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Option

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Option

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In the film industry, an option is a contractual agreement between a movie studio, a production company, or a producer (henceforth called the "producer") and a writer, in which the producer obtains the right to buy a screenplay from the writer, before a certain date. In the same way, producers can obtain options to write screenplays based on books, articles, video games, songs, or any other conceivable works of authorship. The term is often used as a verb in Hollywood: Paramount optioned the book by Philip K. Dick. Financially the contract qualifies as a real option and is thus very similar to other types of options.

When a screenplay is optioned, the producer has not actually purchased the right to use the screenplay. He has simply purchased the right to purchase the screenplay at some point in the future, if he is successful in setting up a deal to actually film a movie based on the screenplay. This "setting up a deal" is usually a tedious process known as development hell, in which the producer must get the screenplay written (if the option was on a book), obtain informal agreements with the director, the major actors, the financiers, and the distributors, and get the screenplay polished to suit all participants. If all this tentative planning falls into place, then actual agreements are signed, the producer obtains money to start operations, the option is exercised with part of this money, and the producer actually buys the screenplay from the writer.

Options are not expensive by the standards of Hollywood movies. Many writers are happy to receive a few thousand dollars. Option contracts typically do specify the eventual cost of the screenplay, if the producer does end up exercising the option.

Since optioning a screenplay is far cheaper than buying it, options are very popular in Hollywood for speculative projects.

Options are exclusive for, usually, one or two years. If this period of time expires, the producer no longer has the right to buy the screenplay, and the writer can option it to a different producer. Most option agreements specify the prices of additional extensions, should the producer be unable to put the movie together in the originally specified term, and choose to extend.


Home | Up | Backlot | Breaking down the script | Cameo appearance | Camera dolly | Clapperboard | Closing credits | Development hell | Feature film | Film budgeting | Film crew | Film finance | Film industry | Filming location | Filmmaking | Footage | Front projection effect | Greenlight | Hollywood accounting | Movie ranch | Option | Pan and scan | Post-production | Pre-production | Previsualization | Principal photography | Screen test | Screenplay | Second unit | Shelved | Shot | Sound stage | Stand-in | Storyboard | Take | Test screening | Voice-over | Script breakdown

Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.