In 20 years, 1993-2013, I wrote 17 screenplays start to finish (some of them rewrites **); I got paid SOMETHING for almost all of them. I wrote a short in 1997 (my first money!), signed with an agent and had my best year (3 screenplays commissioned) in 98. (Which is also when I bought the cottage in Mistley that I now live in…) The 90s were great, with so much money slopping around.
For Good I was SUPPOSED to get £100,000, the final part paid on the first day of principal photography. But I blinked at the wrong moment when the budget – always under what they wanted – was being finalised, and took ‘profits’ and £57,000, in the end, in ‘cash’. Needless to say, the ‘profits‘ never materialised. And bearing in mind it had taken 4.5 years of rewriting Good (terrible title! I drew up a list of about 100 alternatives…), it worked out about £12,000 a year. *
After the 2008 recession I had to take a part time subbing job. People were still interested in my scripts, but the deal now was: write it, and then we’ll see. For Liability, they wanted to give me nothing, only ‘profits’, but I’d been there before – and so had my agent, who got me £15,000. Plus ‘profits’ – which, of course, never materialised either. (Weird, considering the budget was only £500k… But then movie business accounting…)
After I had the stroke, I (finally) got paid in full for my work on United Kingdom (formerly Colour Bar), which I’d written a script for in 2010 and heard nothing about. (It was, bizarrely for such a British period movie, produced out of L.A. at the time, so suing them would – I found – not have been a serious option. Though I did look into it…) Eventually another project about the same thing got lucky – and signed up MY producers (just to avoid THEM suing…). I eventually got around £25k in total.
And I also get less than a grand each year from ALCS, mostly from Spain, the only country where Good was a hit. (They LOVE Viggo, because he speaks Spanish ‘like a native’, having been brought up in Argentina…)
I thought ‘this will be the one‘ 17 times. I was right twice – or right-ish, because both my films were flops...
* In R’s ‘novel’ I get a cameo, saying of Good: ‘The title was a hostage to fortune.’
** And one short, Magic Moments (1997), for which I got paid my first screenplay cheque, £300!