It may sound like a
dream come true – but don’t quit the day job
is asking for the film rights to your novel. But what happens next?
means, crack the champagne – but then, take a deep breath. Who is asking and
exactly what are they offering?
|Can a letter like this change your life?|
producer or screenwriter may request the exclusive right to pitch the book for
a specified amount of time. That’s what I initially signed for Nim’s Island.
There was no fee but producer Paula Mazur’s vision coincided with mine, and I
believed in her commitment to the project. I’ve signed eight other such
agreements: one became the film Return to
Nim’s Island; one eventually progressed to script development for a TV
series, paying a total of $3000 before cancellation. The others went nowhere
and paid nothing.
independent producer is pitching is an option: a contract giving a company the
right to create a film from your book. There should be a fixed time period – they’re
leasing the rights, with an option to buy. The option price is likely to be 10%
of the purchase price, with the balance paid when filming starts. But the only three things an author absolutely
needs to know first are:
1) This is still a very long way from a
film. I haven't been able to find a figure on how
many film options eventually develop into films, but the percentage is small. Very
small. It's a bit like being given a lottery ticket.
2) You need a specialist film/media lawyer before you agree to anything. As a
VP at Fox said to me when Nim’s Island’s green light looked unlikely, ‘Just remember: some films do get made.’ You want to be sure that if
yours goes ahead, you have no regrets about your contract. If it’s a
Hollywood deal, get a Hollywood lawyer. Don’t be shy of asking questions, from
how their fee structure works to every part of the contract. Never take
anything for granted: if you want to go to the red carpet premiere, ask for it to be put in
3) In signing the option you are
handing over control – discuss their vision first. (eg I was warned that the
budget would mean radical changes to Nim at Sea; that respect gave me
confidence to sign.) If they take up the option to buy and produce it, your opinion will have no more legal weight than when you sell a house and hate the new owner's renovations.
This is an edited excerpt from an article first published in the SCBWI journal in 2013. These thoughts are drawn from my own experiences and are not legal advice.
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|On our 5 year journey: Wendy Orr & Paula Mazur|
Labels: film rights; book to film; film option; how to make my book into a film; what does it mean to be offered an option