That movie is truly scary and I loved it. I was already a fan of Jordan Peele’s acting and comedy, but wow—he’s an amazing Writer/Director, too. This story is about another Writer—and her scary contract.
She wanted out of this scary contract because she regretting agreeing to the ridiculously low Purchase Price for her Screenplay and because for over a year, the Producer kept missing promised deadlines for progress and never raised the money he claimed he could get for the film development—such as raising money and attaching marketable talent.
The real scary problem was the contract didn’t give the screenwriter any way to hold the Producer accountable. The Producer had several option periods that allowed him to extend the Term of the contract for up to 5 years for very little money. The Purchase Price was bad enough, but the Option Prices were so low, they did not incentivize either side to stay motivated.
For Screenplay or True Story Option Agreements or Personal Management Agreements for music artists, I always insist on a performance threshold after year one (or the first 18 months) so the client can terminate the contract if the threshold is not met. That way, multiple year agreements can’t just keep going without progress.
I like to make the Thresholds as tangible as possible. For a Screenplay, the Producer would have to raise a minimum amount of $$ to keep going or for a Management Agreement, the Artist would need a minimum number of Streams or a National Tour offer.
None of these existed in the Screenplay Option Agreement and my client became very frustrated. I did what I could to renegotiate the contract, but the Producer would not budge. The only solution at that point was for the Screenwriter to buy out the Producer and that’s where the lack of progress and the scary low contract price actually helped. With lack of development, the Screenplay’s value was limited to the original contract price so that’s what we offered, plus an amount to cover the Producer’s documented expenses. AND, my client agreed to pay most of that price only out of the film’s budget if she got it sold.
So, she eventually GOT OUT of the scary contract, but next time, she’ll take a performance threshold in with her…