Deal Terminology: What's 'Against' Mean?
By Skip Press
Dollars and Sense
~~ Monica P. asks: What does it mean to be offered $XX 'against' $YYY, for your screenplay? For example, does one price 'against' another mean that the writer is paid $XX now, with an additional $YYY later if the film is actually produced? Or does it mean that you'll either be paid one or the other amount? What does it mean 'an initial 12-month option agreement against a potential $100,000 purchase price.' Can you please explain just what 'against' means there?
~~ Skip Press responds: I suggest you study the Writers Guild 'Schedule of Minimums' (www.wga.org) if you haven't already. There are rules of payment that WGA-signatory producers have to follow.
When you see a mention in the trades (Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety) saying a script has been optioned $100,000 against $300,000, that means (roughly) that the writer receives $100,000 now -- but that 'now' usually includes a rewrite and another rewrite that they will call a 'polish' (per WGA rules) -- and then on the FIRST DAY OF PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY (the very first day they start shooting the movie with the main actors), the writer receives the rest of the
And naturally, there are a jillion variables that can come into play. For example, some of the 'extra' money might depend on how large the budget gets to be. I hope that gives you a suitable answer.