H o l l y w o o d   D r e a m s
by Beverley Wood
Early Summer, 1997
Both ProdCo's, Toronto and Vancouver, had read our DogStar treatment and wanted to talk. Whoo-hoo! In my mind, I'm packing my bags (no one has ever accused me of being a pessimist). I immediately made each of them aware of the otherís interest, although not by name. Phone calls and emails and eventually meetings ensued. Everyone discussed what they saw for DogStar -- and we sized each other up. I was in a real quandary as I saw merits to running with each of them.
So, I bought Hollywood entertainment lawyer Mark Litwakís book, Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry and read it several times in a row, taking notes. Chris and I discussed our options and instincts extensively and realized pretty quickly that we were not qualified to negotiate this deal in our best interests. We love this story, but what is it worth as a movie? And to who? And how far could we go? How much should we ask for? Is a percentage of merchandising worth more than upfront money? What should we give up? What should we insist we keep? What can we negotiate and what is really not negotiable? (Can I co-produce?) In other words, we were in over our heads. And I hate that crap anyway.
While it is pretty much a given that you will get an agent without a lot of grief if you have a book and two ProdCos who want to take options on the movie rights, we were fortunate. A friend in Hong Kong gave us an introduction to a very well respected Canadian agent in Toronto who signed us almost on the spot (I met with her in person). And she would handle all negotiations from this point forward. Now it was creative again. I was free and I was very relieved. I let the ProdCo principals know that they could submit their offer directly to our agent. And then, things took a very disturbing turn indeed.
The west coast ProdCo objected to our changing the rules of the game in mid-play by signing an agent. And particularly a Toronto agent. Vancouver is a big movie town, but so is Toronto and T.O. actually tends to be more of the center of the movie universe, at least where the 'birth' of movies and deals are concerned. However, that is a touchy point with some West Coasters, as I was on my way to discovering. (Iím an East Coast Girl, itís my hometown and itís true. Bygones.)
24 hours later, the West Coast ProdCo presented us (not our agent) with a non-negotiable offer to option that had a 24-hour turn-around clause (it would be retracted in 24 hours if not responded to). I told them we would send it to our agent and get back to them. I have never been totally sure what happened with that relationship -- and still donít see how our acquiring an agent threatened the potential deal. I still had a lot to learn (not that Iím done yet).
We consulted with our agent and turned the (shot-gun, I felt) offer down, based on a range of factors. We proceeded to sign a six-month, renewable option to purchase with the Toronto ProdCo...after almost a full month of give-and-take adjustments to their original offer, completely through our agent and totally painless. In fact, it was pleasant and it was fun. I only want to do fun stuff. All the other stuff is why you have agents and lawyers.
The book was released in Canada in November, 1997 and in the US in the spring of 1998. We needed to turn the treatment into a script. We took the month of December off and wrote the script. We worked like dogs for three weeks (and it was fun). We had a detailed outline, which helped a lot -- plus we both work short deadlines with determination. We printed the completed script and Fed-Exed it to Toronto. I got a great email from the producer the next day. It simply said: "Good work. Very good work." And I was off in my mind doing the dream thing in a flash: now they had a script, and they liked it. Somethingís bound to crack! They had 2 months left on their original option -- but I am the eternal optimist (Sun in Saggitarius).
Highly unlikely in that period of time. But when you think about it, 'highly unlikely' is not a phrase that has any business in the repertoire of someone who has Hollywood Dreams. Of the thousands of scripts that are actually bought each year, from the hundreds of thousands available, less than 400 are actually made. So what made me so sure that DogStar is a movie? Well, if the first Hollywood rule is that Nobody knows anything, then itís safe to assume that nobody knows any more than I do (right?). I had great faith and great heart. I still do...but with each option I get older and wiser.
NEXT > : How many damn options does it take to get a movie made anyway?