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Old 10-15-2014, 03:49 PM   #1
domwriter
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Am I being offered a bad screenwriting deal?

Hi All,

To make a long story kind of short, I'm being hired to write a screenplay adapted from a novel written by a friend of a friend. The budget is projected around $300,000. By all accounts, the film is a go, the funding is there, and it will be produced next spring.

After I proposed an initial fee/structure that was 3.5% of the final locked budget (with a floor and a ceiling) plus 5% of "net profits", I feel like maybe I overshot it. The Producer came back offering me a lot less: a flat fee of $4,500 (which is 1.5% of estimated budget) and no mention of "net profits".

When I came back and asked about the % of "net profits" she said no, at least not at this time.

And when I asked if we could still go by a % of total budget (in the event that the budget became unexpectedly larger, I'd want to get paid accordingly), and that I'd be fine coming down to the lower percentage of 1.5%, her answer was that there's no chance of it becoming a bigger budget. Hm.

I have no credits yet, and could definitely use the credit/sample/money/exposure/etc. that this produced film would provide, so between you and me and everyone else on this forum, I am not really in a position to walk away from it.

Is this a fine deal for someone in my position and I should just accept it and be happy, or am I getting taken advantage of? Without prior experience in these matters, it's so hard to know.

Thanks very much for any insight.

Dom
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Old 10-15-2014, 04:05 PM   #2
SkyCopeland
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Personally, I think you should take the deal offered. They can easily find someone else to do the job for the deal they're offering. You don't have the credits to be making pull for more. This will be a great starting point for you though.

Also, as it seem this is an adaptation job, consider it's not just you they're paying for the material, but the author of the novel as well.
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Old 10-15-2014, 04:55 PM   #3
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Agree with Sky for all the reasons mentioned. You are just starting out and a lot of people would do it for less to get credit.
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Old 10-15-2014, 05:20 PM   #4
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It's really hard to tell, but I think the deal is probably a good deal for you. $4.5k up front means you get paid, even if the project falls over and the budget evaporates. If the script is the next Matrix, then you're shooting yourself in the foot. If the producer is going to get runs on the board for you, then you should take the deal and thank the gods than you found a paying gig first up.

As for the backend: The large majority of $300k projects are unlikely to have much in the way of back-end profits (and the accounting required to keep track of it is probably part of why the producer isn't interested - Also, you're a first timer, he really doesn't have to give in that much. There are heaps of first timers out there).
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Old 10-15-2014, 05:23 PM   #5
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If you're unproduced, that's a good deal. Take it, write the script. Having your name on IMDB as a produced screenwriter is worth far more than any back-end percentage points that, by the way, have a mysterious way of disappearing completely after the accountants do their thing.
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Old 10-15-2014, 07:33 PM   #6
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That up front cash is more money than the vast majority of members of this forum will ever see from any of their films.

The fact you're in here asking is why you should take the cash, fast, before the deal falls through. The film may not even get made even after you take the cash.

Later when you're experienced, you can negotiate from a position of strength.

Good luck.
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Old 10-15-2014, 07:59 PM   #7
domwriter
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Thank you all for this extremely helpful perspective.

Dom
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Old 10-15-2014, 08:41 PM   #8
Alcove Audio
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Your first paid gigs are always nerve-wracking. You know that you're ready (with that creepy, niggling hint of doubt roiling in the middle of your gut), but don't yet know your worth, you don't know the real ins and outs of the biz, you aren't really sure of a fair deal but can't afford legal counsel.

You've been given some good advice:

Sky

They can easily find someone else to do the job for the deal they're offering.
You don't have the credits to be making pull for more.

Sweetie

The large majority of $300k projects are unlikely to have much in the way of back-end profits.
You're a first timer..... There are heaps of first timers out there).

Adeimantus

Having your name on IMDB as a produced screenwriter is worth far more than any back-end percentage points.

GuerrillaAngel

That up front cash is more money than the vast majority of members of this forum will ever see from any of their films.



Take a good long read, a reread and one more reread - taking notes - of the contract. Do not - repeat, DO NOT - sign anything that means you don't get paid until you turn in the script. Make sure that you completely and throughly understand about the rewrites/tweaks/whatevers; you don't want to be rewriting forever, have a completion/termination date or some sort of firm ending such as X number of rewrites. Anyone who is on the up and up won't mind paying something up front, definitely wants to move forward into production, and will understand that a contract protects them as much as it protects you.

Settling these issues also settle your mind; you can now give 100% of your attention to the script without a dozen nagging unresolved question marks floating around in your head. Celebrate one night with some friends and/or family; you're a paid screenwriter! Then buckle down and get to work. Forward and onward!!! Write a great script!

Good luck.
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Old 10-15-2014, 09:34 PM   #9
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Good advice from Senor Alcove.

Also, note that you're doing an adaptation, a "based on" as a writer for hire. That means the contract will likely give the producer not only copyright to your work, but "authorship," as well. You'll probably be "writer" under the terms of the contract. That means they'll own it, all of it, when you turn it in. They can do whatever the hell they want with it. You can't register it on WGA, you can't use it as a writing sample without their permission. Invest yourself fully into the writing, then be prepared, once you turn it in, to walk away from it, completely. They might require rewrites under the terms of the contract. They might not. If you have a hard time giving up your "babies" it could be rough.
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Old 10-16-2014, 01:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morris View Post
Agree with Sky for all the reasons mentioned. You are just starting out and a lot of people would do it for less to get credit.
Too bloody right. I'd bite the producer's hand off and streak across the White House's golf course if it meant getting even half that. A guaranteed shoot after limited experience?! Lucky so-and-so.

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Old 10-20-2014, 02:10 AM   #11
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In the book "Independent Feature Film Production" a screenplay is worth $16,000 on a $500,000 movie. So you are being undercut. Having said that, most 300K movies don't make money. I think people are stupid to make a 300K movie in the year 2014. I would operate under the assumption that there won't be any profits. Collecting on profits and getting an accounting is a nightmare anyway.
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Old 10-20-2014, 02:46 PM   #12
p38
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Heheh!

"NET PROFIT" ?
If you're in this business, there is NEVER any net profit
Forget cuts and other shit, go for CASH in hand and be happy about it.

There are a hundred thousand 'writers' available for a lot less money.
It's not the writer's market.
I can get GOOD screen writers for zero Dollars because they need the credit.

Hope this helps
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Old 10-20-2014, 03:11 PM   #13
Gonzo_Entertainment
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Quote:
Originally Posted by p38 View Post
Heheh!

"NET PROFIT" ?
If you're in this business, there is NEVER any net profit
Forget cuts and other shit, go for CASH in hand and be happy about it.

There are a hundred thousand 'writers' available for a lot less money.
It's not the writer's market.
I can get GOOD screen writers for zero Dollars because they need the credit.

Hope this helps
This^^^

I'm surprised they didn't go for less cash up front and an offer of 10,000% of "net profit" because the odds the film will EVER see net profit are basically zero. Movies that do $125 million at the box office frequently never get to "net profit".
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