As those who follow me on twitter may have noticed, following a meeting last week I had an option taken on a new script.
This is obviously a very good thing for all kinds of reasons, not least that it could well result in another step toward retirement and a life spent tinkering on motorbikes in a workshop somewhere.
However, whilst obviously excited, I am not perusing the Screwfix catalogue just yet for having an option taken on a script is not the same as selling it. Indeed, over the years I’ve had options taken out on four projects which never progressed beyond that stage including both The Crew and Billy’s Log.
So what is the point of an option agreement and just as importantly, how do they work?
Well, an option agreement is the first stage in the production process and locks a script or novel into an individual or company meaning that they can’t be shown to anyone else.
Usually, these agreements will be for a 12 month period which should be ample time to get the production process rolling to the point where an offer will be made for the full rights. However, if at the end of this period nothing is happening, the option agreement can be renewed or the writer can put the project back on the market.
Inevitably, most producers will try to secure an option for little or no money as it means their risk stands somewhere between negligible and none but in my opinion, option agreements should always involve a fee of some description for one very specific reason.
As a writer, my job is to create the starting line of a project in the hope that someone will like it enough to develop it further. If I’m lucky enough to find that person, I not only have to like them but have enough faith in what they’re telling me to feel comfortable enough to put control of my work in their hands. In other words, I need to commit to them and if I’m prepared to do that, is it unreasonable for me to expect that they commit to me? And how better to commit than financially? Not just because it sits nicely in my bank, but because I know that if they are willing to invest money in a project, they are deadly serious about getting it moving. Primarily because they will be sharing the risk.
Conversely, if a producer wasn’t willing to offer even a negligible fee for an option, then I would have to ask myself why. Are they lacking belief in either me or their own ability? Or could there be there another reason?
For example, if you were a producer and someone came to you with a script similar to one you were already developing, the best way to kill the new project stone dead would be to take an option on it because it would effectively take if off the market. If you could do it for no money, all the better.
I’m not for one second suggesting such practices go on of course, because all producers are obviously saints in waiting and perfectly above board, but hypothetically, it’s a possibility and one I’d advise all writers to consider when offered an option on their work.
After all, as a wise man once said, ‘try standing at the check out in Tesco’s and see how much you get for a pocketful of promises.’
On the subject of scripts, my third feature, We Still Kill The Old Way hits selected cinema’s this week ahead of a DVD release over Christmas.
Co-written with my old mate Gary Lawrence, it stars Ian Ogilvy, James Cosmo, Chris Ellison plus a host of others and tells the story of a group of aged gangsters who get together to avenge the murder of one of their own.
Reviews thus far have been great so do yourself a favour and get along to see it!