Friday, August 10, 2012

Optioning My Screenplay


It’s not just my screen play – it’s also my co-author Jean’s.

Jean and I have a truce – we will fight about plot, about character, even about which of our many ideas we will work on now.  But we will never fight about money. We have lost money together when we ran a feminist science fiction magazine. We have spent money together on vacations. And we have spent money together on classes to improve our writing skills.

Jean and I have the ultimate goal of being able to make a living from our screenplays.  This means we have to sell them.  And if we have to sell the first one for a pittance, just to get a reputation, we will do so.  

Last week we sold our first option for a dollar.  This means that the potential producer gave us $1 for 1 month exclusive rights to try to put together the necessary people and funds to produce our gold-remi winning screenplay.  

The option contract gives this potential producer the additional option of a 2nd and 3rd month at $1 each and then an additional 3 months for $500. And it specifies the terms under which we will sell the rights to make the movie, if / when  he can put a package together. 

Jean and I live over 1000 miles apart.  We’ve written together for over 30 years. At first we did our writing by snail mail.  Now we communicate by email and our discussions go much more quickly.  

I was able to attend the dinner that our potential producer threw for us, our potential director, some of his neighbors, and a woman who wrote a book he is considering producing as a movie. We made an agreement that if we started talking business, we would Skype with Jean.  I brought dessert.

The potential producer introduced me to the potential director. The closest we came to talking business was when the potential director explained to me that what the school teachers called a mimeograph when I was in elementary school was really a spirit duplicator. As he said, I “knew just enough to get it wrong.”  He knew the right names because his father sold and serviced these machines.  There is one in our plot.  It’s a duplicating machine. The operator pours clear fluid in and purple ink comes out from the spirit master sheets. 

The potential director said he would be giving us notes about additional writing he wants us to do. He said he has worked on “a lot of crap.”  And he said our screenplay would give him the chance to be shameless. He could be sentimental with no regrets – it’s that kind of family film.  I had the impression that he has yet to make the movie that will truly satisfy him as a contribution to society. He sees our script as that movie. 

But we did not spend the evening talking about Jean’s and my screenplay.  Instead I spent the evening talking with the woman whose book this potential producer is considering turning into a movie.  I had the idea that she thought I would be the person who would write the script.  I have so many ideas of my own that I want to turn into scripts, that writing somebody else’s story does not excite me.  But I tried to help her focus on her most important story elements because movies only run 90 to 120 minutes and her book was much longer than that. I suggested she take a screenwriting class.

The potential producer handed my husband, the alien, his cell phone and asked him to take a picture of the two of us, as he handed me the signed option contract and my check for 50 cents. The other 50 cents goes to Jean.

Then he asked what I was going to do with the check.  I told him I was going to scan it and deposit it via the web, so I can have my check and cash it, too.  A far cry from spirit duplicating!

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