Saturday, September 23, 2006

Chronicles 34 - The First Time I May Get Paid For It


Well, isn't life interesting? Last week, in my "Is It Worth It?" chronicle I talked about possibly being offered an advanced fee against a deferred fee to re-write a biographical drama. As an indie-producer I know only too well how long and arduous it can be to set up an independent film so when the producer said that "this film will definitely get made" I grunted the right noises but inside I was going, "Mmmh, I'll believe it when I'm eating the popcorn".

Still, the project does have some viable commercial potential based on the nature of the true story which will spin off a book publication and documentary so, all things considered, I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. The producer is setting up a number of other projects as part of a slate and he has expressed his interest in using me for other projects a.k.a. dangling the golden carrot. ;-)

Anyway, I had a figure in my head for the advanced fee, a minimum figure below which I would just say, "Thanks, but no thanks". Funnily enough he offered me exactly this figure. I didn't commit there and there then but will wait for the written offer and counter-offer with a higher figure.

One reason for coming back with a higher figure is that I will need either an agent or lawyer to negotiate the contract so with their fees deducted from the advanced fee I would end up getting less than my "getting out of bed" figure - not good. So, in the last week or so I've contacted my lawyer to see how much a negotiation would cost and I've approached a few UK agents to see whether I can get one on board to do the deal and ideally take me on for the longer term.

I must say, I'm pretty friggin' amazed how slow agents are to respond even if you have a number of deals pending. I guess the commission potential on the advanced fee and future option isn't enough to 'stop the presses!' and 'hold the phones!'.

One of them has had the script for 3 weeks now, the others for ca. 2 weeks. One agent, who I remembered had offered to help me negotiate contracts didn't get back to me when I phoned yesterday. One major UK agency responded by saying they were reading the material right now. Actually, this same agency has passed on an earlier draft of the script via another agent so that will be interesting. Another agent wrote to me saying it would take her a month to read the script and would understand if I "approached other agents". Oh, well, if the agent thing doesn't work out I will just have to shell out the extra bucks for the lawyer.

On the casting director front my director (and I) had a typical Hollywood experience. The big Hollywood casting director who loved my script, would 'love' to work with us on the project, would love to meet my director blah blah blah ended up screwing my director around and essentially fobbing her off. They had been trying to see each other all week and it seems that the casting director hadn't been very accommodating and they finally agreed on a meeting on the day that my director was due to fly back. In fact, the director lost another meeting because she had to re-schedule to make this meeting with the casting director.

A time was fixed and then at the last minute the casting director cancelled deciding she wanted to be with her kids knowing that my director was due to fly back to the other side of the world on that day! The thing is, I didn't see any of this, the casting director and the assistant were kind of saying that they had "really tried hard" but because of the schedules it just didn't happen. It all seemed a bit strange until I phoned the director who told me that the casting director's assistant had confided in her and that the assistant was really angry with the casting director for her behaviour. The director basically said that we can forget about this person committing to the project if she can't even commit to a meeting. A typical Hollywood BS experience. All gush, gush, gush followed by a big fat nothing. Been there, done that. See Chronicles 14.

Of course, the allure of having a mover and shaker gunning for you in LA-LA land is a powerful Siren-like force. It's very easy to get sucked in and wake up crashed and stranded against the rocks of illusion.

So, a change of strategy, if I see some real dollars for the commission job I will re-channel that money into hiring a casting director to cast a pre-sellable lead for the romantic comedy. Getting a top casting director to work for a deferred fee is a tough call. Can I blame them? Do writers like working for a deferred fee?

I emailed a casting director with a good record in casting features/TV and he asked to read the script. He'd actually said previously that he couldn't work on a deferred fee because he was already working on a couple of projects on that basis. I asked him whether he would consider a partial deferral and he was interested.

Another 'let's see'. There are a few pluses here, we've already met, he respects the director, the director has met and likes him so it is down to dollars, his response to the script and if he feels that he is connected enough to attach a pre-sellable name to the project.

In the meantime I've spent the last week uploading content, such as the production diary blog, to the Web page for the short film. The shoot is only 3 weeks away so the Web page serves as a way to generate some 'viral' interest.

Now that's out of the way and before I get down and dirty with the biographical drama project it's time to start work, (tomorrow! ASAP!), on the second draft of the animation treatment along with the character profiles. We've laid down the structure so hopefully I can have some fun with the execution. Fingers crossed, if the prod. co. likes it we will move on to the next step with an option and investment in character and background art. Time to get the nose to the grindstone.

Ciao for now.

See Chronicles 33

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