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View Full Version : Unique situation with unpublished book and screenplay. Would like to hear people's thoughts.



Briarose
01-31-2016, 11:03 PM
Just wondering if I could get some feedback on my situation. My first screenplay has garnered a lot of attention. I am currently developing it with a producer and have a production company which is eager to read it once its been developed. Because this is my first screenplay, I do not have an agent and plan to use an highly recommended entertainment attorney for deals attached to the script. My question is, this screenplay is based on a non-fiction book that I wrote which the screenplay is based on. The book has also had considerable interest. It is on a very unique topic.

How does a situation like this work? Do I need a literary agent for the book? How do the rights work? Would the company that is buying the script buy the film rights to the book even though it is not yet published? Should I be contacting a literary agent?

Any help would be highly appreaciated! Thank you :)

T Robinson
01-31-2016, 11:06 PM
Yes

Cyia
01-31-2016, 11:12 PM
First and foremost, VET THE PROD. CO. Make absolutely, rock solid sure that they're legit and that they have produced other projects. Your wording has me concerned that you've not done this.

Does this producer not work with a production company? Why would a producer be helping you develop a screenplay for a production company that may or may not want it once it's developed?

Second - and please do not take this as an insult - your writing, as demonstrated in your posts makes me wonder about the quality of your screenplay. I'm seriously concerned.

When you say interest, what's the context? Who has shown interest in the screenplay if it's not developed? Who has shown interest in the book? What sort of screenplay are you writing from a non-fiction book? Is it a documentary, or an actual film?

On to one of your questions: If you sell a movie, then novelize it (or write a book about it), then there are no film rights left.

But seriously, the phrasing here is very concerning to me.

T Robinson
01-31-2016, 11:12 PM
Just realized you are new, so my answer might not mean much to you. You are in the area of legal opinions, so don't trust anything you get off here or anywhere online (see FAQ's). Yes you need competent legal counsel for all your questions.

Briarose
02-01-2016, 07:12 AM
1. The production company and the producer both came through personal contacts of mine. They are friends of friends. Not are they both extremely legitimate, they have been behind a good number of projects that have made many millions of dollars.

2. The producer is an independent producer who is helping me develop the project because he is very interested in the topic. This individual who is the producer and this production company have nothing to do with each other. These were two contacts who I told about the script and they were both interested. They are not doing me any favors, they both are interested in the script because it is a very unique project. I am a first time screenwriter with a unique project and the only reason they are paying me any attention is because of the topic, not because they are trying to be nice to me.

3. Not sure why the writing in my posts worry you? I might have errors because I type very fast, but this does not reflect the writing in my script...so no need to worry.

4. The book is a non-fiction which is sort of a bio, I don't want to say a lot about it, but it was adapted into a script for a full length feature film. I am not going novelize it, the book was pretty much complete before the screenplay was started. I had an agent show interest at the book, but this was before I started the screenplay, and I spoke to people who told me to wait.



First and foremost, VET THE PROD. CO. Make absolutely, rock solid sure that they're legit and that they have produced other projects. Your wording has me concerned that you've not done this.

Does this producer not work with a production company? Why would a producer be helping you develop a screenplay for a production company that may or may not want it once it's developed?

Second - and please do not take this as an insult - your writing, as demonstrated in your posts makes me wonder about the quality of your screenplay. I'm seriously concerned.

When you say interest, what's the context? Who has shown interest in the screenplay if it's not developed? Who has shown interest in the book? What sort of screenplay are you writing from a non-fiction book? Is it a documentary, or an actual film?

On to one of your questions: If you sell a movie, then novelize it (or write a book about it), then there are no film rights left.

But seriously, the phrasing here is very concerning to me.

Cyia
02-01-2016, 07:26 AM
1. The production company and the producer both came through personal contacts of mine. They are friends of friends. Not are they both extremely legitimate, they have been behind a good number of projects that have made many millions of dollars.

Okay, this scenario is much less worry-making. Congrats on the foot in the door!

2. The producer is an independent producer who is helping me develop the project because he is very interested in the topic. This individual who is the producer and this production company have nothing to do with each other. These were two contacts who I told about the script and they were both interested. They are not doing me any favors, they both are interested in the script because it is a very unique project. I am a first time screenwriter with a unique project and the only reason they are paying me any attention is because of the topic, not because they are trying to be nice to me.
Also much less worry-making.

3. Not sure why the writing in my posts worry you? I might have errors because I type very fast, but this does not reflect the writing in my script...so no need to worry.
On their own, a few typos don't bother me, but mixed with a new poster who could very well be a starry-eyed, naive kid on the hook of a scammer, they can be red flags. Glad to know that's not the case here.

4. The book is a non-fiction which is sort of a bio, I don't want to say a lot about it, but it was adapted into a script for a full length feature film. I am not going novelize it, the book was pretty much complete before the screenplay was started. I had an agent show interest at the book, but this was before I started the screenplay, and I spoke to people who told me to wait.

Okay, so with this in mind, you'll still get better answers out of an entertainment attorney. But basically, if you sell a movie, there are no movie rights for an agent to sell. That doesn't mean you can't sell the book, unless there's something in an eventual contract with a production company or studio that prevents it. (Those are very, very tricky contracts, with long passages of precise language, so if you really want to try and sell this as a non-fiction book, make sure you tell your attorney to check for clauses that might be standard, but would prevent such a deal.)

Good luck!

Briarose
02-01-2016, 07:58 AM
Okay, so with this in mind, you'll still get better answers out of an entertainment attorney. But basically, if you sell a movie, there are no movie rights for an agent to sell. That doesn't mean you can't sell the book, unless there's something in an eventual contract with a production company or studio that prevents it. (Those are very, very tricky contracts, with long passages of precise language, so if you really want to try and sell this as a non-fiction book, make sure you tell your attorney to check for clauses that might be standard, but would prevent such a deal.)

Good luck!

Thank you! This is a very unique situtation because the very unique subject matter of my book which is based on research I have done as a historian. I'm actually a young novelist ( not yet published) so this whole world is very new to me. this is my first screenplay and first non-fiction book. Fortunately I have a husband who has a background in the film industry and who knows the ins and outs, he has a very good, very experienced attorney who will be advising me. Also all these people are local to my area (Los Angeles) I just didn't know if I should go ahead getting in contact with agents now ( book agents, not screenplay agents) or if I should wait.

cornflake
02-01-2016, 08:12 AM
I'm super confused by this.

You say the screenplay is getting "a lot of attention," but then say it's friends of friends. Has it been released into the wild, or are these the only people involved?

Do you have an option contract?

Why would you wait, if an agent was interested in repping the book? What were you meant to be waiting for, and is it these people who told you to wait?

I'm very wary of this whole situation - a newbie writer (what Cyia said rings true to me as well, just btw) with an independent producer and a co. interested because it's a unique topic? It can't be that unique, and it's not yours. So... please tell me you've got an option contract.

Briarose
02-01-2016, 11:56 PM
1. It has not been released yet into the wild because the first two people I approached were very eager to read it and wanted to work with it.

2. I was given the option of having an option, but I turned it down. I own the screenplay outright now, the producer who has contacts wants to place it at a studio or with a production company, possibly the one that is interested. The producer who I am working with offered me the minimum amount as required by the WGA, I turned it down because I would rather wait until it is bought outright which is what we are preparing for right now.

3. I was advised by friends in the industry that I should wait because the agent who was interested in repping was a small time agent. I wanted to wait for an agent who could get it to the big publishing houses. I have also been told that if the movie is placed with a large studio, they might already have a publishing division and might want to release the book at the same time of the movue

4. It is actually THAT unique, and it is mine. Why would it not be mine? I am the only author/writer.

cornflake
02-02-2016, 12:12 AM
1. It has not been released yet into the wild because the first two people I approached were very eager to read it and wanted to work with it. This is a big red flag to me. I'd seek other venues for evaluation were I you.

2. I was given the option of having an option, but I turned it down. I own the screenplay outright now, the producer who has contacts wants to place it at a studio or with a production company, possibly the one that is interested. The producer who I am working with offered me the minimum amount as required by the WGA, I turned it down because I would rather wait until it is bought outright which is what we are preparing for right now. I don't understand this at all. Why in the name of all that's holy would you turn down an option? It protects you. Is this person offering it to other studios?

3. I was advised by friends in the industry that I should wait because the agent who was interested in repping was a small time agent. I wanted to wait for an agent who could get it to the big publishing houses. I have also been told that if the movie is placed with a large studio, they might already have a publishing division and might want to release the book at the same time of the movue Any decent agent or house would be able to coordinate things like this, and agents know other agents. What if the studio has no publishing division?

4. It is actually THAT unique, and it is mine. Why would it not be mine? I am the only author/writer.

You said it was historical, and frankly, nothing is that unique. Shakespeare ideas weren't unique. It makes me worry people are shining you on.

Old Hack
02-02-2016, 01:03 AM
I share cornflake's concerns. This doesn't seem right to me: I am concerned that you're being taken advantage of here, I'm afraid.

mayqueen
02-02-2016, 01:15 AM
Here's what I'm confused about: the producer. Like cornflake said, why don't you have an option in place? Is this person working on spec, as in, assuming they will be getting money once the deal is done? Or are you paying them right now to help you develop the script? Or what are they doing in all of this? I ask because I would be extremely worried about doing anything with this person without a contract in place. Make sure you talk to your lawyer about this. You don't want there to be any problems down the road if the two of you have different understandings of how the money is going to be handled.

As for the non-fiction book, I personally wouldn't hold off querying or going with an offer of rep from a legitimate agent just because of the potential film deal -- as long as you tell all interested agents everything. Film deals fall apart all the time. Rights are bought, things move into pre-production, screenplays are developed and cast, etc. And then they just fall apart because of money, because of whatever. So I would't pin all of your hopes of getting the non-fiction book published on the film deal. But that's just my opinion and I'm probably wrong.

Cyia
02-02-2016, 02:00 AM
2. I was given the option of having an option, but I turned it down. I own the screenplay outright now, the producer who has contacts wants to place it at a studio or with a production company, possibly the one that is interested. The producer who I am working with offered me the minimum amount as required by the WGA, I turned it down because I would rather wait until it is bought outright which is what we are preparing for right now. You say this is your first screenplay, so I want to make sure that you understand a couple of things. What you're basically doing at the moment is writing on Spec, which means that there's no guarantee the project will sell. Assuming the best case scenario, meaning that you finish an Oscar-caliber work and your producer contact can help you get it on the radar of a major production company, that then presents the project to a major studio who is willing to entertain the idea of making the movie, doesn't mean the piece would get bought outright. Almost none are.

Even in the big leagues, you get optioned. Either a production company will take it to a studio, or if it starts as a book, a studio might option it and then see if they can attach a director or producer or big name. In any event, you get a percentage (usually 10%) upfront with the studio having the option to hold onto that project for 12-18 months, on average. At the end of that time, they can renew or back out. If they renew, you get another 10%, and it starts over. You won't get paid outright until a few months before the movie goes into production - after all the pieces are in place and it's pretty much a guaranteed go.

Option amounts can very widely, depending on what the studio offers.

And since you mention the WGA, go check the guidelines for writing credit when guild members are involved. Maybe it's your work, but if your producer contact has had a hand in the writing at all, then the credit line can quickly change from:

AWESOME FILM, by: Author.
to
AWESOME FILM, by Author and Producer contact.
or
AWESOME FILM, by Author & Producer contact.

Each way of phrasing means something very specific ("&" =/= "and"), and it's the guild that gets to decide how credit is doled out.

3. I was advised by friends in the industry that I should wait because the agent who was interested in repping was a small time agent. I wanted to wait for an agent who could get it to the big publishing houses. I have also been told that if the movie is placed with a large studio, they might already have a publishing division and might want to release the book at the same time of the movue

Here's where my question about the subject matter / novelization comes in. IF you're writing a novel, then it's a story you own and the studio *might* want to sell that novelization as something akin to work for hire. (Unless it starts as a book and the movie rights are sold in that order.)

But you aren't writing a novel. This is non-fiction. You don't own the story of the person or event that you're writing about. Anyone could pick up that same story thread and write a non-fiction book about it. 12 people could, and it wouldn't matter because the story isn't something a single person owns.

If you want to go after big-named agents, then do so. If you want to submit to agencies that handle media rights, then do so. Tell them that you've got a screenplay in development with a producer (name said producer). It might not help you, but it won't hurt you, either. The point is, there's no sense in waiting for things to settle with the screenplay.
4. It is actually THAT unique, and it is mine. Why would it not be mine? I am the only author/writer.
(see above about historical events not belonging to anyone, and WGA guidelines for work done on a screenplay)


.

Briarose
02-02-2016, 05:32 AM
Just to make things clear, I was offered an option by the producer. He would pay me the 10 percent of the WGA minimum. I turned it down because I could make more money if the script gets sold . I know there is no guarentee. The producer is taking his time to help me develop the script, if it never gets sold, I will still have a pretty good script and at the end of it, I still own the script and have not tied it up in an option. If I took an option, I could not go to other people right away. The producer ultimately wants to get it set up at a studio, he will make no money if it is just optioned, all that money will go to me. The production company I mentioned before is just one of the possible places it could be brought to were there could be a deal put together. The person who owns the production company is a very well known person and his family have been friends with a mutual friend of mine for many, many years. This producer has and is working with A list people, he is very busy and I don't think he would take time out of their life to spending time developing something they didn't think would make it big. He is not doing this to be nice to me, what he is doing is based only upon my script, if he didn't think he could get it set up somewhere he would not waste a minute on it.

I know I do not "own" the story, but the script is based on information on a historical event I uncovered based on information from an ancestor of mine, not many people would have access to the information, it is not common knowledge though historical event it is tied to is well known. I and other descendants own much of the original documentation.

cornflake
02-02-2016, 06:45 AM
Just to make things clear, I was offered an option by the producer. He would pay me the 10 percent of the WGA minimum. I turned it down because I could make more money if the script gets sold . See Cyia's detailed explanation - you'd get paid whn it sells regardless of the option. The option protects your interests. I know there is no guarentee. The producer is taking his time to help me develop the script, if it never gets sold, I will still have a pretty good script and at the end of it, I still own the script and have not tied it up in an option. If I took an option, I could not go to other people right away. The producer ultimately wants to get it set up at a studio, he will make no money if it is just optioned, all that money will go to me. Well, theoretically, he'd be able to be a ... producer. The production company I mentioned before is just one of the possible places it could be brought to were there could be a deal put together. The person who owns the production company is a very well known person and his family have been friends with a mutual friend of mine for many, many years. This producer has and is working with A list people, he is very busy and I don't think he would take time out of their life to spending time developing something they didn't think would make it big. Honestly, if he's that connected, he'd know the likelihood is so mniscule that something will get made anytime soon, and would tell you that. He is not doing this to be nice to me, what he is doing is based only upon my script, if he didn't think he could get it set up somewhere he would not waste a minute on it. Or he has another agenda.

I know I do not "own" the story, but the script is based on information on a historical event I uncovered based on information from an ancestor of mine, not many people would have access to the information, it is not common knowledge though historical event it is tied to is well known. I and other descendants own much of the original documentation.

We're just concerned you'll get burned here, and/or aren't getting good advice.

T Robinson
02-02-2016, 06:56 AM
"I and other descendants own much of the original documentation."

Now that really is a red flag. Do you have signed contracts with these other descendants?

Please understand that no one here is doing anything other than responding to your original question. Some of these people have decades of experience in the very area you are talking about.

I have not, but the sentence of yours I quoted is a true danger signal (to me). If you personally outright owned the "documentation," I would see no problem (from that standpoint).

However, you just said others are involved. Do you want to do all the work and someone else come along and say, "Grandpa left that to me, not you." (as an example)

Now is the time to plan for the unexpected.

Toothpaste
02-02-2016, 08:16 AM
I turned it down because I could make more money if the script gets sold .

Okay this makes no sense at all to me. As someone who has had many projects optioned and one project sold it isn't an either/or scenario. What happens is a studio/production company/producer options a work for an amount of money. That gives them sole right to see if they can/want to make the work into a film. When they decide that yup that's what they want to do, they then purchase the rights for much much more money. You don't option OR sell. You option AND sell. No one can produce your film without purchasing the rights. You will always make that secondary money. What the first money (the optioning) does is give you some change in your pocket while at the same time ensuring the company you're doing business with that you aren't going out with the project with multiple producers.

Optioning is good. It's a limited time frame (12 - 18 months as someone else said) so you aren't locked into one person/company, and there's always the hope that they will purchase the rights which is way more money and even better.

I am utterly baffled why you'd turn down an option and am very worried you are being sold a rotten bill of goods here.

Briarose
02-02-2016, 09:29 AM
Like I said, its a very unique situation. I don't understand why I am being sold a "rotten bill of goods", no one is selling me anything...I have a partnership with the producer and in the over all project. He offered me an option and I turned it down because I know there is a lot more money to be made as a partner. Furthermore I 100 percent own my script, so he can not make any deal with anyone without my say so. What I have is extremely unique, what people have called a once in a lifetime script and story, so I am not going to take WGA minimum for something that I could make much for. This script has had been shown to very few people, and the two people who I showed it to, who are very reputable, well known professionals pounced on it immediately. I have other contacts who are friends of friends and I have not even brought it to them. I am a first time screenwriter, this is my first script. The first company I showed it to saw one of my earlier drafts. Their reader passed on it because they didn't feel it was developed enough. This company is a very well known and reputable who are very, very busy. They told me they didn't develop screenplays, but they told me that I could bring it back to them and they would read it again since they like the story and subject matter. These are not personal friends of mine, they are friends of friends and the only reason they gave me a chance was based only upon the subject matter and story.

I do have written permission from other descendants ( of which there is about two and they are both in their 90s). They are just happy to see the story get told.




Okay this makes no sense at all to me. As someone who has had many projects optioned and one project sold it isn't an either/or scenario. What happens is a studio/production company/producer options a work for an amount of money. That gives them sole right to see if they can/want to make the work into a film. When they decide that yup that's what they want to do, they then purchase the rights for much much more money. You don't option OR sell. You option AND sell. No one can produce your film without purchasing the rights. You will always make that secondary money. What the first money (the optioning) does is give you some change in your pocket while at the same time ensuring the company you're doing business with that you aren't going out with the project with multiple producers.

Optioning is good. It's a limited time frame (12 - 18 months as someone else said) so you aren't locked into one person/company, and there's always the hope that they will purchase the rights which is way more money and even better.

I am utterly baffled why you'd turn down an option and am very worried you are being sold a rotten bill of goods here.

cornflake
02-02-2016, 09:44 AM
You don't seem to have anything that says what he can do - and he can say you're partners, or that you gave him permission to shop it, and who knows what he says when he does that.

Again the option does NOT limit the money you'd make selling it. I could option it for a dollar. If I then decided to make it, we'd negotiate the price.

Have they discussed with you the likelihood the script would be seriously altered, if produced?

Cyia
02-02-2016, 09:45 AM
Briarose, please understand that the people here are being cautiously optimistic because of the number of times new members have come in with what they believe to be golden rings and later realize they're painted lead. Everyone here really is pulling for you to get the best deal out of this that you can. We just want to do everything *we* can to make sure the deal you get is the deal you expect and deserve. And since this is an open forum, and most of us aren't attorneys, all we can do is ask questions and give personal anecdotes of experience. Sometimes we'll see writers who have expectations based on things they believe wholeheartedly to be true, and the other party, sometimes through no actual malice on their part, is working off a different expectation. It's heartbreaking to watch happen, and we don't want that to happen here.

I have one last question for you. Without giving me any specifics of your story, can you tell us how your producer contact has helped you develop the screenplay? Pointers? Advice? Rewrites? Because if s/he has rewritten or restructured the script, then you might not actually be the sole writer by guild guidelines.

Cyia
02-02-2016, 09:46 AM
Again the option does NOT limit the money you'd make selling it. I could option it for a dollar. If I then decided to make it, we'd negotiate the price.


You agree on the price at the time of the option. The option is a percentage of that price, with the remainder to be paid when / if the film goes into active production.

cornflake
02-02-2016, 09:57 AM
You agree on the price at the time of the option. The option is a percentage of that price, with the remainder to be paid when / if the film goes into active production.

Yeah, but in the OP's scenario, an independent producer wants to option it, not tied to a company. In which case, in my understanding, it can be optioned just as a hold, and when sold to a company, negotiated as if new. I may be wrong...

Cyia
02-02-2016, 10:02 AM
Maybe. I only have experience in selling to a studio after securing the production company via agent, so it could be different.

Old Hack
02-02-2016, 11:30 AM
Just to make things clear, I was offered an option by the producer. He would pay me the 10 percent of the WGA minimum. I turned it down because I could make more money if the script gets sold .

When you sell an option you get money. If and when that option is taken up, you then negotiate the final contract, and get more money. Selling an option doesn't reflect on the final deal, it just gives the film company time to develop the idea and see if they want to go forward with it.


I know there is no guarentee. The producer is taking his time to help me develop the script, if it never gets sold, I will still have a pretty good script and at the end of it, I still own the script

What concerns me is that you're working on your script with this producer and you have no contract. He could claim that he has produced his own, entirely new script, and if he can show that, he can take the script and do what he likes with it without giving you any financial recompense.


and have not tied it up in an option. If I took an option, I could not go to other people right away. The producer ultimately wants to get it set up at a studio, he will make no money if it is just optioned, all that money will go to me.

If you took an option everything would be spelled out, and you would have some degree of legal protection. And the producer would have the right to exercise his option and offer you a contract to go into production, and so would make money there.


The production company I mentioned before is just one of the possible places it could be brought to were there could be a deal put together. The person who owns the production company is a very well known person and his family have been friends with a mutual friend of mine for many, many years. This producer has and is working with A list people, he is very busy and I don't think he would take time out of their life to spending time developing something they didn't think would make it big. He is not doing this to be nice to me, what he is doing is based only upon my script, if he didn't think he could get it set up somewhere he would not waste a minute on it.

You tell us the producer is working with you to develop the script: can you explain what this entails? Is he reading it and offering comments? Or is he rewriting bits of it, and being very hands-on?


I know I do not "own" the story, but the script is based on information on a historical event I uncovered based on information from an ancestor of mine, not many people would have access to the information, it is not common knowledge though historical event it is tied to is well known. I and other descendants own much of the original documentation.

The producer now has access to the information, though. And is not contractually bound to give you anything if he takes this idea and the information and runs with it.



Like I said, its a very unique situation. I don't understand why I am being sold a "rotten bill of goods", no one is selling me anything...I have a partnership with the producer and in the over all project. He offered me an option and I turned it down because I know there is a lot more money to be made as a partner.

Do you have a partnership agreement? Did the producer tell you you'd make more money like this? Or was that your own decision?


Briarose, please understand that the people here are being cautiously optimistic because of the number of times new members have come in with what they believe to be golden rings and later realize they're painted lead. Everyone here really is pulling for you to get the best deal out of this that you can. We just want to do everything *we* can to make sure the deal you get is the deal you expect and deserve. And since this is an open forum, and most of us aren't attorneys, all we can do is ask questions and give personal anecdotes of experience. Sometimes we'll see writers who have expectations based on things they believe wholeheartedly to be true, and the other party, sometimes through no actual malice on their part, is working off a different expectation. It's heartbreaking to watch happen, and we don't want that to happen here.

I have one last question for you. Without giving me any specifics of your story, can you tell us how your producer contact has helped you develop the screenplay? Pointers? Advice? Rewrites? Because if s/he has rewritten or restructured the script, then you might not actually be the sole writer by guild guidelines.

All this. Yes.

mayqueen
02-02-2016, 04:35 PM
That's my concern, too: without a contract in place, if the producer is doing anything that can be construed as writing (however broadly defined), then the producer may be able to claim part ownership of the script when it does sell. Make sure you've talked to an attorney about this.

Curlz
02-02-2016, 07:43 PM
Unfortunately, no agents are answering the questions here. Personally, I see a forest of red flags.



I don't understand why I am being sold a "rotten bill of goods", no one is selling me anything
But nobody is buying anything either, so far. It's all promises, which are free and quite easy to distribute.



My first screenplay has garnered a lot of attention.
But you also say it's been "seen by very few people" - that's a rather limited lot of attention, actually. Besides, you also say they're "friends of friends", i.e. acquaintances. People tend to be simply polite in such cases. "Oh, that's very good!" is a typical answer which may sound like encouragement but most often is just an expression of polite indifference. Just a little something to keep in mind.



have a production company which is eager to read it once its been developed

The first company I showed it to saw one of my earlier drafts. Their reader passed on it because they didn't feel it was developed enough.


Ah, see what happened there? Despite the "unique topic" and the "lots of interest", they said no. Because they don't just want an interesting and unique topic. They want a finalized project. Remember the Titanic movie? Titanic was hardly considered unique topic and would not have gathered lots of interest were it not developed into a perfect bitter-sweet and beautifully soppy screenplay. And vice versa, there are quite a few teeny-weeny small independent movies on unique topics that go absolutely unnoticed, because the unique topic itself was not enough.



an independent producer who is helping me develop the project
You may have noticed our collective confusion here, as to the extent of this collaboration. So far there is nothing preventing anybody else pinching the idea and developing a screenplay of their own. Nothing at all. Boom and it's gone in a puff of smoke!



Because this is my first screenplay, I do not have an agent and plan to use an highly recommended entertainment attorney for deals
The agent is not only for "the deals". An agent will take your work around to potential buyers and will make you money. An attorney will help hone the clauses of a contract, but you must have already secured that contract in the first place. And for finding people willing to offer you a contract, you have to either get an agent, either go knock on many many doors yourself (not an easy task for the uninitiated).



..have been behind a good number of projects that have made many millions of dollars.
Good (for them). So, those producers/companies are rich and knowledgeable, but are not willing to give you even an initial advice about how to procede? Even if they are so interested, they still offer no help? Oh. Seems they are either not that interested, either not that good.



screenplay is based on a non-fiction book that I wrote
When selling, one has nothing to do with the other. But you could decide which one is priority for you. Success can go either way, there is no general rule. There are books based on movies and movies based on books, with both being immensely popular if the story is well done (that last detail is the most important.) It is always adviseable when selling one to inform the producer or publisher that the other exists, it may be important for their marketing.



The book has also had considerable interest.It is on a very unique topic
I doubt its a "unique topic", unless you discovered a spaceship in your basement (nobody else has, so it's unique indeed) If you discivered evidence that Lizzy Borden didn't do it, then that's a unique event, but not unique topic. Historians may be interested in the documents, but don't expect that from movie-goers or book-readers. The most important thing for popular books/movies is to be intriguing. Truthiness comes last in the order of priorities here. Uniqueness is somewhere in the middle, but it's only good for letting you put your foot in the door. A producer/publisher might decide to see your screenplay/book because it has a "unique" topic, but they will not take it on unless the finished product is up to their standards (which have nothing to do with the "uniqueness"). So no, uniqueness does not guarantee you success.



based on research I have done as a historian.
Anybody could hear about that "unique" thing and write their own book/screenplay. Facts are not copyrighted and don't belong to anybody. No bonus there. All you have is a headstart, since you already know the facts and have had time to develop your project but that doesn't mean your horse will finish first in the race to success. Whoever decides to write book/screenplay about this fact of yours, doesn't need to be precise or know it in its entirety. They could just make things up and be even more successful if they are better storytellers. It's about creativity.



How does a situation like this work? Do I need a literary agent for the book?
It varies. Film studios do novelizations, i.e. book form of the movie. Even if your book and screenplay are closely related, there is no guarantee that the production company will follow your script word for word as you present it to them. Script changes are more common. So the end result may differ from your book and your book. Basically, book and screenplay are separate products. Whether you need a literary agent is a vastly disputed topic on writing forums. Self-publishing does not require agents, while large publishers don't work without an agent. You decide which path to take.



How do the rights work? Would the company that is buying the script buy the film rights to the book even though it is not yet published?
You own all rights untill you give them away. Details depend on mutual agreement between the two sides. Some companies would have something to do with the book, some won't. You have to ask every time.



I own the screenplay outright now,
Not if somebody else is "helping develop" it... Besides, there is no obstacles for anybody else to write their own screenplay about the same thing. Sometimes it even happens that two blockbuster movies would come out at the same time tackling the same topic. ( "Deep Impact"/ "Armageddon" and others...) Sometimes ideas leak while a screenplay is in the early stages of production and all of a sudden you got a doppleganger. No guarantees.



..and it is mine. Why would it not be mine? I am the only author/writer.
For now. There was a popular movie called "Atonement", based on a book of the same name. It turned out, the main story (which made the movie and the book so popular in the first place) belonged to somebody else. The main story was taken from this other person's biography, it was their own unique topic, but that person did not benefit anything from the popularity of the Atonement book/movie. Things happen. By the way megapopular (and also "unique topic") book/movie "DaVinci Code" was also based on historical facts and research gathered by another couple of authors (who still remain mostly unknown).



Furthermore I 100 percent own my script, so he can not make any deal with anyone without my say so.
Yes, yes he can, if somebody writes another script with the same topic.



The producer who I am working with offered me the minimum amount

... he will make no money if it is just optioned
Well, from what you tell us about him, your interests are not a priority to him...



Fortunately I have a husband who has a background in the film industry and who knows the ins and outs, he has a very good, very experienced attorney who will be advising me.
Your husband knows the ins and outs but has not yet given answer to the questions you post here? Odd. And despite that his project means so much to you, neither of you have yet contacted that very experienced attorney? And also the following:



I was advised by friends in the industry...
Not much clues from them either? Hmmm... Everybody around you is so excited yet so secretive and unhelpful.



the agent who was interested in repping was a small time agent
No big time agents interested? You could still test the ground without commitment. I understand you are so proud of your project and this gives you wings, but untill the project is off the ground itself, nothing is ever certain.



The producer is taking his time to help me develop the script, if it never gets sold, I will still have a pretty good script
And it could sit in a drower until spiders chomp it all up. It's only "pretty good script" if it makes a pretty good movie.



I don't think he would take time out of their life to spending time developing something they didn't think would make it big
I could go to NASA and tell them I have a unique idea about a spaceship that will go to Alpha Centauri. I bet they will give me the same answer - they are very interested by the idea, and I bet they will be taking time developing my idea. But nothing will happen untill I actually present them the blueprints of my spaceship and we find a factory to manufacture them. Meaning, being excited about a future project is easy. The devil is in the details, and in putting those details to practice. They are not "spending time developing" untill they actually have cast, crew and studio schedule ready. Everything else is just exchanging pats on the back over cuppa coffee.



the script is based on information on a historical event I uncovered based on information from an ancestor of mine, not many people would have access to the information
You don't need "many people" to have access. One person can hear about it, sit down to write their own work of fiction. And if they are good at what they do - Bam! Bestseller! There are oodles of fascinating historical events, but the events themselves do not guarantee a bestseller book/movie.



it is not common knowledge though historical event it is tied to is well known.
So, anybody can do their own research...



I and other descendants own much of the original documentation.
"much" of it, but not "all". Again, not exclusive.



I do have written permission from other descendants ( of which there is about two and they are both in their 90s). They are just happy to see the story get told.
Great! If I am a journalist and go to them and ask them for permission to access the informatinon in order to make a documentary for a popular TV channel, they will be rather happy to cooperate. Just saying...

cornflake
02-02-2016, 08:01 PM
I agree with most everything above, save that Titanic was written in damn crayon, that script is so bad, and the script had zip all to do with the movie being made, except he needed one, so he wrote one. The movie was made because he decided to do it, the way he decided to do it, and he had the pull to get money based on his name. I don't believe he even had a full script in the beginning.

Jamesaritchie
02-02-2016, 11:20 PM
Two things bother me. One is that you say other descendants are involved in owning the documentation. Get that resolved before you do anything else. In fact, if you go about it properly, the documentation is completely unimportant with a screenplay. It matters with a book only if you intend to reproduce the documentation in the book. If you use you own words to tell the story, they're your words, and only you own them.

The option also bothers me. I can see no scenario where having an option does not benefit you, or where not having one does. This also speaks poorly of those you're dealing with. I've never known a professional who would do anything without an option because it means you can pull the rig out from under them at any time.

You'll make more money with an option, not less, but those you're dealing with could be left high and dry without one. I don't see a professional, or anyone who really knows what they're doing, working with a writer without an option in place. Doing so is extremely bad business.

Old Hack
02-03-2016, 12:33 AM
Unfortunately, no agents are answering the questions here. Personally, I see a forest of red flags.

While I'm not an agent I have worked in publishing for a while now--more than thirty years--and I too see lots of red flags.



The agent is not only for "the deals". An agent will take your work around to potential buyers and will make you money. An attorney will help hone the clauses of a contract, but you must have already secured that contract in the first place. And for finding people willing to offer you a contract, you have to either get an agent, either go knock on many many doors yourself (not an easy task for the uninitiated).

Yep.


For now. There was a popular movie called "Atonement", based on a book of the same name. It turned out, the main story (which made the movie and the book so popular in the first place) belonged to somebody else. The main story was taken from this other person's biography, it was their own unique topic, but that person did not benefit anything from the popularity of the Atonement book/movie. Things happen.

This was never proved. (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/books/28aton.html?_r=3&)


By the way megapopular (and also "unique topic") book/movie "DaVinci Code" was also based on historical facts and research gathered by another couple of authors (who still remain mostly unknown).

And this one went to court and was thoroughly disproved. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/mar/28/danbrown.books)

Please don't make claims which aren't true. It doesn't help anyone.



Yes, yes he can, if somebody writes another script with the same topic.




Well, from what you tell us about him, your interests are not a priority to him...



Your husband knows the ins and outs but has not yet given answer to the questions you post here? Odd. And despite that his project means so much to you, neither of you have yet contacted that very experienced attorney? And also the following:



Not much clues from them either? Hmmm... Everybody around you is so excited yet so secretive and unhelpful.

You are on the verge of being snarky here, and again, it's not helpful.


Two things bother me. One is that you say other descendants are involved in owning the documentation. Get that resolved before you do anything else. In fact, if you go about it properly, the documentation is completely unimportant with a screenplay. It matters with a book only if you intend to reproduce the documentation in the book. If you use you own words to tell the story, they're your words, and only you own them.

The option also bothers me. I can see no scenario where having an option does not benefit you, or where not having one does. This also speaks poorly of those you're dealing with. I've never known a professional who would do anything without an option because it means you can pull the rig out from under them at any time.

You'll make more money with an option, not less, but those you're dealing with could be left high and dry without one. I don't see a professional, or anyone who really knows what they're doing, working with a writer without an option in place. Doing so is extremely bad business.

Agreed.

Kevin Nelson
02-03-2016, 08:43 AM
By the way megapopular (and also "unique topic") book/movie "DaVinci Code" was also based on historical facts and research gathered by another couple of authors (who still remain mostly unknown).



And this one went to court and was thoroughly disproved. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/mar/28/danbrown.books)

Please don't make claims which aren't true. It doesn't help anyone.

The court ruled there was no copyright infringement. But I think it remains possible that Dan Brown did base his novel partly on "historical facts and research" gathered by the authors who filed suit. As far as I'm aware, that by itself doesn't count as infringement.

Curlz
02-05-2016, 10:42 PM
The court ruled there was no copyright infringement. But I think it remains possible that Dan Brown did base his novel partly on "historical facts and research" gathered by the authors who filed suit. As far as I'm aware, that by itself doesn't count as infringement.

Exactly. The point is that both examples used historical facts that somebody else thought were "their own" because they first wrote about it. I'm not talking about copyright infringement. I'm talking about how different people can write about the same facts and just because somebody used that fact first does not exclude somebody afterwards using the same fact again, and with more profit.

Cyia
02-05-2016, 10:47 PM
Exactly. The point is that both examples used historical facts that somebody else thought were "their own" because they first wrote about it. I'm not talking about copyright infringement. I'm talking about how different people can write about the same facts and just because somebody used that fact first does not exclude somebody afterwards using the same fact again, and with more profit.

And it happens all the time with screenplays.

Anecdotally, something like five different screenwriters all working on similar scripts, all thought Mr. Holland's Opus was written about a teacher they'd had themselves while in school because the story was eerily similar to experiences they'd all had. All five went to different schools, and the person who actually wrote the screenplay had gone to yet another, and written the film about a man none of them had ever met.

Similar life experience can lead to a similar story, even when there's no intent to copy.

Treehouseman
02-07-2016, 02:11 AM
The Sylvester Stallone movie Cliffhanger was based on a real event.

The guy who wrote the book and the FIRST draft of the screenplay (Jeff Long) had the screenplay *stolen* by the unscrupulous producers he was working with to develop the screenplay.

They didn't even bother to change the character names when the stolen script was put into production. It was an interesting look at Hollywood morals.