How does Netflix work?

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On a wing and a prayer
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May 14, 2005
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A Small Town in Germany
I recently signed an option contract with a producer who wants to pitch my first novel, Of Marriageable Age, to Netflix as a series. Don't worry, I had the contract looked over by the Society of Authors legal team. It's OK.

She has allowed me to write a Bible and a Deck (terms I learned from her!) and I wrote a pilot, which she thinks is perfect. She has also given me a option contract for writing the screenplay, which is the part I love best.

However, I'm really not sure how the whole thing works, and I've asked her, but she seems to assume I have more knowledge than I have. Looked it up on Google, but I only get half-answers. Also, she told me everything in a telephone conversation, and I tend to forget things told to me and not written down in black and white. The gist of it seems to be that she doesn't have to worry about financing, because if Netflix agree to acquire it they will pay from the outset. So she gets all the money in the budget, and then has to go about finding actors etc, and pay them, and pay me as well (she's already paid for the first option)? Is that it?

This is a book which has attracted some interest in the past, since it was published in 1999. I also adapted it once as a screenplay, and had it professionally assessed. The consensus as to why it wouldn't work back then is that it's just too long, which is why she thinks it's perfect for Netflix.
She's very busy (I assume that she'll have more time to work on this if and when Netflix acquires it!) and we live at opposite ends of the globe (she in LA, I in Ireland) so we basically only exchange words at the start and the end of each of our days!

I would love to be able to chat some more about the ins and outs of what is going on. I', getting slightly tired of novel writing and moving into screenwriting is very attractive for me. If this works out I have several more novels I could adapt, many of them, I think, would work well on screen.

Anyway -- I just wanted to talk shop with anyone who's in the know. Nobody IRL knows a thing about this so I came here. Long ago, I was a member of Done Deal and tried communicating on their forums but they were all very dismissive and I have to say rather rude.

I'm here to learn, and really want to get this right. Discuss loglines, etc. Anyone care to engage? Anyone know how it Netflix works? And yes, I know it's a long shot but I do think it's a genre they seem to be really into right now (Indian, vintage, marriage etc).

Fuchsia Groan

Becoming a laptop-human hybrid
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Sep 27, 2008
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The windswept northern wastes
I probably know even less than you do, so I hope some folks with more expertise stop by!

Several years ago I signed a contract (via my agent) with a producer to shop my novel around, but the producer didn’t pay anything, so I don’t know if that even counts as an “option.” She had near misses with various studios and production companies, she said, but it went nowhere and the term expired. I don’t think she approached Netflix, but this would have been a feature, not a series.

Now I have a film agent interested in repping my new novel, and they’re asking for a “one-sheet” as a tool to shop it to streaming services and the like. The advice I found on writing these is somewhat contradictory (they’re usually for screenplays, not novels), but I’m doing my best. I told them I’m not interested in writing a screenplay myself—I have no expertise, and while I’d like to learn, I’d rather write more books.

Does your producer have other places to try if Netflix isn’t interested? I assume so. It makes sense to me that Netflix would finance it if they’re producing it. But I would look very hard at what the contract says about payment for you, if she gets that deal. Again, I know almost nothing, but my impression is that it’s typical for writers to be paid a sum up front and then cut out of any future profits unless they manage to get “points” in the contract.

Also, if you write the screenplay and it goes into production, would you be eligible for WGA membership? Another thing I’m ignorant about, but I know the union is a big force in Hollywood.
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