Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Getting a Feel for Film Rights

Can you discuss how film rights work? Do you have a different agent who handles them? What are the chances that film rights sell?

Ah, film rights, the ultimate dream of most writers out there. (Until they wreck your vision of it by casting Colin Farrell when you were more thinking Tom Hanks.)

Film rights are tough on several counts: 1) they're not always an easy sell. We have some things in the work for TDLF - and we've had some other things in the work for a looooong time - and who knows what will pan out. You can't pin your hopes on selling film rights. (If and when something pans out for me, you guys will be the first, well, the second after my husband, to know.) 2) Even if you sell those rights - usually in an option format, meaning they "option" the rights to your book for a certain amount of time but aren't under any obligation to actually make the film - there's still a slim chance that you'll ever see your work on the silver screen. Why that is, I'm not entirely sure, but I'm guessing that studios and production companies don't mind shelling out money to retain the possibility that they might want to make the movie, but when push comes to shove, they don't want to shell out to make the actual movie. And there are a variety of factors that go into this: landing the right actors, whether or not your demographic will show up at the theaters, whether or not execs think the story will sell, etc.

As far as agents, no, I don't have a separate agent who handles film rights, but MY agent has an agent who handles film rights. How it works is this: film agents can pick and choose which projects they want to represent, much like a literary agent can. Only this time, I'm not the one shopping the book, my agent is. So she farms it out to film agents she thinks are good matches, and then it's in their hands as to whether they say yes or no. My agent does deal with production companies more directly, however. They come to her and say, "Hey, I'm interested in TDLF; can you send it my way?," and she does.

So that's how it all works. Questions? Thoughts? Something I left out?


Anonymous said...

Do you get paid anything more if they decide to make the movie? Or are they done paying you once they option it?

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Good question, and I think the answer will vary depending on what sort of deal your agent gets you. Often times, I believe you just see the option money and that's it. BUT, you have to take into account all of the publicity that the sale or the movie will generate for the book. That, as Mastercard says, is priceless.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Oops, you also have to keep in mind that it's called an "option" because they have to renew it (thus pay you more) after a certain amount of time.

Anonymous said...

My vast experience of having film rights sold all of once.. there is an option amount and a full sale amount. This is usually 10% of the sale price if they start production. So if they give you 10k for an option, you will typically get 100k once they move into production. However, even once they move into production there is still a chance it won't make it to the silver screen.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Thanks for chiming in. I stand corrected! And I learned something if and when my deal comes through.