Monday, October 17, 2005

Selling the rights

While novelists might dream that selling film rights will bring fame and fortune, the reality is normally more mundane, reports Danuta Keane in The Times.
Iain Banks sold rights to The Wasp Factory and ended up with no film and in litigation to get them back. In 2004 the $47 million production of Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever, starring Jude Law, was set to be the biggest British film of the year until it was pulled four days before shooting when a tax incentive closed.

It is a seam of rich disappointment for authors, not least because that seven-figure deal rarely materialises. Most receive only £500, because what is sold is an option, not the rights. For a fixed period, options give a producer exclusive rights to develop the project. If investors are wooed, they acquire the rights, calculated at between 1 and 5 per cent of the film’s budget; so on a £50 million film, an author stands to make up to £2.5 million. But authors should curb their enthusiasm, according to the screen agent Julian Friedman. “The percentage of books that make it to the screen is tiny, there are maybe only 2 per cent where rights are purchased.”

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