This a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 079: Screenwriter Jan Arado Ask Questions About Screenplay Options.
Selling Your Screenplay Podcast
(Typewriter keys tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode 79 of the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m author, Ashley Meyers, screen writer, and barder over at Viselliascreenplays.com , www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing Jan Arado. Jan is a screenwriter from the East Coast. Who most recently used my Email and fax blast service to use? She got some interest from a Canadian producer and had a bunch of questions for us, about the option of agreeing to that which he presented to her. So I thought it might be interesting to answer her questions in a Podcast Episode as I’m sure there are lots of other people who probably have the same sorts of questions, about options agreements? So stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes and the websites and links that I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript for every episode in case you would rather read the show or get something later on? You can find all the Podcast shows and show notes on – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcasts. And then just look for episode #79.
You want my free guide, “How to Sell Your Screenplay in 5 Weeks?” You can pick that up at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, just put in your Email address and I’ll send you a bunch, I’ll send you lesson 1, and 1 lesson once per week for 5 weeks. Along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of, “How to Sell Your Screenplay” in that guide. “How to Write a Professional Log and Career Letter,” “How to Find Agents Managers and Producers” who are working on looking for material. These and everything you need to notice and sell your screenplay. Just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
I just want to mention 2 things I’m working on like Selling Your Screenplay to help screenwriters to get their scripts into the hands of producers and sell their screenplays. First, I’ve created a monthly newsletter that will be sent directly to producers. Every members of us selects can submit one log on per newsletter. I went and emailed my large data base of producers and asked them if they would like to receive a monthly newsletter from screenwriters at Selling Your Screenplay? So far we have about a hundred producers who have signed-up to receive it. These producers are honed for material and are happy to read scripts when you writers again, it’s expressly said they want to receive this pitched newsletter. So it’s a great way to get your log-ons and pitches in the hands of producers who are looking for new material. You want to learn more about this just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/select.
And secondly we are now feeling leads from producers for screenwriters. We’re doing a lot of outreach to try and bring in requests from producers for screenwriters. Last week we had more than ten pages of screenwriting leads. These are producers of production companies that are actively looking for material. Or are looking to hire a screenwriter for a specific project. You sign-up for select, you get these Emailed directly to you several times per week. There is a couple of real examples from last week’s leads. We had a Chinese producer looking for a script doctors to quickly rewrite a project she was working. This is a quick assignment if she needs it done in 2 weeks. Pay is based on experience. We have a company looking for what they call, “Flier Scripts.” Which are scripts specifically about states like: North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, and Iowa. In mention the movie, “Nebraska” as an example of what the movie they are looking for. So, you have a script like this, this is a perfect lead for you to submit to. We had another producer looking for crime, action, thriller scripts for one Production Company and that’s the same producer who was looking for a low budget horror scripts for another production company. We had another producer looking for political drama that was like, “Good-bye and Good Luck.” And “All the Presidents Men.” I actually see these types of leads from companies quite often. Companies looking for political drama. So there is a market for these types of films. A note, I’m not really into politics, so, I’ve never written one. So? If you’re into politics and you’ve written a script like this? Definitely keep an eye out for these types of leads. Again, I’ve seen them, you know, early tools. I’ve also seen like, “In Tip” I’ve seen his list. Other places that post screenwriting leads. I have seen these types of leads and it’s kind of surprising that usually with independent films you hear that dramas are not something that go on that these producers are looking for, but? For some reason, political dramas in the Soviet Union I have seen quite a number of leads for these. Including these three we had last week. Anyway, this is just a small smattering of leads from last week. A lot of these are still very much active. So if you join us this week? And select us now, you can still submit to them. And of course we’ll be bringing more leads in the coming week as well. So, if you would like to sign-up, just go to
Just want to talk quickly about it, a blog post that I wrote and published last week. It’s called, “How to Become a Screenwriter?” And what I did was run through all the Podcasts that I’ve done about screen writer’s overs the last 2 years. And I looked at how they broke down into the business. And how I created a nice table so you can see the results. I basically just went through all these Podcasts wrote down, okay this person is networking, this person used career writing, and I just tallied up the results in a nice little table. So it’s a quick way to look at all these around the Podcasts that I done with screen writers. See how they broke it in and blow it up into a nice table of all the results. Basically added up and didn’t actually see what percentage each method worked. I get a lot of questions about screen writers asking if one method or another actually works. Do contests work? Do quarry letters work? Or what others works? This posed, this plain black and white again, it just tallies the results so you can see it exactly which methods works best. And you can compare the different methods to the other methods. So you can kind of get a sense of what methods are most common when screenwriters break in. The results were really not all that surprising? But it did at least in my opinion prove a couple of things quarry writers can work. There’s numerous screen writers who use quarry writers obviously, myself. But there’s other writers who came up in the Podcast who use this method. Contests, I haven’t had any numbers of writers who use contests. I knew one screen writer who used cold calls. So really there’s a whole variety of different methods. And again this article really breaks it down, shows you how each method has worked the most for screen writers. You know, the 50 I’ve done, 56 I think I’ve actually done, roughly 55-56. Screen writers in the last 20 years I’ve interviewed, and it just breaks it down. Almost every Podcast episode that I do, I do ask this rule of, “Hey, how did you break in?” So it’s a nice way to get the information. And then as I said, tally in this Blog post. Also you can go on, I put links to all the different posts. So if there’s a different a particular method you’re interested in? If there is a particular method you think you would be good at? And I mention this in this blog post.
I mean, if you have years of experience in cold calls? I think there’s one of the most under rated ways of getting your script read. And if you feel confident of your good at sales, you’ve done cold calls before. Picking up the phone and calling production companies and going to work. And again I, had one caller on the phone Podcast that used this. So, there’s different methods. I went to the Podcast episodes so you could listen to the old episodes. But the ones that really pertain to the particular method that you think might work best for you. And that’s really the summation of the article. Is that I really feel that, like the key when you look at something like this? It’s not so much, well, this said this method had this many writers. And this is the method I should use. I really think the method that you choose to market yourself. And market your screenplays I think it will be more about you and your personality, your skill set, your talents, what you’re good at. And finding the method that fits those skills and talents that you already have. And that’s really what I’ve done, as I’ve mentioned in the article. I mention on my Podcast quite a bit and often. I realize this for a variety of reasons have worked well for me. And I don’t necessarily, I think that’s the best method for everyone. You’re or any of the other methods is the best method for everyone. You just got to find what works for you, depending on your skills, your talents, what you feel comfortable doing. Anyway, I will link to that article in the show notes, so definitely check it out, if you’re curious. Just too kind of get an overview of how most screen writers are breaking into the business.
A quick few words about what I’m working on? I think we are talking about my baseball comedy. I think pretty much since this Podcast began it’s this producer that I have this script option to. I sent it to him actually, this option script. I sent it to him from before I even started the Podcast over to him a few years ago. It’s still a long way from getting renal read. It’s slow, while we move forward. I mentioned this last week that the producer had only a minor routine interest in it. And potentially helping out with the production, which is a big thing. Because there’s more than half a script. That I would say takes place at a minor league ball park. But we definitely need the support of a minor league team to get there and get this thing off the ground. Anyway, the producers of, “Flying Moon on My Right.” In partner Nathan Oz, co-wrote this script with me. Flying us out to Delaware this week. We’re going to leave on Thursday we’re going to see a game. Then we’re going to do some re-writes on the script. We’re going to re-write the script. The specific minor league team is actually a big part of the script. When I and Nathan wrote the script we kinda just created a fictional minor league team. Which worked fine, it just wasn’t right in the script on spec. But now that we have an interested producer with a specific team in mind. We’re going to go back through. And what we called, “The Bakersfield Bandits.” Because Bakersfield is near here. I guess its best as, best to my knowledge? There is no such thing as, “The Bakersfield Bandits.” But we incorporated some sort of funny little skits into this: A team mascot, and stuff in that. Obviously we’re going to and we’re going to re-write that. And we’re going to re-write it specifically to that team. One of the big pitches to this team is that, hey this is a big marketing beast for you. It’ll help drive attendance, you know, notoriety for your team. So we’re going to re-write this script. It’s not going to be a huge re-write in terms of structures story. But there’s a bit that are in there where the guy dresses up as, “The Bakersfield Bandits.” So we’ll have to figure out what is the mascot of this team? And how can we incorporate that organically into the script? So that’s the main thing. We’re also making it more family friendly. We had some sort of, I would say “PG-13” humor in the script. We definitely need to tone this down. I don’t know if it has to be a “G” definitely a very clean and “PG” obviously. With a baseball team, a minor league baseball team gets involved in something like this.
A real movie has to be very, very, family friendly. So those are a reason, the two things in re-writing it once we’ve seen it. This game, and we’re going to talk to the producers as well once we get there. And as I said, I know he has a lot of notes just on the tone, and sort of the theme of keeping it family friendly.
So now let’s get into the main segment, today I’m interviewing Jan Arado, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Jan, to the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Jan: Well thanks so much for having me today.
Ashley: So you really want me to get into mail and fax blast, you and my service. Now have a producer that option a screenplay. So congratulations on that.
Jan: Thank you.
Ashley: So why don’t you just take, I’m sorry?
Jan: I said, “It’s exciting!”
Ashley: Yeah, but is it, it is very exciting. So maybe, if you could just take us back a couple of steps and kind of walk us through the process. I think maybe the first thing is, maybe you can just briefly tell us what the log line is? So that people can kind of understand what kind of script it is? That you are pitching through the Email fax blast service.
Jan: Okay. The log in is, a young soldier returns home from the space where he still owns legal amnesty. His own life, his accolades, his escalating mental illness tells of her jealously, rage, and ultimately violence. As she fights to claim soul ownership of their infant son.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect. So, what genre would you say this is in? The way this script was in?
Jan: That’s a good question? Super Alamos is in it. I think this is a love story. But it certainly a serious and it’s also a thriller in some ways.
Jan: I guess it would be more of a movie script physiological thriller genre.
Ashley: Okay, yeah.
Jan: Thriller, something like that?
Ashley: I wonder if there is there any movie out there with what’s in the log in. I gave that, sort of similar in, you know, tone, and scope to this particular project?
Jan: That’s a good question? I don’t really have anything specifically to compare it with? From offer to say something about it? I haven’t really thought about it myself. But, um.
Ashley: Okay. Maybe you could just tell us a little bit sort of, what sort of budget do you think this would have? You know, how big is the cast? What is the scope of the locations? And that kind of stuff?
Jan: I think it’s a film that can be made on a very limited budget. Because the settings without the settings I’m considering are? I kind of see a downtown area like, Baltimore. But, it can be anywhere? Depending on where most of the shots are indoors? Where, there is no central sex, no car chases, it’s a small cast. It’s basically, the four people I guess is the main? I guess this four of them have a pretty big, you know, hard part. I’m assuming around a hundred, and two other characters, two or three other characters besides that really, four?
Jan: I mean minor characters. So it’s a pretty contained film.
Ashley: Yeah, okay.
Jan: The central characters to the film. Something to that effect. Most of them were.
Ashley: Yeah. Well, okay, that’s good to know. I mean, that’s kind of, it’s good to know, in terms of the context. Of what kinds of scripts are succeeding at the blast. I think described as precisely a script as a script as I think does work with the blast. I just think because there are producers out there that are working on people like these; plain drama thrillers. Something like this, where it best? So I’m script to use the blast score through. Take us back to the day, the day is Monday – March 23rd. Take us back, what is June, remember the day we did the blast?
Jan: Um? Let’s see? I have a month here. I think it was, March 10th.
Ashley: Okay, March 10th. So, we’re about two weeks out now? And so how many script requests do you think you’ve got over the log? People just saying, hey, please send in a script.
Jan: I’d say at least 20.
Ashley: Okay. And then so that…
Jan: I’ve made.
Ashley: Yeah okay. No, no, no, I think that’s great. I think that’s a solid number. There are definitely people I’d? I don’t want everyone to think that they are going to get 20 script requests from this blast. But, there are some people that definitely will get that many. And the other thing I think? I think your script is a, the other thing I think you want to mention about your career writer is worth pointing out. And we were developing your career quarry. And I mentioned this to you, you do have some background with that. You said a son who was a returning veteran from the Gulf War. And I think that, and you mentioned that in the quarry letter. And I think that, that kind of thing is really adds authenticity. And so I think that could very well lead to.
Ashley: Help. Also just getting to you bringing that number of script requests up.
Jan: Right. The average is your suggest on it that there is most excellent. That there is at least 3 or 4? At least 3 or 4 producers referenced that. That pretty reg?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Jan: Except that they wanted to mention reading one of the interest letters.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, little things like can definitely can add some authenticity. So, okay, now tell us just a little bit about this potential deal that you have on the table? The producer has contacted you. Just take us through sort of the whole process?
Jan: Okay, well, this is, you know, this is where I’m kinda lost and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing? In case it, this is a very young producer, he’s in, British Columbia. And he’s a, he is the producer of, “Foresight Energy” on that. And he called me originally, and said he would like to see me, but he has a very busy schedule. Excellent, I had a really hard time seeing him? I actually waited, he told me. I couldn’t understand his Emails. Just, I got it all wrong. So I had to call him back. And then I was able to, either that or it was quieter, as much? That was the screw-up. I guess it was about a week ago, ten days ago? And then he called me yesterday. And said that he wanted to option it. And he was going to cancel it in fact, in May. We went to it. He wanted to option it. It turned out to be some of the options, three months? Which he did, and it’s a six month offer option. And there’s no money, you know, up front. I definite, kind of standard operating procedures these days. But, the present is kind of concerns me.
First of all, it’s not, it sounds like a really long time for so little in return, at that point. But, now I’m sitting on it, that’s not so I don’t believe it either? But then the other part is, when we talk about the purchase. The number is, Canada it says it agrees the issue to rather can it. In some quarries I have? For a sense of the sums confirmed? Bunch is at the film. And it needs to be paid in dollars in exercising the option. And I don’t know what that means? I don’t know if that’s a good deal or a bad deal?
Ashley: Okay, okay. So let’s break this down into segments. You sent me an Email. And that’s what kind of got this conversation. And everybody, I think you know? Let’s get on a phone call and that little quarter and use it as the Podcast episode. Because other people have optioned stuff and not just through my Emails, that’s why. Of service, that’s why people have optioned stuff and they have come out and contacted me through Email. A very simple question? Should I start this? This will just be interesting I can see creating a Podcast episode, people can find it. Let’s break it down simply. You sent me an Email and you had some questions that. I’m just going to run over these questions.
And then we’ll get to some of these specific things you just mentioned. Another thing you mentioned in your Email was? And quoting you while I know option doesn’t require payment on his part. But it keeps you from shopping the script around. In the meantime, you’re not, the other thing you said was? I would love to hear you thoughts and if you think I’m leaving it? Please write your opinion and let me know?
So, this, um, oh, yeah. The other thing is, I was, I’m wondering? Six months is standard, or if I need to negotiate? So let’s break those three questions down? The first one I know, options doesn’t require a payment on his part. It keeps you from shopping the script around in production. I mean, you understand, precisely what the options are, the agreement? So those are the sign an agreement. You are completely correct in that, “Yes.” You have the right to give him the exclusive right to purchase the script. So you can’t in good faith, shop it around to other people.
But the first part of that is? You’re saying, she doesn’t require a payment on his part. There is no, nothing that says it’s set in stone. And so the fact that he’s not offering you anything. Does not necessarily mean that, that’s standard, or anything else. I have been recently, I have options for some scripts for free as well. And I, and so it’s really a judgement call. And I think it’s kind of like, you said? The script just sitting on your shelf, is not at all helpful. So that’s sort of the, you know, the question? But now you’ve just got to decide? And there’s a couple of things that I do. And you can, out of I tell you how I kind of come to these decisions. That maybe these can help you? A, one thing that definitely, different you know? Is, between methods, because I have some credits. So I’m probably a little bit pickier? I would say, if you’re new, you have not sold any options. Especially if you haven’t sold anything before and you don’t have that actual credit? I think getting the actual credit is so important. So, you probably want to be a little looser on some of these criteria that I’m about to mention.
The first thing I do is, I look at the credits that the person has. You can look them up on “IUB” you can see the types of movies they’ve produced in the last, really their whole career. You can get some sort of an idea of what are the chances that this guy actually got or going to be able to produce at least my movie? That’s a big thing? That’s, it’s um, someone who’s fresh out of film school. They see, you know, art and animation, but have zero credit? That’s a totally and giving them a free option isn’t total difference. It isn’t anyone giving someone who has, you know, one. Even one, two, three, or four? You don’t produce credit that are IUB that have. You know, I lose someone after who’s, I’ve heard of. That’s definitely different type of a thing. And so you want to look at that, and make a decision about this person. You know, do you think that this past or present producer knows the wrap? And do you think they actually work at being able to produce this movie? The other big thing, and that you would want to do at this early stage? And I’ve always found that producers are probably more candid at this stage. Than they should be? You want to ask him? What sort of change is there to the script, do you think you need? Or do you think we would want to see? Most producers will simply tell you. And again, for where I sit, (Coughing), excuse me. From where I sit, this is the big thing because? If I’m giving someone a free or very expensive option? I don’t want to do a ton of work on re-writes on it. It just is not called cost effective. And those re-writes can be a very painful process. I know as I said, producers at this point. They usually are overly? I find that are usually just honestly tell you, oh, I want to change this, or that, or other? So, (Coughing), excuse me. So what I typically will try and do is? If they want to change it? And I’m giving them a pre-option? I will try and say, listen, just, let’s try and get this. I’ll give you a free option.
But we’re not going to do any re-writes. Take the script to some of your, the company that you’re going to submit it to and get financing. And let’s see if you can get some seed money? Or some money interested in it? And then, you know, pick and pay a little bit for re-writes down the road. And often time’s producers are willing to do this. They sort of understand that you’re taking somewhat of a chance. And this works out well because? You just said at the beginning of this as well. It’s not helpful if it just sits on my shelf for six months. But what’s really not helpful? If you spend six months re-writing this thing. And then they guy still doesn’t end up getting it made? So, that’s like if it sits on your shelf if not worst case scenario, it’s not ideal. But it could be worse with this guy has to do with a ton of re-writes and in a lot of cases the producer, who is going to come at you with re-writes that you are listening to these changes. And they’re legal now. And not even very good ideas. So those are the first two things I would look at. Whoever is carotid and make some assessment? And does, does this guy have some edit? And if he does, then that’s a real positive. That’s just the real bonus. That is, that’s a good shot next to his name then. And I would then, if someone comes to me and wants free options. And they make it a bunch of credit and they don’t want to do the element with a bunch of re-writes. It’s very, I’d be better to and be very unusual to do that. I would not option it to them. A, so, at this meeting, look at that and decide?
Now, the second part of your question? Was just, I was wondering if six months is standard? Or, should you? Six months is actually a very short amount of time. And, you know, it is I, It doesn’t seem excessive to me. I would typically try and get people to, if they want the free option. I would try to typically get them to agree to a 90 day option. Or at least sort of, you know, negotiate a little bit bigger, what about a ninety day free for a while optioning. And for that they’ll go for it, sometimes they won’t. The one thing that I always want to make clear to a producer. Is that I will give them the right to extend that option. And I will typically try to tack on $500.00 or $1000.00. Basically so they would get a free ninety day of free six months option. And then they can extend it past that point. But, $500.00 or $1000.00 is really good for whatever you can make negotiate that amount. And then, what I found is, you know, a producer, and independent producer, a producer like this. They are not going to waste $500.00 on your script if they are not really working on it? And after 90 days or so, six months? You know, they are going to have a scent, they’re going to have sent this to most of their contacts. They’re going to have a scent of a basic instinct. Few for them and for their business model. They are going to have a sense of this thing have a vision or not? And they, they’re not going to just give you the five. Because the $500.00 is not, let’s face it? It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s usually enough money for these producers to step in. But they are not going to want to just throw $500.00 away. And so it’s, if it creates a sort of a point for which they got to make a decision. And again, I found is? This stage of the game is? She’s going to ask me for six months option? And I don’t need that, he’ll look to the contact he has and mention whether or not he has some sort of clause to extend it? You know, he’d probably be more than opened to doing this six months and then add on and then the $500.00. Or even pushing down to ninety days and then an extension of $500.00. He is probably not going to, it probably wasn’t originally going to be your brand now. In when the project is starting, he is opened and optimistic about it and how long it’s going to take to raise the money for this. So, that would be one thing to maybe go back and just, you know, try and nicest way? What about a ninety day option? And then you can have a six month extension for $500.00 after the ninety days then? You know, if there’s a good chance it won’t even faze him and he’ll go for that.
And then he’ll, and you won’t even have to tie up the script for ninety days. And in fact, like ninety days is such a short amount of time, it really is. Such a short, even six months long in the film business is such a short amount of time.
It really doesn’t tie you up that much, really. Let’s just say hypothetically, somebody you option the script next week to him? And another producer calls you up, you know, two or three weeks later? And says, “Oh, I really love it, I want to option it.” You know, at that point, you’d just explain to him. Listen I just got this ninety day option, you know? You write down his name, write down his phone number, and let me give you a call. And at that point, you know, in two or three weeks. If not, then the ninety days. Then you’re down to the like, you know, seventy-five days. So you’re like, let me give you a call in 75 days. And see if this guy really options $500.00? So, you know, if something comes up? If it’s an 18 month option? (Coughing)
Excuse me again. If it’s an eighteen month option, or something more like that? If, you know, it’s such a long amount of time? That if a producer would have called you up and they are interested in it? And it’s already optioned? In eighteen months they may have, or may not even be interested in it? But if you tell someone, that hey, yes, it is optioned. But, the option expires in 55 days, that’s not that much time. You can probably rekindle that mood down the road. So, again, I want, that would be my angle. I would try and get and go back. And if he doesn’t want to do it for ninety days? I would probably again, taking that into consideration. How many change, what kind of change do they want? Whether, what do they want? Rather than have some producer credit in the past taking more of those into consideration. I probably would have said, I wouldn’t baulk too much if you’re insistent on six months. But, you mine as well go back to him and just see if you could cut that down to ninety days. Because he might be fine with it, that?
The next part of your Email I wrote to you. Rip-offs or if you think you need a real opinion, please let me know? I mean, this is a part I am not a lawyer. So, I want to make that absolutely clear to you. Anybody listening to me, this Podcast. I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be. And so, let me tell you signing-up a legal document. It is absolutely prudent to contact a paid entertainment attorney and get the opinion of someone who has, you know, experience with this. And I’m not that person. I’m just casually giving out my advice, trying to tell you what I’ve done. What the problem is, so the bottom line? Anytime you sign a legal document, yes, you should have a good attorney look it over, obviously. The problem with these as you’re I’m sure you’re realizing is? You know, he’s not paying anything for the options so?
Ashley: Where is the money to pay the lawyer going to come from?
Ashley: And I mean, to get an attorney, you know, most of them are going to be: $200.00 – $300.00 – $400.00 an hour. So you’re looking at best case scenario, probably $1000.00 – $1200.00 – $1400.00 to have somebody look at it. Okay, what I did early in my career, truthfully, and it is not advisable. And it, and I don’t want anybody to think that I’m advising it, to do this? Because it’s not a smart thing to do. And I did run into problems early on. But what I am, what I did was? I did sign a contract without going to a lawyer, especially early on. I now have an attorney that I work with. So it’s, we can go through it.
And a, you know, it’s like I’m a walking, and it’s absolutely advisable to go to an attorney. But the practicality of it is? You know, do you want to lose $1200.00 optioning this script to this producer? And that is the decision you have got to make. And I, only you can make the decision, that decision yourself? And as I said, I did run into some? They weren’t huge problems, but I did run into some problems. Where some producers, you know, they put some things in their contract that probably shouldn’t have been there. And if I had taken it to an attorney, an attorney would have most likely seen those things and told me about them. So, ultimately, you got to make that decision.
I do want to talk about a couple of things? I just jotted down a couple of notes, before we got on the call. Some things that can save you money with the attorney’s fees being used. And you know, this is definitely going to help you. As I said, the attorney’s going to charge you by the hour, whatever it is, whatever his fee is? $300.00-$400.00 dollars an hour. So, if one thing? I definitely see reduced free options is? From soup to nuts is sometimes people will send me a 30 page contract. But I’ll sign a free option agreement a couple of weeks ago. And it was literally 2 pages. And.
Jan: So far?
Ashley: And, so okay. That’s outstanding, if he’s handing you a 2 page option agreement? Than that’s definitely going to bring those of paying those attorneys to look at it. What he does, obviously for what it has to do to slog through 30 pages, verses, you know, 2 pages. There’s going to be a rate based on his hourly rate. So it sounds like you have already got that? But, that’s one piece of advice that I have for people is? Insist on a short option form, you know, less than five or six pages hopefully, around one or two pages. But that just outlines that main things.
The other thing, and this will kind of bring us into another section of this. Another thing I have always done? And I still do this to this day. When I am going, and a producer wants to option something from me? Alright? You’ll actually appreciate all the major points. And I’ll talk about the major points in a minute. Again, this is a major that will save you money for an attorney. If an attorney, if you have to get on the phone. Has to, you know, there’s some back and forth, you know, with some negotiating. Again, he’s charging you by the hour. And what I have found with these smaller independent films? They’re not really, like when you’re talking about a studio film with hundreds of thousands of dollars of a day. You don’t have the ability to negotiate. Can have a big impact on your bottom line. What I’ve found, with these independent films? I mean, films that are made for less than a million dollars, probably even less 5 million dollars. But films that are smaller than independent films. They are not that much money. That’s a way you are going to be able to negotiate. I mean, you know, and so, you know? He’s not the $1000.00 that you would pay to negotiate this. And frankly, truthfully, he’s probably not going to earn it. Because the negotiation is pretty straight forward.
So I just want to run through a couple of things that I just jotted down. There’s 4 main things that go into an option agreement. And there’s a bunch of sort of boiler-plate stuff. That I’m not going to get into. But there’s 4 main things. And again, your attorney can make sure the boiler-plate stuff is proper. And he can make sure also that these 4 main things are written in such a way that to actually means what you think it means. And the 4 main things are?
And the first thing is? The length of the option. And you’ve already said he wants a 6 month option.
I’ve already talked about that. Try and shorten it down as much as possible. Give him an extension, and try and get it for a reasonable amount of money, the extension. So these are the main things. These are some of the main key things that are going to be with an option.
The other main thing is the actual sale price, if he exercises the option. And then you can expect 2.5% of the production budget. And that, to me, like you telling me that? That sounds absolutely legitimate. And it sounds like he’s not in any way trying to shoot you, or trying to take advantage of you in anyway? What I’ve always made the negotiation go between 2% and 3%. So 2.5 percent is right in the middle of that. So then you’re not going to get more than 2%. Sometimes there have been other that get 3%, but 2.5% is a very standard fair amount. That you’re going to find. Now, the one thing I would add to that? Is you’re going to want to add, ask him, what the budget? What sort of budget is he thinks this film is going to have? So that you, that there is some expectation of what? And I mean, and I know, 3% of a $10,000.00 budget is only $300.00. And you want to note that, and I mentioned that. I got myself into some serious trouble early on with contests on a signed option agreement earlier on in my career. Where I just got, I remember when it was 2-5%. But it was some percentage of the budget. But I didn’t put in any kind of before. And I, there was some problems with the producer. So, at one point he calls me up and says, hey I exercising my option. You know, we’re probably going to send you $300.00 and he was literally telling me. Okay, I’m going to go make this movie for $10,000.00, here’s your $300.00 for your script budget. And that was not really the intent of what we had agreed upon. But there was no clause in there, so? Again, I find producers at this day and age to be fairly candid. And so if you just ask him, what sort of budget do you think you’re going to have for this movie? And just to make the money, let’s say he tells you? Okay this movie is going to take, we’re going to make this movie for a million dollars. Which if you could do some quick math? 2.5% of a million dollars is $25,000.00. So, with you in mind, what you want to do is? You want to put in, make sure in this contract that there is some sort of form. Which is basically going to say, you know, you’re going to get 2.5% of the production budget. Or, you know, $20,000.00 whichever is greater? And so then, you can’t just buy yourself $300.00 or $400.00. There is some sort of expectation of what sort of budget. And again, I’ve never had a producer, you know, faze me, or ignore this? Because at this point he’s legitimately thinks he’s going to raise a million dollars. And sometimes producers will want to put a feeler in? Like they might say, okay fine, but I want to put a feeling, so it’s going to say? I’m going to get a 2.5% of a production budget or $20,000.00 whichever is greater, but no more than $400,000.00. He may want to put in a feeler going, and that’s totally fine too. Truthfully, producers never raise more money than they think they are going to raise. They always raise the last, so I’ve never had it come close to that. It’s always closer to the four. So if he wants to put a feeler in that’s fine. I, you know, if you have to mention feelers? Just don’t mention it. But don’t be alarmed if he comes back to you and wants to put some kind of feeler in. But definitely put in something, some sort of four? And again, he’s not going to have a problem with that. Because he’s try to make this movie come in. And 2.5% is, you know, some, whatever the budget is? He’s not going to have a problem with that. And it just sets up the expectation that this movie’s going to made at a certain libel. And that’s important to do.
So the next major, is the writing credit.
Jan: He mentioned that.
Ashley: Oh, say that again?
Jan: He did mention that.
Ashley: Okay, okay.
Jan: He agrees to grant writer or writing credit.
Ashley: Okay, perfect. And that’s absolutely correct. You definitely want to make sure that there’s something in there. That guarantees your writing credit. And it’s customary in this industry. And you’ll say something like, you know, he has the ability to bring up other writers and read and re-write the script. And that’s, you know, that’s the way of the land per screen writers. You have to accept the fact that sometimes these people are all? Sometimes he won’t, sometimes he will, but that’s just things. But you want to make sure you are guaranteed a writing credit. If you have to bring on writers, yes, they get writing credit. But you are guaranteed a writing credit. And one thing that is? I’m not sure how this will shake-out legally? But this is definitely the question for a lawyer? But I definitely see no harm in a lot of these boiler-plate contracts. Where they come at you and say, you know, this writing credit will be determined based on best legitimate standard. And the fact of the matter is, and this one. Like most of the contracts that I’ve signed in my career. They are not a WJ Contract. And I had mine, my lawyer, he had been my manager at one point. He said, that doesn’t really work. Because you’re not a “WJ Contract” so it, they’re never going to like, they’re going to be looking at a “WJO arbitration” when it’s not a “WJO” standard film. And the producer is not, you know, a “WJO Signature.” With loser. So, don’t you, that’s just like a little tip. But that doesn’t sound like that’s what he’s doing? But other people, you want to make sure that you get guaranteed writing credit. And you don’t make, say you want to let that thing about “WGA” typically “WGA” writing credit. Because it’s not really going to apply to you. And again, I don’t know how that would shake-out legally if they try to mack your rights, writing credit? Because as I said, if it’s not “WG Film” “WG” is not going to push for arbitration.
One last point, and this is one of those points that you could take or leave? If he baulks, I just wouldn’t worry about it. But you can generally negotiate some sort of back end payment. Especially if you are given a free option. And generally what you get it’s generally called, “Producers Net.” So, typically I’ve been able to get 5% of the Producers Net. And it basically means, nothing. You know you’re never going to see it. Any of that money, or funds at all from that. But on the off chance that this thing is a mega-hit. There is some possibility that you could potentially get some more money. But, you can’t do like a, “Blair Witch Project.” Or one of these movies that just made hundreds of millions of dollars. And you had 5% of Producers Net. It would be all, the Producers Net basically says, I’m going to give you 5% of the profit after all my costs are covered. And producers will just make sure they constantly have new or more cost. But at some point? He may not be able to hide that and they will give you some profits. So, I usually like draining through there again. Just 5% of the Producers Net. I know it’s never going to amount to, it has never amounted to anything. In any of the scripts I’ve sold I’ve never seen a dime from it. It was just nice to have it in there again. I’ve never had a producer argue about it, because they know, as well as I know that it’s never really going to matter or amount to anything. So that’s kind of the basic pre-text of, so before I open this up? Do you have specific other questions? In terms I’d be happy to answer. Maybe if you, you want me to elaborate on it any?
Jan: Um? You answered most everything right here. The one other thing I was going to say? I had another Email out, I haven’t seen them or gotten back to him yet? I’m not going to, I was going to wait until I talked with you. And get some ideas from you about negotiations? But I guess I’ve gotten another Email from him? Noticing he still wants to see the script. So, that too? Should I decline to them and tell them? Should I send them the script? Even though I can’t option it?
Ashley: Yeah, and you know, this is? I again, you could do what you want. I’ll tell ya, what I would do? I would just keep sending it out, business as usual. Till the option contract is actually signed. Things can go wrong? You can be in the reverse position. I wouldn’t even mention it into this new producer that wants to read the script. I wouldn’t even mention it, I’d just say, thank you for responding to my quarry. You know, I really appreciate it, for taking the time to read my script. Here it is and send it to him all. The part or the bottom line is? The chances are, you’re never going to hear from the producer again.
Ashley: And a, the fact of the matter is? The script is not optioned and is available. And if it takes you a week to negotiate this contract. And this guy comes and hey, I read the script today. He’ll read the script tonight and get back to you tomorrow. And maybe you’ll have a better offer. Then you had with this offer from this Canadian Producer? So, you just don’t know? But once the script is actually optioned? Then I would say, I mean, I think, then you would definitely. I am trying to think, about what I would do? If someone, once script is optioned, someone requests the script, and the script is actually optioned at that point? What I will simply do is, I will tell them and I will do what I told you to do earlier on the call. I will say, listen, thanks for your interest and get back to this. Option the script, to a producer, it’s optioned for 90 days, or 75 days, or six months or whatever the time frame is? If you want to read it? If not I can completely understand. Just want to tell them up front that the script is optioned. Because once it’s signed, then it is actually optioned. And I will typically keep those Emails in a bin, to follow-up. If the option goes for six months and it doesn’t get exercised? Then you’ve got some leads to kind of follow-up on. Hey, remember six months ago? The script was optioned and I said I’d. I don’t know if you read it? But the option has expired. So if you’re still interested? Now’s a good time to read.
Jan: So it’s a good time to send him the script then? Even though it’s optioned? If it’s optioned it’s still okay to send it as long as you tell them it’s optioned?
Ashley: Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to be any problem with that. I mean most of the time they’re not going to read it. That would be just like, Yeack! They are not going to waste your time reading it, so? Come on, you can send it, they’re not going to read it. They said in six months, in six months or whenever the option expires. We just want to follow-up with them. And say, hey, if you want a chance to read it? The option is now expired and the script is available again. And a, you can kind of take it from there. I don’t think any producer’s going to, I won’t say any, but most producers are not going to read a script that just got optioned. I mean,
Ashley: So, But yeah, why don’t you just send it to him? I’m trying to think? A tip, I’m, like I’ll have a script, that’s like, optioned. And I’ll be talking to the producer. And I know, like the producer has basically exhausted everything on the script. There might be like, another month, but yet he’s exhausted all his cards. He’s not going to make the movie. There is another month on the option. But I basically know, he’s not going to go to work. I see a refund on it. A tip that really masters what that script is? I’ll finish the script and I won’t even mention the guy and the option. Because at that point, I basically know that it’s going to be that. I’m going to get it back, and then a month. And then, you know, it just, I mine as well just sending it out. I honestly don’t know about your question? But I don’t know what, like the legality is? Than the script out is? If there is any legality? You can send the script to anybody for any reason? You tell them it’s optioned, you just can’t sell the script. All you’re doing, the only thing you’re getting or giving up in the option, legally? Is the exclusive right to buy the script, so? Your producer, he can’t buy the script, legally he can’t buy the script from you, but? There’s nothing that I can say is, maybe there’ll be something in the contract? That says you can’t send the script to anybody in that option. You can’t send it to anybody, but a, I’ve never had a producer put that in there.
Jan: Okay. Good to know. Yeah, I think you answered everything also. I don’t know what you’ve done?
Ashley: Okay, I mean, just. Like how I said, just the state test sight. You know, I haven’t read the contract? But just the things you’ve said to me. The 2.5%, and the six months, you know it sounds like legitimate. I’d get an IMDB and I’d just look at his credits.
Jan: Yeah, he doesn’t have a whole lot of credits, very young. So I don’t know? I don’t think probably he going to find the financing, but? On the other hand, maybe he is young and, good, and hungry, and that’s a good thing? But?
Ashley: One of the big things that, and I think people, you know, miss this a lot of the times. Would be Email/fax. Email/fax blast is so direct, it’s like straight to producers and people like script and stuff. Sometimes you get an option out of it? I feel like one of the things people miss from it is? The fact that you know, part of it is doing relationships. But that’s only part it. He’s young and not a lot of credit. That may not be a big deal. I mean, it’s like if you, if he’s ambitious and actually going to college? I mean he’s going to have to spend some money to get over there? I know, I mean, maybe he’s a hard working guy? And you know, your career can grow with his career. And so building that relationship. And that, one of things that I found that about my Email and fax blast? Occurs is? I’ve really built some pretty good relationships with people and producers. I had this one producer over a year ago. I optioned a script to him. It was a free option for six months. I mean, I even did a little bit of re-writing for him. There was even talk I would spend a couple of hours type of thing? Nothing big, but a, you know, we had a couple of collaborations. I wrote with him, I liked him, and you know, we built a relationship of everything I’ve optioned him. Another script to him. I’ve worked on some other treatments with him. There’s just some other things than if I. You know, he is a hard working guy who’s ambitious and so it’s like, I know who’s going to get some movies produced at some point. And you know, you need a writer to write those movies. You know, this producer, he may not produce this movie? You may option it to him? But building that relationship and just, you know, keep in touch with him over the next? You know, if he’s willing and young. He’s got years, you know, that might be a good thing, you know? Over the next year or two?
Ashley: In four or five years. And a lot of people, they don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to be like, oh, you know, maybe it’ll be like ten years? You know, in ten years maybe he’ll finally be in a place where he’s prepared to produce movies consistently. And you’ve had a lot of a relationship with him for a lot of ten year. And he makes one of your movies. People don’t want to hear that it may take ten years. And you know, But that’s just kind of the reality of it do take time. I hope he makes your movie in, you know, six months. And you’re off to the races. You know, but maybe a year or two down the road he’ll be in a better position and there’ll be a better script of yours that he likes? And maybe there’ll be some other project where he gets the rights to a book or something? And he wants you to do it? Adapt it a little with a little bit of development money. And he paid you to adapt a script? So there’s just a lot of little things that you can get out of just building a relationship with someone. And that shouldn’t be under estimated.
Jan: Okay. That’s you know, that’s the way I like to look at it too. Is that a, he’s not some old established producer bought. That doesn’t mean that he’s not going to be. He got his whole life, I mean, 40 years from now. And he’s like my husband. You know, he’s young and he likes my views on things. And that’s pretty cool.
Ashley: And no doubt. This is the guy that means a lot for this script. And that can definitely complement assumption. I mean, not Stephen Spielberg. But he’s definitely complement days. You’ve got someone who’s going to come to impressive. He’s had, you know, lots of scripts and that was yours, so that’s mean something for sure.
Jan: Yeah, fine, thanks.
Ashley: Okay. Well Jan I wish you luck, please do definitely keep in touch. You know, you can come back, hopefully in six months to tell for an update. And tell a bunch made. That would be so exciting.
Jan: I know.
Ashley: I’d love to have you back on for that. But just keep in touch because they, really will be fazed, they do, they grow slowly, they, it always grows slow, slower than we would like, but? Them it can definitely start. Everything starts with the longest journey for a step. And sometimes just a free option and that might be the first? The first step to a long career.
Jan: Well, thank you. And I want to tell everybody, listen how helpful you’ve been, supportive you’ve been. And I highly recommend everything you do.
Ashley: Yeah, thank you, thank you.
Jan: You’re everything I know about working on a screenplay. When I’ve come and needed your support. And how it’s all about you. And I really appreciate it.
Ashley: Perfect, tell them all I appreciate it. Okay, that’s very nice of you, here so? Perfect. Well Jan, once again, please do stay in touch and I wish you luck with this.
Jan: Thank you so much, you take care.
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In the next episode of the Podcast I’m going to interviewing an Antonio Bogdanovich, she’s the daughter of film director Peter Bogdanovich. And she is slowly worked her way up the ranks to run her, writing and directing her own first feature film, which is crime drama called, “Phantom Hailer.” So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.