Options area popular in filmmaking, but not always the best option for writers. An option is an agreement for an intellectual property that is similar to a lease for a car. The rights are not purchased; rather the option has the exclusive right to purchase the work or intellectual property. Most things of authorship can have “options.”
The reason that options can cause problems for authors is that it ties up their work for a certain period of time and usually for a small amount of money. Many movies or intellectual property get a start towards principle photography and then there is a slowing down for any number of reasons; attachment of cast , directors or producers, studio involvement, failure to clear Error & Omission (E&O) Insurance, financial trouble and many other things during the packaging process.
You can think of the word option synonymous with the word opportunity. Depending on the situation is the outcome of who gains the opportunity.
Packaging refers to the time where the agreements in the initial stages are completed. This can include everything or some of the following:
- Business Plan
- Director Attachment
- One or two lead cast
- Deal Memos
- Copyright Assignment, Sale of Script or Option
These are usually the “short” or informal contracts.
Since all of the contracts are contingent with an option, it is often to the benefit of the studios or producers to option property and sit on it and then option it again. This way the studio has tied up the intellectual property and taken it off the market.