when the producer wanted his girlfriend to rewrite the script and was very concerned that her name should be above mine in the credits. Of course, they couldn't tell me what they wanted to do in the rewrite.
Anyhoo, the year ran out and it was time for a re-option and they had nothing to show for it. So of course I said no.

However, I wouldn't be completely averse to letting someone do it again. Not all producers are the same and I'd hate to say no to someone who legitimately wants to make my script because of what some other producers did a couple years ago. The only caveat to that is, when amateur producers have to pay out of their pocket for something, they take it a lot more seriously. When they haven't spent anything on it and run into difficulties it's very easy for them to give up since they have no investment.

I definitely would go on a case by case basis with this. And also, it's not like people are beating down my door to film my scripts, so a year in limbo has never been a big deal for me.
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eldave1
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 1:07pm Report to Moderator
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Thanks all for the feedback - interesting


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Bogey
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 1:16pm Report to Moderator
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Had an option offer like that a couple years ago from a producer after my script took first at a film festival. He went on and on about how valuable his time and contacts were, so the $1 option was really worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I showed his offer to a NY entertainment lawyer, who strongly advised not signing it, so I didn't. I treat features like a Super Bowl ring - it may not be worth much sitting in a drawer, but I won't rent it out for nothing.
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eldave1
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 1:19pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Bogey
Had an option offer like that a couple years ago from a producer after my script took first at a film festival. He went on and on about how valuable his time and contacts were, so the $1 option was really worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I showed his offer to a NY entertainment lawyer, who strongly advised not signing it, so I didn't. I treat features like a Super Bowl ring - it may not be worth much sitting in a drawer, but I won't rent it out for nothing.


Love the analogy


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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pale yellow
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 2:09pm Report to Moderator
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I sold a whole feature script with all the rights today for $1,000.

I know it devalues me as a writer, but next week I could really use the money and he's paying when I sign... so skipping the option phase. Crazy.

I love writing. I get paid something. Ok with me. But truly does devalue writers when people like me do something like this maybe.


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Cacutshaw
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 2:20pm Report to Moderator
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One of the main reasons I stopped being a film/video editor is because I literally had to compete with people who wanted to edit out of their mom's basement for free just to get a credit. However, it wasn't like that so much in the union where producers had to pay an editor a certain wage no matter what. So I joined the union (and eventually just wound up taking a nine to five job).

I think there is a little bit of the "wild west" in any freelance industry. That's why there's unions for people who need to make a living off their work.

Writing is fun and it's awesome that someone wanted to buy something you created.

Congrats!
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AnthonyCawood
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 3:05pm Report to Moderator
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I've got two spec feature options, one a 2$ option on a script that came second in a comp (thanks to Pia and her excellent feedback!), it runs out in the new year, but the producers have kept in touch throughout, and have been trying to get financing in place can't fault them for effort.

My other feature option was for a few hundred $s and again producer keeps me informed on a fairly regular basis, they're keen and actively seeking funds.

But in both cases I know that the odds are still against them getting made, that's just the way it is for specs.

Luckily I've done one paid for assignment and halfway through another, pay isn't massive but it's more than a few hundred and the first one is in post-production at the mo and second should hopefully shoot early next year.

The only thing I know from the above is that all producers and all deals are different so I try and take them as they come and see what I can find out about the parties involved and go from there.

Best of luck to all!


Anthony Cawood - Award winning screenwriter
Available Short screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/short-scripts
Available Feature screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/feature-film-scripts/
Screenwriting articles - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/articles
IMDB Link - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6495672/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
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Anon
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 6:27pm Report to Moderator
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Definitely wouldn't take anyone offering a dollar for a feature seriously. But option money is never going to be big. I've got one on the go at the moment and the most important things for me were -

A. I like them
B. They have made reputable features
C. A gameplan with particular talent in mind (in other words people that he knows not just an "i know people" promise).
D. No option to extend after a year if there's no lead actors or directors attached

You've said a lot of things that make sense Eldave. But setting 10% of purchase price as your option minimum might box you in to a low sale price, no?
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eldave1
Posted: November 10th, 2017, 8:37pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Anon
Definitely wouldn't take anyone offering a dollar for a feature seriously. But option money is never going to be big. I've got one on the go at the moment and the most important things for me were -

A. I like them
B. They have made reputable features
C. A gameplan with particular talent in mind (in other words people that he knows not just an "i know people" promise).
D. No option to extend after a year if there's no lead actors or directors attached

You've said a lot of things that make sense Eldave. But setting 10% of purchase price as your option minimum might box you in to a low sale price, no?


I don't think so. As spec writers if we got a $50K purchase price on a script that would be huge - yes? 10% is just $5K.

I think you can also position in such away that the option payment will be offset against the ultimate purchase price.

Bottom-line it really has nothing do with anything other than this:

What is it worth to you to have your script tied up for XX period of time. If that is a dollar. Then it's a good deal for you. If it is more than that - then it is not. It is going to very from writer to writer of course. But everyone should recognize that the less a producer has invested the less incentive they have to pursue the project with a degree of due diligence.



My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Dustin
Posted: November 11th, 2017, 4:06am Report to Moderator
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It can be difficult to determine what 10% is if there isn't yet a budget in place. You could start off with one producer that wants to make a film for 1 million and end up with 3 or 4 producers all working together with a 10 million budget. Things can also go the other way.

I optioned my latest feature for $1500 with an eventual 4% of budget once we all know exactly what that is. I optioned my first feature for $500 and I got 2k for my second with 3% of budget.

I have been offered $1 options in the past too but always refused. I already knew that small prod cos add films to a slate that they shop around to execs in the hope of gaining funds. Although it might work out for somebody somewhere, I didn't fancy waiting around for nothing.
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