Tag Archives: option agreement

Do You Even Want To Be a Screenwriter? (part 1/2)

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roan…

I’m behind on reporting what’s been going on with Script #1. Gonna try to make up for that right now. But it’s gonna be in two parts. And not for brevity’s sake. But because I’m just swamped right now. And I want to be a semi-reliable blogger.

In fact the reason I’m behind on blogging is fast becoming much more interesting than the story of my option. It’s actually turned the volume way down on all this option / rewrite business.

I’ll come back to that.

The other week, Co-Manager set a meeting for Producer and myself. Told me only that Producer really wanted to explain his new vision of Script #1. Told me that it’s a very compelling vision. He’s confident Producer and I will find common ground. That what’s become a point of contention will soon be behind us.

If I just meet and listen.

Alright. Let’s do it. No reps this time. Just Producer convincing me that there is a way to write Jaws without the shark. I’ll bring my open mind. Seriously, I will. Remember, I can gripe about this here, but I want this film to get made. It would be incredible. Even if it turns into a giant piece of digitized shit, I still stand to make more money than I’ve made in a decade.

So, my mind? — Open.

Come meeting time: Hey, how’s it going… Yada yada… So, Co-Manager said you wanted to explain your vision to me so that we can move forward on this rewrite.

Imagine the phone call equivalent of a blank stare.

Me explain my vision? Co-Manager told me you wanted to get on the phone to pitch an outline of the page-one rewrite we’ve asked for.

Imagine me snapping a pencil in my fist.

What was this? Some kind of ambush?

Producer had zero to say. No vision. No compromise. Just the same cataclysmic Note dangling in the wind.

Well… We we’re here. So I guess I could plead my case for reason again.

Which I did.

And then we were done. Hung up the phone and waited for treacherous Co-Manager to call.

Call he did. To vaguely apologize for the misunderstanding as to the premise of the meeting. And to say that Producer still isn’t budging.

I don’t really think Co-Manager was been deceitful; what would that achieve? I think it was just good old negligence.

I suspect managers are people who are always hedging their bets. They’ve got a bunch of clients. Clients have a bunch of projects. The manager’s only gonna focus on the hottest irons in the fire. These are business people. You can’t take their flattery personally, you’re just a meal ticket to them… Or in the case of this metaphor a hasty blacksmith of some sort.

So the post-meeting situation was status quo. Worse perhaps, as – like a crab in mud – Producer was digging in deep on his suddenly monumentally precious Note.

Leaving me with the legal responsibility to respond to a request for a brand new script for a fraction of the price of a rewrite. And what I’ve come to realize is even more important than that: A new brand new script in the time it would take to do a rewrite. A deadline mandated in the option agreement. And it’s a point I hadn’t even considered yet. And as it turns out, it’s the straw that’s about to break this writer’s back.

Here’s where all the other stuff I never talk about here bleeds into the picture…

(To be continued in part 2 of 2)

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The May That Was

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othing’s worse than following a blog that suddenly goes dark for no apparent reason. Am I right?

Sorry about that.

May was a particularly busy month. Which you’d think would be good fodder for this blog thing. Except being very busy also means far less time to collect one’s thoughts. Much less put them into coherent bite-sized paragraphs for public consumption. Much much less make those bite-sized paragraphs quasi-entertaining.

Today I can’t offer the latter. But I have managed to steal a minute to check in.

What I’ve been particularly busy with is my freelance work. Which is indirectly related to the theme of this blog. But not really totally relevant yet. Though, interesting things seem to be happening there. Perhaps I’ll share more on that down the road.

Meantime, not a whole shitload has changed on road to Hollywood!

Got a note from Lawyer this week. Actually took me a long moment to place his name when I saw it in my inbox. If you can believe it, my option agreement on Script #1 has been six and a half months in the making.

Novice that I am, I originally expected this thing signed, sealed, delivered by Christmas.

Lawyer said they’re literally down to the final point of revision in the paperwork.

It didn’t take Manager long after hearing that to call and ask how things were coming on Script #1’s (unpaid) rewrite. I told him what I told him a month ago: Until the check clears, I’m not writing another word.

This whole conflict of interest thing is really not a comfortable situation. I find myself resenting it more every day.

But fuck it! May was a busy month on the freelance side of things. And as long as that kind of real work continues to flow, unpaid work will always take a backseat; he said arrogantly flouting the literary career he’s worked so hard toward.

So that’s where we’re at.

Oh, and my garden’s coming in nice. Still gotta make sure that if all else fails, I can at least count on growing my own food. Self reliance runs deep out here.

Gonna try real hard to get back into regular posts. I just need the film industry to try real hard in return and give me some news worth posting.

But at least I’m back. Just in time for the summer slump.

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Meet The Producer

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onference calls are the worst. Can I get an amen?

I don’t know why, with the Dick Tracy style video telecommunications we have at our disposal, we still resort to crappy cellphone feeds and try to “conference” with one another.

What’s more, is my conference call with the producer optioning my screenplay meant a transoceanic call. Which meant a slight time delay.

Okay. Sitting back, I just realized that I’m finding fault in speaking to someone real-time who’s literally on the other side of the planet. Which is actually incredible. So… With my new found perspective on high technology I’ll continue by saying…

My first conference call with Producer went great!

That is to say, my manager didn’t have to take me aside afterward and say why on Earth did you say that to him? And by my standard for inter-human communication, that’s pretty great.

This was a meet and greet call. But also my first chance to hear from the horse’s mouth Producer’s notes.

This is also a call that could have – arguably should have – happened months ago. It was Manager who suggested we wait until the option was on the table. I was dubious at first. I am, after all, signing the rights to my script over to these guys. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t have any weird plans to for the customary rewrite. Plans like… I don’t know…

“Adding a talking cat?” asked Manager.

Exactly.

But Manager assured me back then that he’d heard their notes and that there was no talking cat. The reason Manager wanted to hold back our introduction until after the negotiation was so that Producer couldn’t persuade me to do any free rewrites. Good looking out, Manager.

So I met the Producer.

We had a good, choppy, compressed-audio talk. He gave me his notes and as promised, there was no talking cat. No shocking demands that would ruin my precious work. And he seemed as nice as anybody can seem during a half hour chat.

And that was it. I await his detailed notes via email. What was particularly optimistic was how many of the notes were questions about what could happen next. Does this character have to die? How would this action effect the future of the storyline? Questions you’d only be asking if you were hoping to turn the film into a franchise.

So yeah, I like this producer just fine.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel Vision

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hen your body faces extreme fatigue or duress you can experience tunnel vision. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Yet still rather surprising to experience. Well, surprising for me. Having never been inebriated myself, abnormal physiological occurrences are something of a novel phenomenon for me.

Anyway, when you experience actual tunnel vision it’s sort of like a cheesy video editing filter. There’s a clear spot directly before you and everything else is smeared into dark, blurry obscurity. Like everything is at the end of a long tunnel.

For weeks I’ve been–

You’re still thinking about the “never been inebriated myself” thing aren’t you? It’s okay. It’s fair. Some find it strange. Especially given the writer thing. It’s not a political, religious or medical thing. It’s just never come up. I don’t drink alcohol and thus I’ve never been drunk.

So, for weeks I’ve been dealing with the mental equivalent of tunnel vision. I can only see one thing before me. And it’s taking forever to get there.

I have a literary manager. He’s also going to be a producer on my first (mini major) motion picture. So while our option agreement is in negotiation, he’s stepped aside so as not to create a conflict of interest.

Meanwhile things on the option negotiation front have gone oddly quiet. Whereas I thought we’d reached an agreement, there’s been no word for my lawyer for some time.

Here’s where the fatigue and duress come in. I’m a rookie in the US motion picture industry. Less than a rookie, a complete newb. But I’m used to working hard to get noticed. So what’s fatiguing me isn’t vying for attention is holding myself back from vying for attention. It’s staying patient. Not pestering anyone. It’s exhausting. And the duress just stems from there.

Months ago Manager first called me, interested in my script. We began talking about what this would mean. Several phone calls. Within those first couple weeks I got another call, from a second production company interested in optioning the script. That day I had a meeting scheduled with Manager. His assistant emailed me to postpone. I replied saying that I’d just gotten a second offer.

I swear before you, I clicked send and no more than ten seconds later the phone rang.

Now that was a response.

I haven’t heart from that same manager in two months. Again, option negotiation, see above, there’s a reason for it, but none the less… It’s left me in this tunnel. Incommunicado. Unable to pursue anything. Waiting.

Until now.

A light at the end of my tunnel vision. I heard from Lawyer. We finally heard back from the Producers. Everything is squared away, just paperwork now. The actual option agreement should be on the way anytime now!

Heard from Manager right after that. We’ve scheduled a call with the optioning Producers.

Finally. Finally movement toward the next steps. Toward wherever this will all take me.

Much like actual tunnel vision, there’s nothing you can do in some situations but wait it out. You just have to try to stay on your feet. Focus your breathing. Regain your composure. Hang in there.

Easier said than done.

I just hope that once I emerge I’m on a locomotive and not pumping a handcar.

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Less Important Things To Worry About

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y wife is an extrovert. That means she best sorts out thoughts by vocalizing them. I like this about her because I like her and I like listening to her talk. These days however Wife’s mainly been chatting about the mundane day to day problems of her friends so occasionally I allow myself to slip off into my own concerns. (As an introvert, I can do this without moving my lips.)

Here’s where I’m at: Little while back I accepted the offer from Producers seeking to option my script. That is to say, I gave my lawyer the nod to accept their offer. Since then I’ve just been waiting.

It’s been a couple weeks.

Of waiting.

Now, I’m nothing if not patient. You have to be to write. To query. To churn away at this for years with no guarantee of any results. So I don’t mind waiting.

Except… This is kind of a big deal. And if I just accepted their offer, then where are they? Shouldn’t everything be wrapped up now? Shouldn’t we all be celebrating? Shouldn’t we be getting to work? How does this normally go? I have no idea. When should I expect to hear from them? Where’s Manager when you need him?

Etc.

I wouldn’t call it worrying. Worrying denotes some form of panic. And I’m not panicked. But when you have nothing else to do but wait… The mind wanders.

It’s an opportunity to imagine scenarios. Dark scenarios. Frustrating scenarios. Catastrophic scenarios– The hub of which is often the nagging notion that perhaps… They’ve changed their minds.

And it’s not that I couldn’t bounce back from that. Not that I couldn’t walk away from it entirely. It’s that: What a ridiculous waste of time this has all been if that’s the case.

Friends ask me how things are coming. Naturally I made the mistake of telling a few friends and family about the potential option agreement. So now there are expectations.

How’re things coming with all that?

Nothing yet… Heh… Oy.

For the most part I just wrestle with the wait on my own. Keep it inside. Feel sorry for myself that I’ve come all this way and now I’ve got to stand here and wait forever.

Tired and fatigued from wondering what-if all day I tuned back into Wife’s chatter. About the mundane day to day of her friends. She’s got a friend with a minor infection. Been hearing about this for the past couple days. Seems however that despite the antibiotics used to treat said infection, her friend isn’t getting any better. In fact, I hear now that I’m listening, her friend’s getting pretty concerned. See there’s cancer in her family. And she’s even had some scares herself in the past. Now she’s waiting on test results.

Waiting.

That sobered me up. Have the Producers chosen to back out of the option agreement? Probably not. Probably just busy. But whatever the reason and however long it takes, I can be sure of one thing: When I do hear back from them, it absolutely and positively won’t be to tell me that I may or not have cancer.

So I should just chill out. Be happy I’m as lucky as I am to have this kind of stuff to worry about.

And listen to my wife more.

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Aggressive People Respond to Aggressive People

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‘ve sorted out about five different ways to kill you if you happen to attack me for some reason before we even sit down to chat. But that’s just a personal quirk. Contingency planning. I’m not an aggressive person. In fact, I come from a long line of push-overs.

After the deal was done I touched base with Lawyer. I had some questions.

I wanted to know how this negotiation faired compared to other script option negotiations. Were we thorough? Was I a pain the ass to work with? And was I aggressive enough?

I try to have these frank how’my doing? type debriefs with as many industry people as I can. As I’ve mentioned in the past, social folkways are sometimes a little foggy for me. So I like to periodically make sure I’m not letting too much of my detached robotic personality show.

Lawyer assured me there was nothing left on the table by the time we were done. Assured me that I’d asked all the right questions. Told me that I wasn’t too much of a jerk about it all either. He told me that as far as going after the gold, I was very aggressive.

I think aggressive would have been enough. The “very” qualifier was probably a friendly nudge in the direction of civility.

That said, Lawyer seemed really happy with the outcome. Not too shabby a deal for a first timer. He was quick to qualify that with a nod to my previous new media work. That I wasn’t truly a “first timer”. Probably because (being very aggressive) I might have reamed him out for such a slight.

I kid. Because, as I said, I’m not actually aggressive at all. I’m not instinctively quick to share common pleasantries. Handshakes, hugs and so help me, kisses, don’t come naturally to me. And, I’m quiet. This makes most people feel judged. All this has on occasion made me appear somewhat hostile. Even when I’m really not.

But I’ll take it.

Because I’ve learned that aggressive people respond to aggressive people. And successful business executives are just about always aggressive people. I’ve had to train myself to keep up. Not get thrown to the wolves.

And I wouldn’t say I’ve got it down yet by any means. That’s why I seek these assessments. Personal monitoring. Don’t want to let the trained aggressiveness mix too heavily with my innate disposition for autistic behavior. That’s a recipe for a psychopath.

And I’m definitely not far enough along this career path to start acting like a psychopath. I’m sure that comes later.

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The Price Versus The Cost

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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.

Hm.

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.

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