Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Emperor's First Option

Last blog offered the interest in Emperor of Mars, and the lack of commitment to making it. Finally after a year or so someone liked it enough to want to make it.

Danny Mazure was a director I had met through mutual friends. Danny was not a major player but had strong intentions in being one. He also raved about Emperor, and desperately wanted to make it. He had contacts in high places.

Since nobody else was calling, I decided to give him an option.

But he had no money. 

So I gave him the minimum, a 90 day option for free in which he had 3 months to find the money.

Welcome to the side of movie business that you don't read about in the magazines and trades. If the film business were an iceberg, the big deals and big money you hear about is the 10% above water. The rest that's underwater is the reality.

This wasn't the first time, not would it be the last time someone wanted to make one of my screenplays but had no money to option or buy it. I stopped counting after 30.

But after 90 days, Danny couldn't find anything. So I took my screenplay back.
And waited. 

The odd thing was that I would get calls every 6 months or so asking about Emperor, "was it still available", "is anything happening with it" and other queries. Yet nobody came forward. Not for 2 years.

Rainfall Films was a small company, two women with strong feelings about what they wanted to make. One of them even had an eye-patch, so cool. They liked the screenplay and wanted to find funding to make it.

Except they didn't have a lot of money.

Sound familiar?

You can say no. Or you can think, well, nobody else wants to try to make it so why not them. They want to make it. And this time, unlike Danny they had made other movies so they were a viable entity. They even had some companies they could go to for funding. And I liked them.

So we made a deal, they could option the script for a small bit of money that would give them
the rights to the screenplay for 3 months. Usually a real deal is an option fee (10% of the purchase price) for 1 year.

Then I sat and waited. Well, not really, I had other work to do and I was also working on a new spec script. I was always prolific when it came to writing and even now have 34 spec screenplays unsold.

But after 3 months, the girls weren't able to get the money. They reluctantly gave me back the rights but said they would continue to look for funding.

Now it was back to square one. A screenplay everyone "loved" but nobody wanted to make.

I got notes from Disney who said they might consider it if I set it in present day. The story I wrote is set in the 1950's. But nothing more happened on Disney's end.

I should add that my agent was constantly sending Emperor out to the studios and production companies. Development execs change jobs frequently and my agent would press each new d-girl or d-boy to re-read Emperor.

And it worked.

About 2 months after Rainfall lost the option, ABC Family, owned by Disney, wanted to make it. And they would pay the full option price for it. Real money and a real company who didn't have to go to someone else to fund it.

And I actually believed that Emperor was going to get made.

(Fri: Not so easy)