Also referred to as an “overall first-look deal”, this is basically a first look deal except anything that the producer develops while under this agreement must stay within the studio and cannot be taken elsewhere even if the studio passes. In return, the studio will pay an annual fee to the producer and cover all of his/her overhead costs.
Let’s say you just directed a film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, or you’re an actor attached to a film that did gangbusters in the box office, or you’re the creator of a nationally syndicated TV show. You are what we call a PROVEN TALENT. The studios and TV networks need people like you to create content for them and hedge their risk in this volatile business. To do this, they will offer you a first-look deal.
This is an agreement that’s made between an above-the-line talent and a movie studio, network, TV studio or production company (for simplicity sake, let’s call this “the company”). Most A-list actors, directors, producers and writers have an overall deal. This agreement basically states that the talent must allow the company right of first refusal to produce, finance and/or distribute any of their projects. In other words, the company gets first dibs on anything the talent develops. If the company passes on the project, the talent is free to shop that project elsewhere. In return for this arrangement, the company will pay the talent and annual fee and cover all their overhead expenses to run their company. If it’s a movie studio, the company will provide office space and other amenities on the lot. Another benefit for the talent that the company will funnel all their property to them. So if the company acquires a huge property, they’ll approach their talent with overall deals first. For example, Disney owns THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and since Jerry Bruckheimer has an overall deal with them, they will go to him first to produce the film. Or when Paramount acquired Transformers, the first person up for the job was Michael Bay since he had a first look deal with the studio.
NOTE: This is different from an overall deal where anything the producer develops must stay within the studio and can’t be taken elsewhere even if they pass.
If you want a quick reference on where the latest overall movie studio deals are, search Variety for their latest “Facts On Pacts”.
Here are some overall deals you should know:
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Boxing Cat Films (Tim Allen)
POW! Entertainment (Stan Lee)
Mark Gordon Company
Appian Way (Leonardo DiCaprio)
Carousel Productions (Steve Carell)
Green Hat Films (Todd Phillips)
MalPaso (Clint Eastwood)
Life’s Too Short (Chuck Lorre)
Lin Pictures (Dan Lin)
Ninjas Runnin’ Wild (Zac Efron)
Pearl Street (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon)
Revelations (Morgan Freeman)
22nd & Indiana (Bradley Cooper)
Aggregate (Jason Bateman)
Apatow Productions (Judd Apatow)
Blumouse Productions (Jason Blum)
ImageMovers (Robert Zemeckis)
Imagine Entertainment (Brian Grazer, Ron Howard)
K/O Paper Products (Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci)
One Race Films (Vin Diesel)
Wild Wild West Picture Show (Vince Vaughn)
Happy Madison (Adam Sandler)
Overbrook Entertainment (Will Smith)
Scott Rudin Productions
Smoke House (George Clooney)
Syco (Simon Cowell)
Trigger Street (Kevin Spacey)
Hey Eddie (Kevin James)
Laurence Mark Productions
Original Film (Neal Moritz)
20th Century Fox
Bad Hat Harry Productions (Bryan Singer)
Film Rites (Steve Zaillian)
Lightstorm (James Cameron)
Peter Chernin Film
Red Hour Films (Ben Stiller)
Scott Free (Ridley Scott)
Plan B (Brad Pitt)
Bad Robot ( JJ Abrams)
Di Bonaventura Pictures
Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay)
Sikelia Productions (Martin Scorsese)
Four By Two Films (Sacha Baron Cohen)
Tyler Perry Productions
If you want to avoid the studio system, explore the world of independent film making, here are some statistics/facts from this year’s Sundance Film Festival – one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. I’m by no means discouraging independent films. I absolutely love independent films and feel like the studios are putting out more and more garbage every year. However, independent film making is a difficult and risky industry, and I hope these numbers allow you to have a bit of perspective when it comes to this grueling industry.
– Over 5000 films were submitted into Sundance. Under 300 we chosen
– 38 out of 300 films were sold to distributors. 28 Features, 10 documentaries.
– 4 films were sold for more than 3 million dollars. 2 of these were sold as remake rights
– 2 out of those 4 films sold for more than their budget.
– All the films that sold for $750K or more had cast that previously played leading roles in studio films.
To summarize, of all the films submitted into Sundance, 0.0076% earned revenue, and 0.0004% made a profit. That isn’t to say that the 0.0076% won’t go on to make money, but the point is that if you want to pursue independent film making, the odds are definitely against you if you rely on festivals to recoup costs and make profit.
When we here this term, we normally think arthouse, film festival, and cheap. This can be true for most independent films, however, not all independent films will share these characteristics. To put it simply, an independent film is a film that is financed outside of the traditional studio system. In other words, the money to finance the film came from a place/person other than a studio. In most cases, independent filmmakers have to find distributors on their own. This could be a major studio, but often times independent filmmakers have to find other means to distribute their films.
The readers are at the bottom of the studio hierarchy. Their job is – you guessed it – to read material. They are given, books, scripts, and articles to read, and once they have read them, they write coverage on them. The coverage will be used as an initial reference point for studio executives who have not read the piece of material being covered. Becoming a reader is a great way to start working in the entertainment industry as it allows you to not only work with executives, but it also allows you to learn the craft of story telling. To learn more about how to become a reader click here.
Today, the studios stand as the mainstream of filmmaking in North America. They are the primary source for obtaining funds and distribution for films. Their sole purpose is to find commercial material for a film, attach the right talent to that material, produce the film, market the film, and distribute the film. The studios usually own the rights to the property, and their primary method of generating revenue is from box-office ticket sales. Studios are situated on a large piece of land on which sound stages are built on. These sound stages are constantly being used to house movie-sets where most of the off-location scenes are shot. Currently there are 6 major studios in North America: Universal, Warner Brothers, Sony, Disney, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox. There are also smaller studios known as mini-majors which include MGM, Lionsgate, and Summit Entertainment. As a film producer, your goal is to have a studio fund and distribute your film. You also want the studio to hire you as the producer, however, the studio system rarely attaches inexperience producers to their projects. The mere existence of independent films is a result of the studios’ reluctance to work with new producers. Within the studios, like any other business or company, there is a many divisions and in each division there is a hierarchy of employees. There are four main divisions within a studio: development, physical production, business affairs, and marketing.
This term can be confusing as it has nothing to do with renting movies. This is portion of the box office revenue paid by the theatres to the distributor. This percentage will vary depending on the deal that is made for a particular film. Most of the time the box office revenue is split 50/50 between the theatres and studios, however there cases where the studio will receive a higher percentage on the opening weekend, or the first week of release.