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Four years ago, I made the decision to no longer accept options on my screenplays. I'm sure if I was to be offered $25K-$35K against the purchase of the material, I probably would--depending on who it was that gave me the offer. But when money like that's involved, those are usually SERIOUS offers.
There were several factors involved with my decision:
1) Anyone I've ever known who recieved options on their material--never sold the material.
2) Any company I've ever worked for that optioned a script (while I worked there)--never purchased the script once the option ran out.
3) Lynda Obst told me several years ago that, for a Writer's best interest, they should never option out their material for more than six months. REASON? A Producer will want a year but will wait until the very last minute, when the option is almost up, to do anything with the project--and then usually nothing happens with the project. "Why keep your material tied up for a year," she said, "and not be able to sell it?"
4) At one seminar I was at, an audience member told the Producer that she had optioned one particular script 11 times. He told her that, obviously, she kept optioning it to stay alive because, if she kept optioning it, she was never going to sell it.
What's YOUR opinion? Do you option out your material for $500, $1,000, etc. because you believe in the company and that they WILL make it into a film? Do you do it because you want it on record that you've been optioned? Or do you do it because you're hungry?
I'd want the option amount to reflect a serious degree of commitment to the project. However, if a producer I truly respected came along, I'd option any one of my scripts for a buck.
I'm with you, Terri. A big option--we're talkin' significant money that indicates they're serious about making the film--then sure. No problem. But the dollar option? No way. I wouldn't care how famous the producer was. I simply wouldn't do it. If they want it badly enough, they'll buy it.
But if writers do option for relatively low cash ($1,000-$5,000), the shorter the option, the better. Most people will want to lock in a year, and that's understandable. If the option money was closer to $5,000, I'd definitely let them have it for a year.
I would allow a project to be optioned once--maybe twice. But after that, it would have to be a sale, or nothing (unless further option money was significant enough that you could live on it for a year!)
No optioning for me. I can do a better job of shopping it than a great number of Producers who "talk a great story", then move onto the next script to do the same.
For me, no small options. Your figure of $25-$35k would be enough amount for me to consider an option, but I don't look to go for longer than 6 months.
We all need motivation to get things done. A rapidly ticking clock with enough money on the line should only get the serious involved. However, there are always exceptions. People I respect will always get further consideration, but the bottom line is:
1) I want the screenplay to come to life, with my name on it -- and preferably direct it.
2) If you like it enough to option it, don't back pocket it, buy it.
3) I already have producing / directing / writing credits (though not for a feature), so what I really want, only serious interest (and money) can fulfill.
Sometimes I seriously wonder why many Prodcos waste money optioning material. The reason why I say "waste" is because they never do anything with it--just let the option run out.
Makes me wonder. I know SOME companies (as in studios) will purchase material just to get it off the market because they're making something just like it. So, I'm thinking, that maybe, just maybe, Prodcos are thinking they'll option material that is similar to what they've got in production so that when that year is up, no one will buy the script because there's already one like it that will soon be released. Just a thought.
I remember years ago, when the announcement of MINORITY REPORT (script sale) came out, a friend of mine had already made a pitch to DreamWorks re: a script he had about people who are arrested because their DNA tells us they'll be a serial killer.
Now, I must tell you that this guy always came up with fabulous stories which gave him good pitches. But whatever he pitched--was NEVER in the script.
DreamWorks had requested to see his script which surprised me because I knew about MINORITY REPORT.
I was at a studio meeting a few months later and there was a DreamWorks girl not too far away from me and I overheard her talking. Someone asked her about "that script." She said they read it but had NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. It wasn't anything like MINORITY REPORT.
I had read the script, as well, and also knew--THEY HAD NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!
This also makes me think of something a MIRAMAX (now THE WEINSTEIN CO.) exec told me a few years ago. MIRAMAX doesn't waste money. MIRAMAX only purchases scripts they're going to make. I was told that you will NEVER find a script sitting in Development Hell for years--or on the shelf collecting dust. So if any of you get an offer from the Weinsteins--TAKE IT! LOL!
It depends on the producer. Only producers with studio deals are likely to be able to afford a $25k option or higher because the studios allocate funds to them to purchase material. Producers with no studio deals, but great contacts might be able to get the project made just as easily, but won’t necessarily have the funds up front to offer a sizeable option.
Not taking a lower option is detrimental to a screenwriter’s career. I took a very low option on a script from a producer for three months and the script is now at HBO. If I had told him it’s $25K or nothing I’d be no where fast in the biz. Just make sure you know who you’re dealing with before going with a lower option.
My rule is the lower the option offered, the shorter the period of time I’ll option, with three months being the minimum. I don’t, however, ever option for a year. This is a ridiculous amount of time and if a producer can’t hook the material up with a studio in 6 months, then he can’t do it at all. Secondly, I never re-option with any producer. Each producer gets one shot, then I move on and I make this clear right up front. I’ve found this helps me avoid producers who hold onto material and don’t take action on it until the last second. Yes, producers will option material to keep it off the market. It’s the screenwriter’s job to know what’s in production and to make sure the producer isn’t doing this. He might just be optioning the material to compete against the other similar project - - find out and don’t be afraid to ask him point blank.
Not optioning at all will put you out of the game because this is how Hollywood works. Producers option material and bring it to the studios, sometimes with talent or directors attached, sometimes without. Nine times out of ten it’s the studio that purchases the material, but they’ll never see your script if a producer doesn’t bring it to the table and the best way to get it there is via an option.
Besides, an option shouldn’t be about the money it should be about getting the project made and making sure you’ve aligned yourself with people who can help you accomplish this goal!
With authors of book-length fiction, the considerations are a bit different - options often get the book author more than the advance or first royalties, so financially it's a step up. And an option is also a great promotional tool to "platform" the next book. I do agree that options (or contracting with a lit agency) ought to be short term, at least initially.
I took an option for 500 dollars once my western screenplay for a year. And it goes to show, that there is a good possibility it might make it further than that.
Once your under an option you can't really touch it, and the optioner can make some changes to it.
If you happen to get an offer for a lower amount take it, and learn from the experience of it.
Is that standard..that once you option your script the person who holds the option can tamper with your script?
Or is this simply a optional clause?
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