Okay this is a bit ranty, forgive me, I just got back from the gym :)
Here's the thing: Great scripts are very hard to find! If a producer is interested in your script, I bet he's much more excited about it than he sounds on the phone or email. He's probably told a bunch of people how he's found this script that's quite interesting. Call his bluff on the first offer, and maybe the second and the third too. Sly Stallone called their bluff on the first offer they gave him on Rocky and kept saying no, and the offer kept going up and up and up to like 10 times the first one!!! Don't go by the tone of his phone or email or his stock statements like "That's really all we can do for an unproduced writer, it's a low budget film, etc.". He needs your script to give his life meaning. Meaning ain't cheap.
Now I'm not hating on producers but producers are BUSINESSMEN and anyone who has worked even 3 months selling stereos at Circuit City has a bunch of tricks they can use to get a screenwriter to sign over their script for much less than it's worth. It's not that businessmen are bad, they're just wired completely differently from artists. Artists get excited about their creations and their characters and the worlds they make. Businessmen get excited when they realize some new way to cut costs and they plug it into Excel and it results in a 4% increase in profits.
The truth is without that awesome 106-page invention that the screenwriter has devised out of nothing but thin air and their own inspiration, talented cinematographers, makeup artists, directors, and actors are sitting on their couch at home twiddling their thumbs looking for guidance in their lives. It's impossible to understate the importance of the screenwriter's contribution - in fact it's more a creation than a contribution.
Let's face it the WGA minimums are too low. For example, I'm an unproduced writer, and on a film with a $5m production budget, I believe I deserve at least $100,000! I don't care what precedents have already been set for writer compensation. I don't care that Tarantino sold his first script for $30k. If you're investing $5m in something, that means you hope to make at least $1m in net profits off it, that is a reasonable minimum hope for profit (20%). So of that $5m, I'm asking for 1/50th of your investment and I'm providing the key raw material that attracts the other elements. If you were selling leather jackets, I think you would spend more than 1/50th on the leather, right?
And if I'm wrong or I don't understand the math at play, then by all means enlighten me but come with something better than "That's industry standard" or "That's what's in the budget."
And to anyone who did sell a script for a small fee, I'm not criticizing you one bit, just musing on the power dynamic here which seems to highly favor the producer. No surprise there, but i think writers can push back more, be more Stallone-esque.
Okay that's enough ranting for today.