Screenwriting : Question for the Optioned Writers by Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Question for the Optioned Writers

Hey so I signed my first option agreement last week with an indie producer, so I'm pretty excited and hope it comes together. But I'm trying not to get too hopeful as I know many an option agreement has faded away without production. Wondering if anyone has any experience with that, how close they got, how they dealt with the heartbreak if it didn't work out, and any tips to stop thinking about it and keep working on other scripts.

Zorrawa Jefferson

Ask Jason

CJ Walley

Firstly, huge congrats to you and well done. I'm sure you know more than anyone how rare it is for most people to get to this point.

As for the ride, there's no way around it, in my opinion. You have to go through it and it will mess with your head the first time round. I think a good place to start is to simply make a deal with yourself that it's going to be a strange twelve months or so and it's totally okay to be distracted and preoccupied. It's totally okay not to be able to settle down due to the buzz... and it's totally okay to lie in bed worrying it's all going to fall through.

Something you can do is have a sort of booby prize lined up for if things don't work out. You can think of something you really want to have or experience and commit to that as a second best result and thus creating a win-win situation.

This is also a great time to reflect and send the elevator back down with the knowledge you've gained to achieve this. Stage 32 published my reflections as a blog post.

The worst case scenario here is that you walk away an optioned writer which is all the validation you need to know you have what it takes. You've proven that to yourself. People want to make your words a reality. Perhaps that will help solidify your voice and motivate you to write something with a new found confidence. Maybe it's time to just sit back and watch some classics knowing you deserve a break and some indulgence. Or perhaps it would be prudent to read some biographies about screenwriters with an extra focus on when they went through what you're going through.

Either way, give yourself a huge pat on the back and enjoy the moment as much as you can.

Claude Gagne

Congratulations, Nick. I crossed my fingers, my arms, my legs, my eyes, and my ears, that all will go through without a hitch. Piece-of-cake!

Craig D Griffiths

An option is a huge vote of confidence.

It is also a great way for you to test the water with these people as well. Remember if it goes ahead, you’ll be working with them for about a year.

I have an option with people in the UK. Their finance fell over and they will need to renew the option soon. I am more than happy to do that. They are great to work with. I have had other options that I was so happy that it failed. I have a script AMY about a drug dealer that dies in a hail of bullets. The person that took an option on that asked to me think about adding a happy ending.

I don’t know about heartache. I think there is some sense of loss perhaps. It will teach you things and show you how people see your script, which is an interesting insight.

David C. Velasco

Congrats Nick!

Sheetal R Patel

congrats nick! that's so exciting! i hope it works out for you.

Derek Reid

Congrats Nick!

Sheetal R Patel

quick question, i am working on a comedy tv series and was wondering about stage 32's script consulting services. my question is how to know which executive to choose as a consultant? my script MANCAVE is kind of like everybody loves raymond but with a medical flare ?! sounds crazy..but don't know how else to explain it!

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Sheetal R Patel this is the kind of question you can email me at writerhelp@stage32.com to ask :)

Doug Nelson

I think it depends on the definition of 'option'. Back in ye olde goldie days (my rent on a two bedroom San Francisco flat was $250 per month). We few writers had a nice cottage industry going where we optioned 3. maybe 4 scripts at $10K to $20K a year. Occasionally one of us would make a low six figure sale against mid six figures on the first principal day of shooting - most died in production Hell. I made it all the way only once.

Today there are jillions of wannabe script scribes out there competing and squabbling over every little morsel - I think the term 'option' has a much different meaning today.

Amy Gray

Wow!!! Congratulations, so exciting. Expect the best and prepare for both I suppose. Envision yourself, align with it. You got this far dude, so cool!!!! Best wishes :) And keep writing!!!

Martin Reese

Hey, Nick my humble advice is to keep working. It will either work out or it won't. What you do control is your productivity. The more scripts you have the more opportunities you have. At least you have an option so that's a win in my book.

Dan Guardino

I signed an option agreement that died in development hell because the production company went bankrupt. I had another one I signed that died in development because the company just decided not to produce it. I had one I wrote on assignment die because the author of the book I adapted tried to renegotiate his deal when he discovered Warner Bros was going to fund it. I didn’t lose any sleep over those deals because I know those sort of things happen.

Martin Reese

I got hired to write the 1st 3 episodes of a sci-fi webseries. Was real excited. Then it just died. I just moved on to a new project.

Jerry Robbins

Hi Nick - CONGRATULATIONS!! That is exciting news! I have a script under option right now, which expires in July; the producer has it at Hallmark now; and if they pass it goes to a few more on the list; they have an good track record, but I try not to think about it by continuing to write.

Last year I optioned one for six months, they got the financing in 3 months, and now it's in post. I had optioned a couple others, but the options ran out. I don't get "depressed" anymore, I just figure that wasn't the producer for the job and move on.

Kiril Maksimoski

Great feel isn't it? Makes you know your work is meaningful to someone. However many factors writer cannot control decide the fate of the optioning deal. Some move forward, others come to break up. Just continue writing and remember your script is optioned 'till it's ain't. Then is up for another round of possibilities...

David Joyner

Congrats Nick! I got a script optioned years ago. But nothing became of it. I don't even think the producer is still in the industry.

Try to keep on writing! That's what you have control over. I like to think of it more of a process, not so much as a buying a lottery ticket. Stay positive and best of luck!

Maurice Vaughan

Congrats on getting an option, Nick.

JJ Hillard

Kudos to you Nick! Two of my shorts have been optioned. One was a sci-fi script that an experienced, freelance, visual effects director was interested in producing. He'd worked on some well-known films (e.g., Hugo, Avatar, The Matrix Revolutions, Beautiful Creatures) so I was pretty stoked, but it never happened for reasons outside of my control. My other one is a film noir short that has been optioned, sold and cast but is now stuck in pre-production for another reason outside of my control (Covid!!). The lesson (many of us have) learned is it always takes longer than you expect to see something on-screen! So I just... write on... which is the only thing completely in my control!

Kamil Murat

Congrats Nick! Please pay attention to all folks above, great advices. Once your option works again you may need more patience such as my 8 minute short filmed in 2 years and I was like a father pacing the halls outside of the delivery room :-))

Amy Dunkin

Congratulations Nick!

William Martell

Congratulations.

An option is a sale contract, designed so that the production company can go to their financial contacts and find the money to make the film. They might also assemble cast and key crew members. Often these are set up so that the purchase price is paid on first day of principal photography - so it covers the time for finding the finances and Preproduction.

There may be Rewrites in the contract as well.

You can tell more about the situation by the amount of money paid for the option and the amount of time that the option covers.

I knew a "producer" who optioned every script he could find for $1 - you filled out a card with title, genre, logline, key characters and unusual elements. The card went into a file in his office, the script went into a storage unit in Van Nuys. If anyone was ever looking for a script that fit that description he submitted it and sometimes they sold and his name was in the credits as one of the producers. But usually the scripts just sat in the storage unit until the option expired.

You want to avoid that guy.

So you want a short option period to remove the people who are just finishing and focus on the ones who actually have financing.

And what they pay for the option period also shows how serious they are and what they think the chances of setting up that script are. The purchase price in the option agreement is also a clue.

I have had hundreds of scripts optioned, and most die on the vine. So it's best to celebrate, then get back to work on something else. Use this as encouragement to write another script. If they call you with rewrites, you are back on that script... but until they do, get something else written...

Congratulations.

Mark A McKee

We’re on the same road, Nick. Let’s do this!

Neal Howard

Way to go, Nick. I've had several scripts optioned over my career. One in fact has been perpetually optioned and re-optioned for almost 20 years. Now I just enjoy the checks and never think about whether it's going to get made anymore. As a writer you have to realize options are a big part of how this industry functions and they are indeed a measure of your success. There are so many factors unrelated to a script that determine whether something gets produced or not. Indeed it's rare to write a script that does actually get produced. The universe of writers who do so regularly is small. Options are a way to make money, sometimes a lot of money, and have your name become known. Unless you are planning to produce your scripts yourself all you can do is write one, put it out there, and move on to the next. So if you're a good writer optioned work or work for hire or rewriting is how you will endure. Enjoy the moment, protect yourself and reap the rewards for this particular effort.

Lyter Daniel

My first screenplay received the attention of an Indie Producer from NM .... He wanted to start filming in Mid 2021 ... I had to decline because they wanted to pay me on the back end - I felt uneasy .... I liked the owner of the Production Company and often think about if I made the right call ... He understood and we parted very professionally ... TBH - My script was not polished at that time ... not sure why he gravitated towards it ...

Someone from Stage 32 reached out and calmed my nerves and told me to focus on writing a new and better screenplay based on a Cop experience I had back in 2002.

Working on a new one has helped out tremendously - got my mind off that big chance I had to turn away ...

Michael Joseph Kospiah

I've had 14 features optioned/sold and only one of them got made. My advice is to get enough money to make it worth your time -- I've had scripts optioned and had other producers ask about those scripts, making offers when the script was already under contract. And then, the script ends up never getting made with the people who optioned it. If your script is being held hostage while under option, it has to be worth it. Because most of the time, it's not gonna get made. It's a cruel reality, but I've gotten used to it. I have scripts that have had the options renewed for up to 7 years. I'd like for them to get made, but I'll take the money. Also, one way to get over the heartbreak is just to be prolific as possible and keeping staying hungry. Once you make an option or sale, get that script out of your head and work on the next one... and the next one... and the next one. Don't get too attached. Just know you got plenty more in your arsenal. One of my biggest mistakes was putting all my eggs in one basket and focusing solely on one film getting made. My first feature had a theater release, Netflix, etc... especially when it just got released, I was getting a lot of emails, producers and managers asking me what else I had... and I had nothing for them. Nothing worthwhile, anyway. And, eventually, that luster, that amazing feeling of having a movie out, it eventually goes away and loses its luster. And then emptiness sets in. Luckily, I kept at it and learned my lesson and was able to get a 2nd feature made. But it was one I was hired to write. Specs are very, very difficult to get made. They still have value, though, showing producers and filmmakers what you're capable of. They give you the ability to network, place high in competitions (which can lead to more networking opportunities and paid gigs), meet as many producers, actors, and filmmakers as possible and get paid work. The odds of you getting a film you were hired to write made are much better than your odds of getting a spec made. Don't drive yourself crazy depending on one script.

E. Lamoreaux

I actually had one of my scripts optioned before. Unfortunately, things didn't work out with the producer as the project got stuck in a perpetual outline stage and I ended up reclaiming my script when it became clear that they had deviated too much from my original concept. And then I got kicked off of the revamped project. This is all I will say without getting myself into trouble.

Christopher Charles Murray

Thanks, Michael for your insightful article.

Stacey Simmons

I've had it happen 3 times. I think it's actually the most common way writers get paid! One of them got to production meetings when the company was bought out, and all of the acquisitions that were "incomplete" got scrapped!

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In