What is an option deal?

Ever since the Headline Publishing Group announced that the film rights to THE HUNTERS were optioned, I’ve been asked the same two questions over and over again:

1) Who will be starring in the film?
2) What the hell is an option deal?

It’s way too early to answer #1. Even if I knew who will be in the movie, I’m not allowed to reveal anything until I’m given permission by the production team, which is led by
Piers Tempest and Jo Bamford but also includes Mark Huffam (Prometheus) and Chris Clark (Johnny English). And that isn’t going to happen with major news until the details are announced to the worldwide media. My website might be popular, but it doesn’t have the readership of the New York Times—or the graffiti in the men’s room at my local Hooters.

As for question #2, that’s a great topic for today. In the film industry, an option deal is a contractual agreement between a writer (like me) who holds ownership of a book (like
THE HUNTERS) and a film producer (in this case, Tempo).

The option agreement details the tasks that a producer must complete to initiate the movie-making process—including financing, talent, and a hell of a lot more—and it sets the specific length of time that the producer has to accomplish those tasks. In exchange, the person (me) owning the property gives the producer exclusive rights to the material for the duration of the option agreement. If a project takes longer than expected, an option deal can be renewed by the same producer for another year or two. Of course, if the producer decides to part ways with a project (for whatever reason), the same book can be optioned by a different producer, who is then given another window of time to get the film together.

Believe it or not, this happens a lot. I know many authors who have made a small fortune by optioning the same books over and over again without a movie being made. For writing icons like James Patterson or John Grisham, most of their books are optioned
before they are even published because filmmakers know that they will be instant bestsellers. With that in mind, how many of their books have actually been made into films? Maybe ten percent. That means the other ninety percent of their books have been optioned multiple times over the years. After a while, that money adds up!

Most of the time, book options aren’t announced to the general public unless a project has a lot of momentum going for it. And thankfully that’s what happened with
THE HUNTERS. I was first contacted by Piers in March 2013, but we didn’t divulge anything about the option deal until April 2014—more than a year after our initial conversation.

So, why did we finally decide to announce the deal?

I’ll talk about that in a future blog....