11 more things to think about when negotiating your screenplay option

writing

Got an offer to option your screenplay? Here are eleven terms you should know when talking to your attorney.

[See PART I – 10 things to think about when optioning your screenplay]

Okay, so you’ve gotten an option offer, you’ve thought about the 10 things, and you still want to do it. Now it’s time to talk to your attorney, and make some decisions about the negotiation points. Your attorney is going to toss some notes back to you for consideration, and chances are these things are going to be included. (There’ll be lots more than this… from simple typos to wholesale rewrites. But these are the top contenders for “things I think you should know”.)

Ask your attorney to spend some time with you to explain what they mean in the context of your deal… but here’s my take, based on my experience.

DISCLAIMER: I shouldn’t have to say this, but: I Am Not A Lawyer, I am not offering legal advice, and none of the numbers used as examples here should be considered recommendations or as examples of my personal previous contracts (which are none of your beeswax ūüėČ ). They are provided as¬† hypothetical examples only. Talk to your own attorney about your particular deal. Continue reading 11 more things to think about when negotiating your screenplay option

i will not read your fucking script but if i read your fucking script appreciate my fucking feedback

A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson seems kinda pissed.

Apparently he gets asked to read a lot of scripts.

Apparently most of them are crap.

And apparently nobody really wants his honest feedback.

So he wrote a scathing essay over at The Village Voice, outlining just how much this all sucks. Continue reading i will not read your fucking script but if i read your fucking script appreciate my fucking feedback

no nicholl for you!

Did I mention? Both scripts were turned down by the Nicholl.

I was heartbroken.

Well, no, not really. But a little disappointed. It does feel good to be in the majority, though. From the Nicholl:

With a record number of entries and a readily apparent increase in quality, this year’s Nicholl Fellowships was more competitive than in any previous year.  Now that scores have been tallied for all 6,380 entries, we have to inform too many writers of scripts featuring compelling stories, intriguing characters and excellent craft that they have not advanced into the next round.  Regrettably, Grampa Was A Superhero was not one of the 321 entries selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2009 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.

You should realize that while we strive to make the evaluation of screenplays as objective a process as possible, it is inherently both a personal and an extremely subjective matter.  A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success.  I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.

To tell you a little about the process: each script was read once. ¬†After receiving an initial positive evaluation, over 2,700 scripts garnered a second read. ¬†Just under 800 scripts were read a third time. ¬†Each read resulted in a numerical score being awarded. ¬†Scores for each entrant’s script were totaled, and the Quarterfinalists were selected on the basis of highest scores.

Since then I talked to a friend who talked to an L.A. reader, who said:

Yeah, Nicholl. We’ve met finalists before. Nothing seems to happen for them. They’re in the same boat. Good script, looking for work…

Then talked to another good friend who has quarterfinaled in the Nicholl twice. His comment (to paraphrase):

Yeah, it didn’t do anything for me. Maybe ten requests to see the scripts, nothing came of it, here I am.

Me, I’m so glad I couldn’t reach those grapes. They look so sour.

Maybe they’ll be ripe next year.

diary of a studio reader

Liz Maccie, studio reader, has a nice list of professional insights over at the BOSI site

About two and a half years ago, I got the wonderful opportunity to become a “reader” for a studio, think mouse house. I continue to work for them under a freelance status and absolutely love my job.

Being a reader means you literally read materials such as scripts, novels, and teleplays. Then you write up “coverage,” entailing a synopsis of the plot as well as an analysis of the story elements.

Finally, you either recommend the piece for further consideration or pass on the material. All in all, it is a fantastic fun job that has made me, hands down, a better writer, simply because absorbing stories on a daily basis has helped sharpen my tools for defining story.

After reading literally hundreds of scripts, here are some tid-bits that may be of value to you on your journey to becoming a produced writer.

more…

My favorite: Tid-bit #2: Create and maintain genuine friendships.

making the short list in the john august scene writing challenge

scene_challengeA few days ago, John August announced his latest scene writing challenge. It’s kind of like one of those 24-hour filmmaking challenges, except you don’t have to actually make a movie… just write one. And not even a whole movie… just a scene or sequence. Simple, right?

John has done these a few times before. Each one garners more and more responses, from more and more good writers.

There were 145 entries for the Superheroic Scene Challenge, and some of them were looooong. Printed out, they totaled 406 pages. Going side-by-side shrunk it to a still-ridiculous 203. Continue reading making the short list in the john august scene writing challenge

tweet the meat

tweet-the-meatYup, the Tweet The Meat submission I sold ran today. I promised I’d let ya know.

It’s right here.

Or here:

The kettle screamed. “Tea time,” she chirped, steaming pot in gloved hand. “Sugar?” He couldn’t answer with the funnel taped in his mouth.

Lemme know what ya think.

sold a twitter story to "tweet the meat"

Twitter is giving rise to all kinds of creative applications, including a few ‘zines. Along with PicFic and escarp, there’s the horror focused ‘zine Tweet The Meat, which states: “No serials. No unfinished stories. You must scare us in 140 characters or less. Are you up to the challenge?”

Each week the theme is different… you’ll have to follow them on Twitter at: @tweetthemeat to get the weekly theme.

I submitted to this week’s theme: “HOT”. I sent three submissions. Only one was accepted. Tweet The Meat gets first online rights. After that I’ll be able to post it here for you non-tweets to see.

But here are the two that weren’t accepted:

He awoke to stifling heat. Couldn’t turn. Tried to sit but found the ceiling in front of his face. The furnace’s roar drowned his screams.

The grille sizzled under her wicked palms as she wept at the red crib sheet, but her hands still screamed mercilessly for baby back ribs.

I like the second of those better. 140 characters ain’t much room, but it forces your creativity. They definitely chose the best of the three though. Start following @tweetthemeat on Twitter right now to see it within the next week. Or check back here later.

Tweet The Meat is a paying ‘zine — one dollar per accepted submission. So technically, this is a sale for me. But a buck, sent to me through PayPal, after PayPal takes their cut, ain’t much. I asked Tweet The Meat to donate my dollar to a cancer, environmental or animal rights organization.

Cuz that’s just the kind of guy I am.

how do you get an agent?

This is a great read, particularly as I’m just undertaking this next step myself (trying to find an agent or manager).

Part of the question I’m struggling with is whether it’s better at this point in my (nascent) career to go for agency or management… I haven’t quite decided on that yet.

But nevertheless, good essays on either process are always helpful.

This one, by Daniel Petrie, Jr. (BEVERLY HILLS COP, THE BIG EASY, SHOOT TO KILL, TURNER & HOOCH, TOY SOLDIERS, and IN THE ARMY NOW) includes not only his insights but those of a panel of agents from CAA, ICM, UTA and others. And in general, the consensus is that the old “query letter and SASE” path just isn’t what works anymore.

Let me assert that in twenty years of paid, professional experience in the motion picture industry (true, I include my summer as a movie theater usher to reach that figure) I have never heard the terms ‘query letter’ or ‘SASE’ used by another paid professional.

I’m not saying letters like that never work. Just that they almost never work. But wait — even if the odds are a million to one against, am I saying you shouldn’t even try? Yes. I am saying that. There is a better way. It’s more difficult, but better.

Check it out. It should both empower and intimidate you. But then, challenge is the father of all perseverance, yes?

on strong women characters

strong_womanGiven the positive response to the female characters in Faeries, I’ve been giving some thought to the issue of writing strong women characters. As a man, I’m often told that it’s not possible for me to do so.

It is true that Lacey, the young girl in Rocket Summer, is probably the least complex character in the script (and that has been pointed out by some readers). But it’s also true that she is the glue for that group of dysfunctional friends… a caretaker, a realist, and a “person of interest” for a pair of boys with very fucked up home lives, one of whom lost his mother at a young age.

Unfortunately, to some, that makes her “stereotypical”… a character whose only job it is to fulfill the traditional “female” roles of mother, lover, nurturer. Me, I take exception to the word “only”. It’s important stuff. And she’s conflicted about it in the process, and seems to be setting aside some of her own desires to take on that role. For me, that’s a strong, flawed, and thus interesting female character.

Some people are never satisfied. Continue reading on strong women characters

grampa: prodco request

grampa was a superhero movie posterYup, it’s true.

We’ve already got one script being considered by a reputable production company. Now we”ve got two irons in the fire.

Grampa Was A Superhero is being looked at by a production company in the Midwest… East… Southeast… Hell, I don’t know. Where’s Tennessee?

Anyway, the producer has a string of recognizable titles with a string of recognizable talents and a string of partnerships with a bushel of recognizable networks and… well, you get the idea.

Interestingly, this inquiry came to us mere hours after tweaking the logline and synopsis ever so slightly on InkTip. Correlation is not causation, but it makes one wonder. Hmmm. (That’s me, wondering.)

All the same caveats apply here as they do for the Faeries connection. No chicken counting prior to hatching. Likely as not nothing comes of it. But it’s the momentum that counts… nothing makes you more confident than knowing someone thought enough of your logline or synopsis to say “Sure, I’ll read that.”

Well, maybe a check.

But other than that, nothing.

I’m highly confident that one day soon we’ll look back at our naive excitement here and think “Ah, yes, those were the days, when a mere considerate nod from a mid-size prodco would make us swoon!”

But until then, I’ll take my jollies where I can, and savor the slightest attention.

Everyone who cares at all about us, cross your fingers. And tell a friend.

And join us on Facebook! Faeries page, Grampa page, Rocket Summer page.