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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
money ($200,000).

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.

Meet the Author: Skip Press