I was reading the insert page to the Stand By Me DVD and it mentioned that the writers were unable to afford the price of obtaining the rights to Stephen King’s novella “The Body” and so they set about pitching it to various studios.
I understand that the point would be to have the studio purchase the rights and then have the writer(s) work on it. But what guarantees that the studio will let them?
There’s no guarantee. The studio could say, “Thanks for bringing this great book to our attention,” option it, then turn around and hand it to another screenwriter. I’m sure it’s happened.
In the case of Big Fish, I took the book to the studio and asked them to get the option. They certainly could have hired a bigger writer — at that point, I had only written Go, which is certainly not a great writing sample for it. But they were gracious enough to say yes, because they liked my writing and were willing to take a chance.
Standard advice applies: doing anything puts you at risk. But doing nothing will get you nothing. If there’s a book you can’t afford to option yourself, it’s worth trying to get someone to option it for you.