Recent observation: on two separate deals, different reps at different agencies asked for a $25K set up bonus if their writer-client’s projects were independently produced. A set up bonus or “studio bump” is often negotiated in a writer’s option/purchase agreement if the producer successfully sets the project up at a major studio. The bonus is often negotiated as an advance against the purchase price. Notwithstanding the ebb and flow of capital investment in independent pictures, financing projects at any budget level north of even $250K is always a test of a producer’s tenacity and access to resources. If this deal point develops into a trend, it will only be a testament to the rep’s negotiating ability; their client’s industry precedent; and the ignorance of the producer’s rep to the financing problems facing most independent producers. I rejected the reps’ requests in my negotiations for this very reason. The next time I represent a writer, things may be different.
Check out Jeff Garlin’s unusually frank interview with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW’s “The Treatment.” In addition to pushing his first picture as director, writer and star, “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With,” Garlin speaks candidly about why it is OK to take lucrative roles on bad movies and the challenge of independent finance. On the latter, he laments the experience of meeting with a prospective investor at the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip. The investor brought along two hookers – they asked better questions than he did.
Lastly, the NY Times ran a piece by David Oshinsky about book publisher Alfred Knopf’s archive of reader’s reports (aka “coverage”) and rejection letters on such works as “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank (“a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions”) and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (it’s “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”). “Knopf wasn’t alone. ‘The Diary of a Young Girl,’ . . . would be rejected by 15 others before Doubleday published it in 1952. More than 30 million copies are currently in print, making it one of the best-selling books in history.” This should confirm what everyone already suspects: there’s no accounting for taste even among the taste makers. In other words, no one knows nuttin. Tenacity (see above) – not necessarily talent – over the long term is key.