A lot of the questions I get from fellow screenwriters are through Twitter.  If you don’t already use Twitter you should seriously think about joining.  It’s free and easy.  It’s a very simple way to network with likeminded people and doesn’t take a lot of time (if you use it correctly).  I typically log in to my account once or twice per day and respond to tweets people have sent me and then I look around for other interesting people to follow and network with.  I usually spend less than 15 minutes per day doing this.  I have Tweetie the Twitter iPhone app so I can check Twitter whenever I have a spare moment so the time I spend on Twitter is often time that would be wasted anyway.

If you are on Twitter you can follow me at http://twitter.com/ashleymeyers

Here’s a question I got via Twitter a couple of days ago:

“If I find a production company willing to option my script and I have an agent, does the agent still take a commission for the find, or subsequent deal?”

As a rule, yes, your agent is going to take his 10% commission on scripts that you sell even if he wasn’t involved in the script submission.

Once you find a producer to option/purchase your script there’s going to be some negotiations and legal wrangling that takes place that you should NOT do EVEN if you’re an entertainment attorney.

This is where your agent should earn her money.  If she’s a good agent she might be able to negotiate a fee that is more than 10% higher than what you would have gotten yourself, so you’re probably not going to lose any money by bringing your agent into the equation.

In addition when the wrangling starts you don’t want to be the “bad” guy – that’s what your agent is for.  Potentially you’re going to have to work with the producer for many months so you want to keep your relationship with the producer on good terms.  Let your agent fight with the producer over contract issues while you concentrate on the creative decisions that need to be made.

There are a lot of complexities to a screenplay option agreement and you should probably not try and work them out yourself.  Your agent should be an expert in this area and there should be a lawyer who works for her firm to look over client’s contracts.  This legal guidance is worth the 10%.  Any real agency or manager is going to absorb these legal costs when negotiating your deal.  If you try and hire a good entertainment attorney she’s going to charge you at least $300 / hour and probably more so you might end up losing more than 10% of your deal in legal fees.

I suppose you could negotiate with your agent when you sign with them that you don’t want to pay them commission on deals you find for yourself.  But if you’re going to do that why have an agent at all?  Many beginning writer’s have a misconception that getting an agent is the end-all be-all and that your agent will be able to find work for you as soon as you sign with them.  That’s not what’s going to happen.  As a beginning writer you’re still going to have to do a lot of the leg work in sending your scripts out until you get established.

If you haven’t already done so you might want to read my post How do you get an agent for your screenplay? (And why you don’t need one!).

6 thoughts on “Does your agent get a commission when you found the deal?”
  1. Hi Ashely, I’m a screenwriter and do not currently live in LA but plan to do so in the near future. I had a job lined up but was afraid to take it as I make more money now as a social worker. Should I pursue the job in LA even though the pay is less just to move? Also I submitted my script to OBS for “coverage” they say they have a 14 day turnaround I haven’t heard from them yet and I wanted to incorporate the coverage notes in my script before the Hollywood Black Film Festival on 6/5! I’m really frustrated with waiting. If its not done I can’t really promote my script when network..or can I if so how?

  2. Yes as a general rule, your agent/manager gets a commission on the sale of your material. If you short them out of this, most likely they will drop you. It’s that simple.

    And if you do make a contact which nets in a sale or option, you as a general rule are not the one to negotiate the deal, the payment structure and amounts. This must always be left up to your representation–this is what they are for.

    Now if you don’t have representation, and somehow, somewhere, some producer/director/studio wants to option your material, I would suggest that you quickly retain an attorney that has entertainment experience. Only this person should review the contracts and give you an opinion before you close the deal.

    Do it any other way and your a killing yourself.

  3. Dear Ashley

    I have a couple of scripts ready to be shown to a producer. But apart from being a writer, I believe that I have got the vision required to translate my work on screen in a better way. I wish to assist the director and also give inputs in other various departments of filmmaking. But I am hesitant about how to mention it to my director/producer. Would it be taken as professional intrusion. Please guide.

  4. Muzammil;

    I’m going to be writing a full post on this in the near future so keep an eye out for it.

    If you’re not prepared to put in the work and either direct or produce your own stuff you should forget about having any real artistic say in the final product.

    If you want to direct you’re going to hurt your chances of actually selling your first script – a lot.

    If you want to produce, great, get at it. Raise the money for your film. Who ever controls the purse strings also controls the direction of the film.

  5. Hello Ahsley,
    I have two completed scripts,one that has been submitted to the PAGE AWARDS and one I would like to send out to a production company. I currently only have representation with a publicist(a good friend of mine who lives in L.A.) and not a manager or an agent.
    Would it be unprofessional to have my work and query letter sent through my publicist or should I omit that information and mail it myself?
    Also I do not have a private website,only a resume page on IMDB pro. Is this suffcient or should I get a real web page?

  6. Linda;

    I think having your publicist submit your script on your behalf would be a good way to go. It shows some credibility and makes it seem like you’re established enough as a writer to have a publicist, even if you’re new to screenwriting.

    I think eventually you would want to create a screenwriting website for yourself but for now an IMDB Pro page should work.

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