Perhaps you've noticed the big headlines recently, "Benioff and Weiss sign an overall deal at Netflix," or you remember in 2018 when Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes signed similar fair at the streamer. These deals cover hundreds of millions of dollars and lots of your favorite – or soon to be favorite – TV shows and movies.
But what do they actually mean?
Today, we're going to define overall deals, first-look deals, and talk about how these deals happen in Hollywood.
What is an overall deal?
An overall deal is an agreement between a creator and a studio where the studio financially compensates the creator and/or their company to then own the ideas they create while under this deal. Anything created while this deal is signed stays within the studio that owns it. It cannot be shopped elsewhere, even if the studio passes on that project.
These deals usually cover television shows, and not so much feature films.
What is a first-look deal?
A first-look deal is an agreement between a creator and a film studio in which the studio fronts the production costs of the creator to in turn have a first look, or first right of refusal, for the scripts, books, and other properties they want to develop for film and television. If the studio passes on the projects, the creator is able to shop them to other places as well.
This usually applies to features and television deals equally.
Why do creators sign them?
Money. Prestige. Power.
When a creator gets these deals, even small ones, it shows that a studio trusts them and their taste. It gives them clout, creative freedom, and they are usually incredibly lucrative. The stuff you create within these gets a serious look from studio executives. If you signed this, it means you're already on the favorite list. Now, you have the shot to create and keep creating, becoming a mogul and slowly becoming more and more powerful.
As a writer, there are so few times you actually get your way. These deals are a chance to celebrate those times and to make money.
Variety covered these deals and this quote stood out to me:
“As a writer for so many years, it’s part of the nature of the thing that you’re essentially freelancing,” says Dave Andron. “Except for rare occasions, you don’t know if your show is coming back. I think that, after a while, that can get to be tough on people, especially people who have families. It’s sort of obvious, but the security is ideal, knowing that you’re going to be doing work with them on that level is rewarding, and it’s not just the financial.”
Why do studios offer them?
It is hard to internally develop properties, it is also super expensive. That means the more you can farm out this stuff, the more you can concentrate on choosing from a pool of the best ideas. If you're picking from the best, it theoretically increases your odds at getting a hit, and a hit helps you make money.
Signing a bunch of proven voices to overalls or first-looks should help you get the best ideas first. Does it always work out? No.
But for now, it's how Hollywood works. And much more manageable than relying on agents and managers to send you competitive projects which you might get outbid on and never get.
In the same Variety article referenced enough, Sam Esmail had this to say:
“The economics of the moment are allowing showrunners to be high value,” the 'Mr. Robot' and 'Homecoming' executive producer says. "The overall deals are kind of evidence of that."
What's next? How to ace your general meeting!
Work your meeting skills into perfection so you can ink your overall. Scoring a general meeting is the way to get your name on assignment lists and to stick out in producers' minds. How can you do it?
Click the link to learn more.