The Price Versus The Cost

orty years ago an independent graphic artist named Carolyn Davidson designed Nike’s iconic logo: The swoosh. She was paid a flat $35 for the design. Nike wasn’t Nike then. It was a just a small apparel startup like hundreds of other small apparel startups. That was then. Today, however, you know what the swoosh is regardless of your age, gender or what country you’re reading this in. There’s probably a swoosh in your closet.

$35 well spent.

Things are mellowing into a beigy lukewarm middle ground where my screenplay’s option negotiation is concerned. I guess that’s where negotiations should wind up. Nobody really upset. Nobody really happy. Compromises all around.

But we’re not there yet. All the major points have been whittled into averages except one: The purchase price.

Kind of a big one.

The purchase price is exactly what it sounds like. The script’s price tag should the optioning producer decide to buy it (aka. exercise the option). And that price tag is set in the option agreement. Now. Not later.

A few factors play into it. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that you can either have a flat purchase price, or a variable one. Flat means a fixed price: This script costs $100k, thank you, good night. Variable means a price based on a percentage of the budget: Like 1% of a $10 million dollar budget means a purchase price of $100k.

I’ve heard that this percentage can be anywhere from 1.5 to 5%. More likely – at my entry level – between 1.5 to 3%.

As for the budget, nobody knows exactly what that will be yet. All we can do is guess. Based on what the script calls for and about a hundred other factors.

None the less, my goal here is to get a variable based purchase price. Talking to Manager before going into this, he mentioned a percentage. The previous option offer I received from another company was based on a percentage. My own common sense tells me: Get a percentage.

Unfortunately, the producers have declared they will not consider paying me a percentage. It’s a flat rate for them or nothing.


How I wish I didn’t know the story of Carolyn Davidson and the Nike swoosh.

Because as a “creative” – an illustrator, a writer, whatever – knowing the story of Carolyn Davidson makes everything you create a potential swoosh. And how can I take a flat rate – a proverbial $35 – knowing what could be.

(Look at the ego on that guy…)

Years later, the founder of Nike gave Carolyn Davidson stock in the company. She’s probably living pretty comfortably now.

Pretty nice thing of the founder of Nike to do. Can I count on a modern day film producer to be as charitable if I settle for a flat purchase price on my script?

Wouldn’t hold my breath.

So I did some soul searching. Weighed the price they were offering against the cost of the unknown…

It took five minutes. Then I told Lawyer I’m not taking a flat price. Gave Producers a percentage and an ultimatum.

A year ago I gave up pursuing this career. This dream. Gave up on it and then the phone rang. Manager calling with what has evolved into this offer. What I gave up then was indeed a dream. What I’m gambling with now is not. But if it’s not on my terms, then I just won’t be happy.

And I’m happy now. Got my beautiful wife-like creature. My garden. Freelancing’s not great, but it’ll get there. Those are things that aren’t going to go away even if these Producers and their offer do.

I heard an interview once. A track and field runner. He said, losing a race doesn’t put you any further behind in your life then before you raced it.

I’m reminding myself of that while I wait to hear back. Wonder if that track runner wore Nikes.



Filed under Misadventures, The Journey

2 responses to “The Price Versus The Cost

  1. mel

    Good for you. Stand your ground. Protect your future.

    When you’re rich and famous, you’ll look back at this moment and realize this is what changed everything!

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