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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

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It Beats Working 9-5
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The Writing Life...
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After October 31, 2006,
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The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Saturday, October 14, 2006  
Beginning screenwriters in a buyer's market
Rec'd an email from a beginning screenwriter. She had placed her first script on InkTip, got an offer to buy it, hired an attorney, and rejected the producer's offer. She wrote because she's having second thoughts. She wrote her script using my course Screenwright as her guide.

Yes, I think she made a great mistake. Here's why.

The offer was fair. It was $7500 at signing and $10,000 at production, plus full screenwriting credit. Beginning screenwriters can expect to be paid about 1% of the budget -- so the producer is budgeting this at around 1.75 million, $17,500 for the writer, which seems right in the ballpark for a small indie company.

It is a buyer's market. Overwhelmingly so. This producer will have absolutely no trouble finding another script. I guarantee it. On the other hand, the writer puts this script back in the market at the starting gate where the odds are that she will not get another offer. The vast majority of good scripts get no offers at all in today's overly crowded marketplace. This was an opportunity -- especially with a first script -- and I think the screenwriter should have taken it. If the film went to screen and did well, she'd make up in opening doors and opportunities what she apparently thinks she lost in money. But the offer was very fair for a movie budgeted around 2 million.

This may be the delusions of grandeur syndrome embraced by many beginning writers. They think their work is more special than it is. They don't realize how many good writers are out there. More bad ones, of course, but the marketplace is so damn crowded, even if only 10% of the writers are worth a shit, there're tens of thousands of them.

I think this was a lost opportunity, ego trumping an understanding of the real marketplace.

10/14/2006 10:06:00 AM | 8 comments

If a new screenwriter gets 1%, what do experienced screenwriters generally get?

Also, do you think new writers are passed over if their work calls for higher (50-100 million) budgets or do producers look soley at the script letting their instincts determine their willingness to go with it?
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Oh, it's been a while since I paid close attention to this sort of thing, but I'd say 3-5%. A few superwriters get 10% or more. I don't think newcomers are passed over any more than for low budgets. It's just hard. However, just this week I saw a call for big budget summer blockbuster scifi scripts and non-union writers were accepted as well as WGA, so that includes a shot for newbies.
The removal mentioned above is actually my response above, which for some reason was bylined anonymous ... so I thought I'd better clarify it's mine.

Buyer's Market... big time. I was grateful when I snagged an agent, last spring, at Endeavor... and signed with the Weinstein Brothers.

At 3%, I was gratified, certainly not greedy, and I've been pushing scripts for over ten years; also, I'm still working odd jobs... right here in Portland.

In the end, good stories still carry their weight, but it can be tough getting attention for them. So, don't bite the hand that....
Always good to hear from someone in the trenches. Thanks for posting. In Portland? Want to visit my screenwriting class? Give me a holler if you do.
You say you know of calls for big sci-fi scripts by anyone? Where would I find such calls?
Sorry, can't tell you since the info was on a by-subscription-only newsletter. However, the newsletter is not expensive and it's worth getting to see who wants to buy what. Get info at Inktip.
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