1. Why does Blogger’s word verification function, despite being a self-proclaimed word verification fuction, not use actual words? Because last time I looked in a dictionary (which, if anyone’s interested, was earlier today, when my husband challenged my use of the word trinary, as in a trinary star system, saying it should be ternary, when in fact they’re synonyms, and anyway trinary sounds better), neither mandesh nor gyzate were present, despite their sounding like reasonable descriptions of the kind of wound left by aggressive dentures and a flegeling newspaper, respectively. Tres Douglas Adams. Now there’s a man who would’ve appreciated the word trinary, Zarquon bless him!

2. What, exactly, does ‘optioning’ mean, as per the sentence: Peter Jackson has optioned Naomi Novik”s Temeraire books? Because, three years old though this news may be, it was mentioned again in this week’s A2 section of the Age, in a demi-review of the latest volume, Victory of Eagles. (Which I haven’t read yet. So anyone who has: shut up.) Point being, it sounds exactly like the sort of thing Hollywood types say when expressing their opinion outside the holy sanction of a studio greenlight. Like rogue priests preaching radical doctrine, any director, producer or studio executive who enjoys a work of adaptable fiction is ultimately subject to a higher authority, their statements reported through ever-murkening channels until men in red capes with an excess of expensive jewelery summon them to the Holy See (Las Angeles) and there demand a reckoning. Bastards.

3. Jesus toast? Good gravy, world, I thought we were past this. The bread in question looks more like a lopsided scrotum than the son of God, and even when you factory in its edibility, that’s still not saying much. The fact that someone was willing to trade for, and I quote, “a sack of onions that looks like Madonna” (oh, New Idea, where is thy sting?) should be a dead giveaway. Personally, I’d  take the twenty bucks, have done with it and run cackling into the night. But that’s just me.

4. The new Mother energy drink ads. Am I the only one, or is there something bizarrely post-modern about the idea of an energy drink manufacturer making a product which, only belatedly and thanks to complaints, did they realise tasted like complete arse, prompting them to make  a new version, which they then marketed with a series of quasi-violent ads, which specifically mentioned the previous complaints, which they then subsequently retracted and redrew with stick figures on the basis of yet more complaints? And, yes, that was a hideously long sentence, but just think of it: an energy drink that apologises for sucking while trying to sell itself to a demographic which, according to the same marketeers who produced a bad product in the first place, respond best to violence and aggro? Send for a philosopher. (Or, you know, maybe someone at Mother could try the thing before selling it. Just an idea.)

Here endeth the lesson.

  1. I can only help with optioning. Although “help” is… optimistic.

    The first thing you need to know is that film industry contracts are non-standard. This is one of the weird things about films. The term “gross profit” will be defined in different ways in different contracts, which is why writers often make no money when they think they are entitled to lots.

    Very sad.

    Anyway, the term “option” can be a verb or a noun, and is relatively fixed. Relative to, say, “participation in gross profit”. Or indeed, if you’re making the Watchmen movie, “ownership”.

    Very sad.

    Anyway… optioning is pretty normal and not notionally evil. It’s a a deal-maker’s charter. Let’s say you write a script and I think it’s the next big thing. Trouble is, the industry is sucky. It’s suckiness is the stuff of legend. The industry may say something like “Dude, that is soooo last year” and refuse to get into this movie with me. Who can know? Or worse yet, the industry may love the script, but hate me, or my director, or my lead actor. Or there could be a financial crisis or the VP i/c A&M has a 5pm to check his PSA, and can’t make the meeting.

    Very sad.

    So I option the script. I pay a certain amount to you, for the right to tout it around, get a new draft from you or another writer, get actors and directors to look at it, and generally behave as if I own it. BUT I don’t. If the movie happens, I have to “exercise the option” – meaning I owe you more money. Usually lots more money. If nothing happens, you get it back.

    Sort of.

    You get it back, but with all my costs stuck on it. So if I paid $100,000 for Christopher Nolan to work on it, that $100,000 is now owed by the whoever finally makes the movie to me. They’re paying back what I paid out to take the script to the wrong guy. It can get… impossibly expensive. A movie with an estimated real cost of $30m could have $5m extra in development fees and so on tied to it. In that case, it will almost certainly never get made.

    Very sad.

    And indeed, this huge appalling maze is what’s messing with Watchmen. There’s an article in the LA Times about exactly what’s gone awry, but basically, in the long chain of part-ownerships and shares and options and rights deals, the wheels have come off and now everyone thinks they own the money. Sorry, movie.

    Guess what?

    Very sad…

  2. I should point out that Christopher Nolan is

    a) an excellent director and in this example any fault would be mine entirely,


    b) massively more expensive than that.

  3. fozmeadows says:

    Ah, sweet Holywood unclarity – how murky are thy depths! Thanks for the explanation, Nick. It makes me think of the Las Angeles skyline as serving a similar purpose to the fluorescent lights on one of those abyss-dwelling, ugly-as-get-out, bloated, distended, spines-a-demony fish, which use their scintillating prettiness to attract smaller, more hapless fish, which then get eaten. How’s that for a metaphor?

  4. bejewell says:

    My last job was writing trivia questions for an online game. The owners were the proud folks who’d spent $28,000 for the famous grilled cheese sandwich with (supposedly) the mother Mary burnt into the bread. It was kept in a glass case in our office and they often sent it out on road shows with other crazy items they’d bought, like a $2,000 corn flake that was (supposedly, again) shaped like Illinois and Marilyn Monroe’s diary.

    They bought all of this stuff for the publicity. It worked. News stations fell all over themselves trying to get interviews.

    Also, it was totally cool. I had my picture taken with the grilled cheese, the corn flake, wearing Richie Cunningham’s letter jacket, and wearing the hat Jack Ruby was wearing when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

    Coolest job ever. If they’d actually paid me anything, I’d still be there. Probably reading Marilyn Monroe’s diary again.

  5. fozmeadows says:

    That is totally awesome. Teach me your job fu!

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