Just under a week ago RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag episode for Annabelle: Creation dropped on YouTube. What’s more fascinating than the review of the film itself is Mike and Jay talking about the My Annabelle Creation contest. The idea of the contest was for up and coming filmmakers to craft a short film set within the “Conjuring” universe. The winner of the contest was awarded a meeting with New Line execs and director David F. Sandberg about developing the short into a feature length film in the vein of the Conjuring film universe. On the surface it sounds like a fantastic idea, until Mike pulls out some of the fine print from the contest’s rules and found some pretty shady details. In this article I wanted to take a look at this controversy, what’s been said by others since the RLM review, and what it all could mean. So, without further ado let’s get to it.
-What’s the Big Deal?-
Within the rules of the contest the studio is given a three year option to make a feature length version of the film for fifty dollars. If the option is exorcised with the three year time frame another fifty dollars will be paid to the creator. This in and of itself is a rather shady deal. A typical option on other material (i.e. A script, novel, comic) lasts from twelve to eighteen months with a claus to extend the option by three to six months. Even if a film has an eighteen month option extended for the additional six that’s a still a year less than the contest’s.
In addition to the exclusivity of the option let’s look at the monetary amount provided for said option. Fifty dollars is not only insultingly low by typical standard option prices, but it makes the purchase price even worse. A typical option for a non-WGA affiliated writer tends to be around a couple thousand dollars. Not much, but still more than fifty. But an option’s price is often a percentage of what the purchase price will be. Example, your option could be $1,000 or ten percent of the purchase price. Making the script’s sale around $10,000. That mean’s that Annabelle: Creation’s option is 100% of the purchase price.
-What are the Best/Worst Case Scenarios?-
From the looks of everything presented New Line holds all the cards in this deal. Although if we play the Devil’s advocate there are “potential” perks for winner Julian Terry and his short The Nurse. The best case scenario would be that Terry gets to move forward crafting a feature length film based off The Nurse. Along with his debut film being studio produced it could include a strong marketing campaign and wide theatrical release. Not bad for a director’s first feature length film.
Even if the studio decides not move forward with the feature that doesn’t mean Terry is out of luck. Winning this contest has raised his profile to the point where he has been in contact with multiple talent managers. Anyone struggling to break into studio filmmaking knows how big of a coup it is to get a manager. This gives Terry the ability to get other projects he’s working on off the ground. I have no doubt other studios/producers have seen The Nurse and would be interested in bringing Terry in to direct a film for them. Still not a bad deal.
The worst case scenario would be to see New Line take The Nurse and develop the feature length version without Terry’s involvement. In that case he’s left with a hundred dollars and watching from the sidelines as The Nurse gets made. The cynic in me sees how this could happen, but the optimist in me wants to hope that Terry has an ally in his corner. David F. Sandberg has come out after the controversy stirred up stating that he’s talking with New Line to clarify the agreement. Sandberg’s short Lights Out was optioned by New Line leading to his own feature film debut. His hand in this contest feels like a genuinely good guy who caught a break wanting to help another filmmaker catch a similar break. Although he may not be a big name (yet) he’s made two films for New Line that have grossed over a hundred million dollars on relatively small budgets. If New Line wants to stay in business with Sandberg they’ll listen to his concerns and make sure Terry comes out of this contest with a good deal.
These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think that all this controversy is warranted? Or is this just the Internet blowing things out of proportion? Would you be interested in seeing The Nurse become part of the Conjuring universe? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.