Monthly Archives: August 2008

Imaginary money

More than a few years back, Mandy and I frequently argued about money.

Fair enough, money is a common cause of arguments for most couples.

What made it a mite unusual was we were arguing over what to do with money we didn’t have and were more than likely never going to get. This was the point in my life when I was beginning to sign movie contracts and although the option fees were always modest, the expected final fee would be a fair amount of money.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (you know, the people who are still trying to find out if actors really have sex in sex scenes) an option is a kind of promise by me not to sell the script to anyone else and allows a producer the rights for a fixed period of time (usually a year or two) to try and raise money to make the film.

Sometimes you get paid a percentage of the budget every year, sometimes you get a one off payment, sometimes you let them have it for next to nothing because no one else is interested in that script and it’s better to have someone else hawking your script than to have to do it yourself.

An option only really applies to a spec script, since (hopefully) you’ll be paid a reasonable fee for anything written on request.

Either way, on the first day of principle photography (the day when the actors start not really having sex with each other) you get the main bulk of your fee which will usually be between 2.5% and 4% of the film’s budget.

Or at least, that’s how it works in the shallow end of the pool. There are minimums you can expect to get paid, but in micro-budget land that can work out as more than the total budget for the film. At the other end of the scale, on a $200,000,000 film … I have no idea. 4% of 200,000,000 sounds like an awful lot of money, but good work if you can get it.

I can’t, in case you were wondering.

Or at least, not yet.

My, that was a long explanation considering the majority of people who read this blog are writers who already know all this. Some of you probably have a considerably better idea of how the system works than me, this is just my experience: sign an option for a pittance in the expectation of getting a shit-load of cash dumped on you in two years’ time.

Remember, at this point you still don’t really know what the budget will be – that’s something for the producer to decide when they go through the script. I’m sure they have a vague idea before they sign, but most of them are quite coy about telling you until they know for certain.

So some time after signing, you casually enquire what budget they’re hoping to raise. They tell you and you nod politely and allow the conversation to drift onto other matters.

On the way home you jump up and down, screaming with delight and punching the sky until a passing police officer asks you to stop.

And that’s when the arguments start.

Not with the police officer, with your partner. Unless your partner is a police officer.

Suddenly it seems you’re going to be very well off in exactly two years’ time.

What the hell do you spend the money on?

My first thought is always an Aston Martin, but realistically I think I’d have to really have run out of things to buy before I ever wasted over £100,000 on a car, no matter how pretty. Having said that, I’m pretty certain I could spend £30,000 on one of these, conscience free:

The arguments range from paying off the mortgage, retiring, expensive holidays, new houses, hiring someone to do the hoovering, the biggest fucking TV you’ve ever seen in your life … the list is endless.

So are the arguments.

Eventually it all reaches a kind of simmering resentful compromise where you both agree to pay off the mortgage but secretly keep one eye on the TV ads.

Before you know it, the two years are up and … nothing fucking happens.

The producer not only couldn’t raise the money, but seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Two years of arguing over non-existent money.

Brilliant, thanks a lot.

After the third or fourth time of this happening, you start to get a little wise. When someone tells you the budget, you don’t believe them. Or genuinely don’t care. Nothing is real until it happens, possibly not even then. There is nothing in this business which is worth getting excited about until you know for a fact it has already happened.

The future does not exist, ignore it and live for today.

Do you have a large sum of money in your bank account? No? Then there’s no point trying to spend it, is there?

I have strictly adhered to this philosophy for a few years now and I fully intend to stick to it for years to come.

Or at least I did.

Until a phone call a few days ago:

“Hi Phill, I’ve got director x interested in the film, only he doesn’t think the budget is realistic.”

Oh here we go, my imaginary fee is about to get cut in half.


“Yeah, but he knows some people who want to invest and we’re looking at £xx,xxx,xxx now.”

Holy fucking shit! That means I get … fuck, where’s that contract? What’s my percentage?







Of course, I’m no more likely to get this amount than I was to get the last amount. The smart money is still on there not being any money at all, ever; but … still.

Suffice it to say, the house is full of TV adverts and arguments once more.

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Writing and life | 3 Comments

Wrong Door bits

Ooh, look! Wrong Door on YouTube:







Categories: BBC, The Wrong Door | 12 Comments

The question I dread

I’ve finished the script, I’ve had a read through and tweaked it a bit. I like it, it works and it’s exactly what was asked for … so I send it in.

As a courtesy, I then phone the producer to let him know it’s in his inbox. He’s pleasantly surprised since I’ve delivered on or before the deadline and everyone else he’s working with is just dicking him around. You’d be amazed at how many Brownie points you earn by merely doing what you’ve said you’re going to do in the time you said you were going to do it.

‘Ah’, I hear you cry, ‘but you can’t rush the creative muse’.

‘Yes you can’, you hear me retaliate. Probably followed up with some swear words.

Anyway, I’m not talking about rushing something. I’m just talking about doing it in the time you said you would. Part of a writer’s skill is learning how long it takes you to write or re-write something. I have a habit of woefully underestimating how long a script takes and then working all night in a blind panic.

It’s not clever, but I’m getting better and that’s all anyone can ask.

So I’m on the phone to the producer, he’s excited and looking forward to reading the new script/draft … and then he asks me the question. The question I dread. The question I never have an answer for because, despite dreading it, I always forget he’s going to ask it*

“Are you happy with it?”

Fuck, he asked it again.

Am I happy with it?

Am I?

Am I really happy with it?

Hmm …

In the cold light of day, you’re probably thinking ‘YES! JUST SAY YES! If someone asks you that, you always just say yes. If you weren’t happy with it, why would you send it in?’

But then, I’m never truly happy with anything. I’m always aware that the script is merely the best I can do at this moment in time. A year from now, I’ll be a better writer and will look upon this script and be deeply embarrassed. If I’m not, I’ll be deeply embarrassed at how little I’ve progressed as a writer in a whole year.

Also, there are segments which had to be cut because no one liked them, but I felt defined the script. Sometimes something has to be cut for budgetary reasons and the replacement scenes just won’t be as spectacular. Perhaps the script HAS to be 90 pages and the 10 pages which got cut, whilst not necessary to the plot, really help the characters stand out.

For whatever reason, I’m never truly happy with a script. So the answer should be ‘No, I’m not; but then I never will be so just take it and leave me alone’.

But you can’t say that. Because, if I’m not happy with it, I shouldn’t be handing it in – that’s what he’ll say. So the answer, for the sake of simplicity, should just be a resounding ‘Yep’.

Except it’s not, because somewhere deep in my brain a little self-defence mechanism kicks in. If I tell him I’m happy with it, and he doesn’t like it, then I look stupid. If I tell him I’m happy with it, I’m admitting this is the best I can do and I’ve tried my hardest. If it’s not good enough, it means I’m not good enough. If I somehow hint it’s not perfect yet and still needs work, then any flaws he finds are deliberate flaws.

Sort of.

‘Phill? You still there?’

Bugger, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I’m happy about the script for over a minute. That’s a minute’s silence on the other end of the phone.

Aha! I could hang up and say I got cut off!

No, that’s no good, he’ll just ring me back and add mental fuel to his misguided belief there’s no mobile signal in the wild zone outside of the M25.

‘Sorry, what did you say?’

‘Are you happy with it?’

Damn it, he wants an answer. He wants me to commit to an actual answer. I have to make a decision.

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah. Sort of.’

Sort of? Sort of? What kind of fucking answer is that?

‘You don’t sound very happy.’

‘No, I am, but … well. I’ll let you read it and see what you think.’

Genius! If he doesn’t like it, he’ll respond with: ‘Yeah, I see what you mean’. If he does like it, he’ll just think I’m being a perfectionist writer. Either way, I win!

Sort of.

As questions go, it’s not really one which deserves much dread, let alone a whole blog post. Off the top of my head I can think of many, many questions which inspire much more dread; such as:

‘Left or right kneecap?’ from a man with a drill.


‘Is it in yet?’ from a supine naked lady.

But the fact remains, I’m not really getting much work done today and just wanted to witter on for a bit. Since I have now wittered, I can go back to wondering what the fuck the notes I scribbled down seven weeks ago actually mean. What is a CAMLANE? And why did I feel it warranted its own card on my board? Who nags the getaway driver? And why? And what the fuck is M’s box alarm?

To be honest, the question I’m dreading most right now is: ‘Have you finished that treatment yet?’

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah. Sort of.’


* Which probably proves I don’t dread it that much, or at least not for very long.

Oh wait, that’s nabs. It’s not a ‘g’, it’s a ‘b’. That makes sense now.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

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