I’ve written a screenplay adaptation of a young adult novel. The rights to the novel are available, and a one-year option can be had for a not-cheap but do-able fee. Does it give me any advantage or protection to option the book myself before shopping the script to studios and production companies? Obviously what I want to avoid is introducing a buyer to the book by way of my screenplay and then seeing them pursue the story without me. Would buyers be just as likely to wait out any option I have if they like the book, but not my script, as they would be to "steal" the idea if I don’t option it?

–SP

Most scripts don’t become movies, and a hundred things could go wrong in the process. You might end up shouting at people, suing people, or being shut out. But if you’re really interested in making a movie from this book, go for it. The only way to never get hurt in the film business is to never get in the film business.

Have you tried to option the book yourself? Even if it’s out of your price range, it may be worth trying to forge a relationship with the author, or at least the author’s agent. If they like your approach to the material, they’re much more likely to stick up for you down the road.

If you can’t get the agent to take you at all seriously, then you’re going to have to get someone more powerful involved. A producer/production company is one option, as is an attorney working on your behalf. Whatever happens, remember that a good screenplay has value beyond its produce-ability. Even if your script never gets made, it may open up other opportunities for you as a writing sample. But it won’t if you never show it out of fear.