Screenwriting : Showing us the $$ benjamins by LindaAnn Loschiavo

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Showing us the $$ benjamins

What can you expect to be paid [fee range] for a first script that someone options?

William Martell

$1. The actual answer is that there is no answer. If this is the first screenplay you have written, odds are that no one will option or buy it... or even read it. Once you have a screenplay that reads like a professional's screenplay, and people do read it, you have to know that most screenwriting isn't selling screenplays, it's assignments. Being hired to write something. But if you do get an option, everything depends on who you option the screenplay to. If it is a WGA signatory company: 10% of WGA min payment for 18 months. If it is not a WGA signatory: $1 or whatever else you can negotiate. There are no rules. One thing to remember is that an option is a script sale contract. It's not a consolation prize. It is a "lease" on your screenplay while the company finds the funding to buy your script and then possible make the film. So this contract is all about buying your script.

Richard Toscan

Options range all over the map so hopefully several Stage 32 members will indicate what they've gotten recently. And I'm guessing you mean this for non-WGA members with that indication of "a first script"?

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Richard, we hear about all those "Success Stories" on Stage32 -- and bless 'em -- but what these folks got paid is still a mystery. I was wondering about payment(s).

Jason Dennis

If the movie were actually made, you want 3% of the production budget and 1.5% of residuals. Then you fight over the BO percentage. If you are in the WGA, you get 10% of the sale price up front with 1.5% of it going to the WGA. So you can start with asking for 0.3% of the production budget. But, like the others said, as a previously unsold writer you often have no leverage, and you end up with $1. I guess that's okay if your script is a sub-million indie, but if your budget is $25 mil, for God sakes don't take $1, you should get tens of thousands, and make sure you get sole credit and the rights expire to you and not them.

Richard Toscan

LindaAnn, that would be a good service for Stage 32 to offer -- what it's "Success Stories" got for option money. And to maintain professional privacy, it could be done as a range, not connected to names.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

A fabulous answer, Peter. I'm going to carry it with me from now on. Many thanks for your guidance!!! We all appreciate your well-thought-out replies.

Danny Manus

LMAO! I'm sorry but you're all living in a dream world. For a first script, assuming you are NOT WGA and don't have an agent or manager, what you can expect to be paid - is nothing. What you can HOPE to be paid in the BEST scenario is $5k for about a 12-24 month period with a re-up option that will be a bit more than that. Peter asks for 10K - and how many of those have you gotten? If you're a first time, unproduced, unrepd, non union writer, and you're not being optioned by a studio, you are probably going to work for free the first time. that's the truth. so don't quit the day job. As a former exec, I can tell you none of my companies ever paid more than $2500 and 75% of our options were free options.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

@ Danny Manus - - Well, if I understand you correctly, then nearly all of the newcomers who posted a "SUCCESS STORY" on Stage32 basically will be getting no $$$ for whatever they sold. Is that what you meant, Danny?

Danny Manus


Danny Manus

But let's make a big distinction between Optioning something and Selling something. Optioning is what happens Before you sell something. A producer (or director, etc) will often option things they want to develop and will then try to Sell it when its ready or packaged. When it SELLS, the writer will get paid. For a first time writer with no quote or reps, youre looking at about 50-150k depending on the budget. But the OPTION that most of these success stories are boasting, are no/low money options.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Thank you, Danny, for clarifying. Very helpful to all of us hopefuls here.

Royce Allen Dudley

It's not, IMHO, realistic to expect an indie production will pay $50K for a script let alone $150k. If the budget of the film is $200K or even $650K, do the math ( * the difference between $200K and $650 K is often mostly talent )... they will be SAG signatory but not signatory to any other guilds and if they want for instance a thriller for $5-10K buyout, they will get it. If the film is under $100K, scripts usually come from directors who work for the credit and backend. Of course they see no back end but thats another topic.

Danny Manus

Yes that's true. its budget depending. usually 2.5-3.5% of the budget.

Shane M Wheeler

I think I'm owed about $20 for Crybaby Bridge. Wrote it for nothing other than percentage on the film... which shows about how well it's done. Written two other features for free for a company and a myriad of shorts for people I know. Not as worried on the shorts as those rarely make money, while the features are all sort of depending on funding being found for the scripts. Project 1 will be 15k if it takes off, with a percentage on the profit; Project 2 has yet to be discussed, meeting tomorrow.

Richard Buzzell

Thanks for asking this question LindAnn. The responses have been quite helpful.

Mark Sanderson

If it's non-union, the money is what you negotiate or what they offer. If it's a WGA union job here is the schedule of minimums for gigs:

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