IFH 242: Indie Film Producing Masterclass – How to Option a Screenplay with Suzanne Lyons



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In today’s episode, I’ll be giving you a sneak peek of producer Suzanne Lyons’ new course Indie Film Producing Masterclass. This is part one of two so enjoy this look inside the best selling indie producing course.

How do you legally option a screenplay? What are the agreements you need? Suzanne goes over everything you need to know in this episode. Enjoy!

Here’s some info on the Indie Film Producing Masterclass:

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to produce an independent film? How raise money, dealing with contracts, SAG agreements and putting together sales presentations for investors? Then this masterclass is for you.

Award-winning film producer Suzanne Lyons is about to take you from script to screen and beyond in this Mastermind workshop. After producing a number of bigger budget features Suzanne thought producing the SAG ultra-low and modified budget films would be a piece of cake. Boy, was she wrong? Wearing 100 different hats was a challenge and she learned so much. And now she will be sharing all that great info with you.

In this Mastermind workshop, you’ll learn from her experience and benefit from her success. Suzanne will take you through a structured crystal, clear step by step process that will actually make low budget filmmaking easy and fun!

This workshop is unique in that it will literally guide you through the entire process of making your film. From her own hands-on experience, she will be addressing every detailed facet of filmmaking.

“Suzanne has that rare ability to combine artistic creativity and smart business sense… she’s proven that by taking a SAG ultra-low budget and somehow squeezing out a quality film that looks like it cost a million!”
Academy Award® Winner Mark L. Smith, Writer/Director “Séance” Writer, “The Revenant”

“Suzanne is brilliant… take her workshop and put her suggestions to work and you’ll be amazed at the extraordinary results you’ll produce.”
Ross Grayson Bell, Producer “Fight Club”

From option a screenplay, development, designing your business plan, opening your film company, hiring your line producer and director. Finessing your budget, schedule and film timeline. Being smart about contracts and paperwork. Casting and working with actors. The details of pre, principle, and post, choosing your sales agent, preparing for film delivery and festivals, and so so so much more.

You’ll also get a BONUS PACK of the real world used contracts, agreements and business plans word and PDF worth over thousands.

Alex Ferrari 0:41
Today, guys, I have a treat for you. I'm going to do a two part sneak preview of Suzanne Lyons indie film producing masterclass. And I really wanted to share some of the amazing knowledge that she has in this course with you guys by giving you free lessons for you to hear. So today's lesson you're going to listen to is how to optioned a screenplay, which I know is very mysterious to a lot of people listening out there who are trying to make a movie, and they want to go out and try to get a screenplay to produce that movie instead of trying to write one themselves. And Suzanne lays it all out for you guys. So at the end of the episode, I will give you a link to get access to the indie film producing masterclass. But until then, enjoy this sneak preview with Suzanne Lyons.

Suzanne Lyons 2:51
So what we're going to do and what I did here, I'm going to bring this over here, Alex, so I don't have to keep moving about his first things first, right. Like I said, what we're going to do is take one little piece at a time, we're going to option the screenplay. And what some of you were thinking already is, Oh, I can't. I can't. It's my best friend. That would be like, weird. I can't ask my best friend. sign off on this. Lady, you know, that's just rude. Or it's my brother. I'm gonna have my brother like sign a contract and agreement. That's, that's weird. Right? One of my friends didn't take the class. Didn't need to sort of been around the industry for a long time haven't produced or been in other aspects, but don't need it. Don't need it. Two years later, she called me from Cannes saying into somebody who read the book. I think the stories in the book here to Susan, she was crying. There's a sales agent who wants to buy Daniel to take on the movie to sell it. Nice. Oh, that's what you're crying Oh, congratulations. She said no. The problem is she said they asked for the chain of title information. You know, the option and then transfer of the of the right of the of the ownership. And she said, and I don't have that. And I said, What do you mean? I said, I think you were making your move two years ago. As I recall, this was all like, oh, man, that option would have been done two years ago. Well, no, she said it was my best friend. I didn't want to, you know, bother her was signing something. Well turned out. She in the director I had a fight shortly after. And she said the movie could burn in hell. For all she cared. And that's about 10 years ago. And it's continuing well to burn in hell, right? Because no chain of title, no movie ain't gonna happen. She didn't even have a relationship with a best friend anymore. You know what I mean? So it's not even like it was worth it. And here's the thing, guys, if it's your own visa, I don't care. I really don't Care it can happen or not, or it can burn an L for as long as they're, you know, whatever, I don't care. If it's your visa, I really don't. The minute you start selling units and shares, you are a business person, you're opening your LLC, you've got your ppm, you've got legal documents. And now I'm going to my dentist, and getting selling him a unit on you don't get to play the game of home note with my friend, I didn't want her to sign. I had another person whose budget was 300,000. And those were investors, just one or two. That's a lot of money. I don't care how rich you are, that's still a lot of money. And didn't take the class until after that movie. And I gotta tell you, that movie will never be seen because she had no clearance report ever, ever, ever on the script, no script clearance. There are Coca Cola cans, flying everywhere. There's every product known to man, there's license plates, there's people's last name, who've done bad things. But you know, there's everything that you cannot do in a movie. And, you know, that's so so I'm thinking once again, if that was her visa, and some of you are thinking, Oh, Susanna, CGI, you know, just when to post? Well, that was a few years ago, not as easy, but even then we're not talking about one Coca Cola cans sitting there. We're talking about, you know, 10 of them moving around, you know, you have to read just read through the movie, right? But that's somebody else's money, like it's a business. So this is really important without this piece without this first piece in your binder. There's no movie. Okay, so let me tell you a couple little stories about that. It's the option agreement. Yeah. I don't care about your mom wrote the script. I don't care. I don't care. I don't trust her. But same thing, if it's your own. Okay, good. One. Good, good one. Natalie, that was really good. What's Natalie was saying is what if it's your own? What if you wrote the script, you still have to do the option agreement, okay. You still have to because it's part of delivery, which we're going to get to in a second as well. So this one here that I did is I did two today you're going to have to in your binder. This one is one that I've done for a whole ton of indie low budget, StG ultralow movies, easy peasy, or even say modified. Easy peasy. So let's just look at it a little bit. Now this price is a little high, I was paying $5,000. For the script, which I don't do, obviously, until first day of principle, or the first day of free, usually the first day of free just because, um, you know, want to make sure that I can then start the transfer. But what I did is I even offered a couple of points, which was a lot of points. You know, ordinarily, I wouldn't do that many points, because a lot of times and you're saying, Oh Suzanne, you're being so mean, and you're being so stingy. I'm not, I just want you to know, I am the most generous person. I know, I always stand in generosity, graciousness and abundance when I'm doing agreements. And when I'm doing my business plan, that's always where I stand. And Kate was to say my partner was phenomenal. And in this respect, but what I'm saying is, a lot of the times you're dealing with new writers and new directors, so you're really giving them really a check for $200,000. Because this is going to be their chance to be on the screen or on the DVD or on the VOD or whatever, right? So I would not feel too badly where you want the money to go guys is on the screen, you really want it on the screen, especially the same goes for law, you don't have a lot of room to play around. So I probably would do more like two and a half percent or 2%. And, you know, for the director, I'd made me you know, like 202,500 and the writer probably 2500 or whatever. So it's not about that the only movie you'll probably money you'll ever see is in the back end. So you got to keep as much as you can, because you also need to keep as much as you can, because you might need that that name actor. And that is done up. You know for name actors, I've done up to 7.5% of the back end of the year. It was a big name but I needed that that was in the pre sale days back years ago, where we did pre sales, I needed his name to sell the territory's in the pre sales. Sometimes you need that neighbor nowadays you need it just to sell after the fact. Right? Yeah, most of you scale the the back end participation based on the total budget of the dome, as well as the talents, celebrity status or know what I'm saying is a lot of times in the lower budgets, your you know, it's their first opportunity anyway, so it's not like they'd necessarily be expecting, you know, a 5% you might need that 5% for your lead actor. Would you scale it up or down based on the total budget of the film? No, not necessarily. Not necessarily. It not sometimes if the right now I'm working with Mark Smith, that's a different story. Yes, it's, you know, it's going to be a lower budget. I did a mark Smith, you know, he did well, that got three Academy Awards, The Revenant. And he's working on with JJ Abrams right now on another project. But the one I'm working on right now is with with Mark. So even though, you know, the budget might be lower, it's not a JJ Abrams, he's not going to get the same back end, as JJ would be giving him on that studio film, for example, or that he got on The Revenant. And he knows that. So it's, it's kind of like, you might need to save that. In our case, I probably need to say for the actor, or the director, if it's a real this particular one I'm doing with Mark is a very director driven. So you know, so just be careful with that. Honestly, I have Oh, my God. I've been with people who have given away 10% not net gross to their production designer, trying to remember the meeting I was sitting in where I couldn't breathe for like five minutes, because I couldn't believe it. I remember I was sitting was my own office, because I was doing a private, I was doing a private One of these was like four or five people. And I was so I was going over this section. And he said, Well, there's not that many points left. And he said, we've already brought on some of our team. So I said like, goo God, like it's like 10%. Like what you bring up? Well, you know, for our production designer, Suzanne, like, you know, he's He's really good. And I'm going, Oh, my God on a $200,000 movie. And then he told me, it was gross. And then I went through, you know what he had over pointed? Like, there was no more points, like there. Yeah, like he was in the mood. He was in the negative points, because 50% of the points sometimes 60. So be very careful. Or with your investor, usually, it's a 5050. Right, he had given away some of the investors back end. So just be careful, because I know sometimes we're laughing and shaking her head. But you know, it's like, sometimes it's like, oh, shit, I shouldn't have done that I or whatever. Like, we'll get caught ourselves in something not as crazy as that. But you know, so just be careful with that. Here's the Yes.

Guest 12:01
When it comes to a documentary, when you don't necessarily have a script, to protect yourself with the risk of whatever could happen whether that person walks away. Is there a way that you can kind of protect yourself with a documentary sort of story of documentary?

Suzanne Lyons 12:17
II? What Jonathan, is there a way to protect yourself with a documentary story? And you mean, in what way the person who has the life story

Guest 12:22
I guess we've got a script, obviously, then you can auction that script is That's right. That's urllc. Right. life story, and you're doing a documentary. Awesome. Is there any way that

Suzanne Lyons 12:32
I would still do the right? The like a did the like it like a book option? You know, the life Right, right. Okay. I did I yes, I did that one too. Okay. I actually have a sample of that. I brought some different samples of things today. The life rights. We did that one time when we were doing a Lifetime movie. So we did the we got the rights from the woman. Amazing, amazing story. And it was from her. So we were the exclusive. Yeah. And you'll know more about you're dealing your mentor is the producer was going to be the producer on that. Did you get in touch with the con? Okay, I gave you her information. Okay. Is that clear? So yeah, there we go it because the other thing is what if it's a book or within this great book, you know what I wrote the script for it. I have that going on right now. And you know, I've got the script for it. But now I need to go and get the rights to the book. Well, guess what happens? The agent for the book writer said, No, thanks. Just like that gone.

Alex Ferrari 13:36
I hope you guys enjoyed that sneak preview. If you want to get access to the course just head over to producing masterclass calm, and I tell you it is an amazing, amazing course. And next week, I'm going to put out one more sneak preview covering another topic, but Suzanne really goes deep into all this kind of stuff. And if you are even thinking about making an independent film or a micro budget film, this really really has a ton of information in it, as well as all the contracts all the agreements that you need in PDF and in Word files, so you can adjust them and change them to your own production. It's worth 1000s and 1000s of dollars so it's really really a great deal. So just head over to producing masterclass comm and check it out. Also guys, I have an announcement I am currently writing a book and I'm throwing that out into the universe because I need you guys to hold me to it and and now that I put it out into the universe, I have to finish this thing. It is a beast of a book and I can't tell you what I'm writing about just yet just know it is going to hopefully rock you guys world. I really am excited about it. So I hope to have that book done by years and and release it by the fall or winter. And we will be talking much more about that in the coming months as Well, I just wanted to put that out there. And it's an update on a corner view one desire, we have submitted to a few festivals, we are going down the festival circuit to see if we can get any attention from the festivals before we start releasing it, seeing if we can get any action on it. And just see what we could do with it. But there will be a new trailer coming out soon for that as well, that I'll be working on over the next month or so. So you guys could see a little bit more of the movie because I've been getting a ton of emails like where where can we see it? When can we see it where I want to see it? I want to buy it. Soon, my friends soon, I promise you. But thank you again so much for all your support, guys. And don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast comm and sign up and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave us a five star review. Please, it really does help out the podcast a lot. Thank you again so much. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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