Optioning your script ... is not buying it!

I read a blog post of yours where you used a term I hadn’t heard before regarding selling screenplays. You said a producer would ‘option’ a script … what does that mean.

When you start marketing your screenplays or novels you need to familiarize yourself with the terminology that you’ll encounter in the process.  It will be important both in your discussions with your agent, if you have one, and the producer themselves.

When a producer discovers a script that they feel has potential, in most instances they will suggest an option CONTRACT agreement as the first step to ‘marketing’ the script to potential distributors, directors and actors.  When a script is ‘optioned’ it’s rights are tied-up by the producer for a stipulated amount of time (say six months) for a stipulated amount of money. (Lets say $5000.)  That means that you cannot ‘actively’ continue to market that script. Even if God himself wants to direct it, you have to refer G-d to the producer who now has a hold on your work. 

This contract protects you, in that it acknowledges you are the author and still legally own the rights to the work. It protects the Producer because he has a piece of paper signed by you saying you will sell him the script IF he finds both money and talent to put the film into production. An option agreement is a time-limited thing. It is not a SALE. That happens (if you’re lucky) once the Producer finds the talent.  If the producer fails to put a deal together, then the rights to your work revert back to your sole ownership.

But, be careful here, because you often only get to pitch your script once to a studio, director or actor. If you producer pays you a pittance and then uses up all the talent you thought would be perfect for your script. You’ve got your script back, but all the prime leads you had in mind have now said no thanks. Optioning is a mixed blessing at best; but sometimes your only choice if you live outside Hollywood or are new to the businessI hope that helps. And I wish you good luck with your screenplay.  

I hope this helps you with your screenwriting !