Monday, May 04, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 70 – In Talks to Option

Last Tuesday I had breakfast with a woman whose parents bought my grandmother’s house from my family. More importantly to me, she is also a producer with multiple projects in development at the moment. She read my post-Apocalyptic spec. And she liked it. She wants it.

As with most things in the film industry – at least for those of us trying to break into it – there was waiting involved. I was growing more and more disenchanted with the job that my then manager was doing, so, with the help of my aunt, I sent my script to the producer’s father. He is also a writer and was one of the first people to read one of my screenplays – he read the second feature length script I ever wrote back when I was in high school. So, he read and, once he did, recommended it to his busy daughter. Cut to a few weeks later, I’ve dropped my representation, and my phone rings. It’s the producer (whose name, you can tell, I’m withholding for the time being), and she wants to option the script. She’s based in LA, but is heading to the City in a few weeks for the Tribeca Film Festival. We set a breakfast meeting for Tuesday, April 28.

At that point, I still had potential interest in my script at a prod co that has a first look deal with WB. I didn’t want to lost the great opportunity of an option – this producer had optioned another basically unknown writer’s material, got him an agent, got him a $500K sale, and got his movie made. However, I also had a major potential opportunity that could lead to Warner Brothers. Luckily, my contact there is also a friend, so I was able to email her my updates and ask semi-indirectly if anything was going to happen with my script on her end. She advised me to go with the option, since it just wasn’t the right time to take my scrip to WB.

So, with all that resolved, I went to the breakfast meeting last week. Mind you, even though this producer is a family friend, this was the first such meeting I’ve had and I wanted to treat it as I would any other. We met at a café for breakfast – nothing simple, bagel for me, eggs for her – and did the brief “how are you, what have you been up to” chat before jumping into a pretty frank discussion on the script and what we would do to move forward with it.

She liked the script, but, as I found with everyone else who had read it, had some notes that would need to be addressed before she went forward with it. Her manager had also read the script, and if I was willing to do some rewrites, he would send me his notes. (He would also become my manager at that point.) The manager had already made a call to one of the companies the script was submitted to earlier, just to get a feel for how it was received.

In order to resubmit to certain companies – companies that liked the script but thought it needed some work before they would really consider picking it up – I would also have to change the title, since no one will read something that their records show they already passed on. The big question of the morning, then, was three-fold: would I do rewrites, would I change the title, at least for the time being, and did I have a follow-up script I could send ASAP? My answer was an immediate and honest triple yes.

There’s some debate in “how-to” books and websites on whether a writer should pursue an option. Some of the reasoning against it seems to go, “if someone wants your material, they should just buy it; otherwise, you risk winding up with a script that everyone has read and no one wants, i.e. a dead script.” I don’t subscribe to this belief. Why pass up an opportunity to work with someone who not only likes your material, but thinks that they can get a picture made out of it? Especially as a young writer, that is second only to actually making a sale – and hopefully that will come in the next year, before the option expires. I’ll keep you all informed.

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