Thursday, August 31, 2006

Money, Comics, Movies

I just read a column by comics writer Mark Millar mulling the future of the industry and the way some/most comics writers are also working in film and television. No argument there, but I was a little surprised by the dollar figures Mark tossed around re: option payments and etc. Specifically this quote: "A self-contained three issue mini-series is now enough to get you a movie deal and, even if you aren’t writing the screenplay yourself, you can expect anything from 500,000 dollars to even a million for single picture rights, the same again for sequels and prequels and that’s not even counting DVDs, TV rights and merchandise."

Now, I am not privy to Mark's personal finances, and if he's managed to secure that kind of advance for one of his properties, more power to him. But numbers like that are certainly not the norm, especially for self-published and/or creator-owned properties. In fact, I suspect that once you pull Frank "Sin City, 300" Miller out of the equation, nobody's getting that kind of green just for optioning a property.

Indeed, in my experience, the biggest guaranteed up-front payment comes from actually writing the screenplay. You get that whether the movie's made or not. So when I was breaking into the business, that was always a drop-dead negotiating issue. You want my property, I write the screenplay.

All of which is a long way of saying that an up-front option (essentially putting a hold on the property for a set period of time, anywhere from four months to years, while the producer tries to set up the project) for the underlying rights to a comic book property is usually much, much lower than Mark's figures. These six and seven figure payoffs only occur only when the movie/TV show is produced. Meaning you may get, say, a $25,000 option payment against $500,000/$1mil/name-the-insane number if the movie is eventually produced. But as is well known, the chasm between "optioned" and "produced" can be wide indeed. For most folks, that initial option payment is the only cash they're ever going to see...


Blogger Christopher Mills said...

If I'd gotten that sort of money for my option, I wouldn't still be eating WalMart hamburger helper and living without cable.

Apparently, I've been screwed.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Timewalker said...

No doubt those numbers are, uhmm, unusual.
What got optioned, Chris? Femme Noir?

7:37 AM  

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