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Question: (Gerald Martin)

Who pays the 10% agent fee?

In reading Clause by Clause by Breimer (1995) I believe there was a statement that the studio paid the agent the fee, on top of the sale price owed the screenwriter. Now I can’t find the specific place I read that. I took it to mean if a script sold for example $100,000, the studio would pay the agent $10,000, and the screenwriter $100,000. That’s a far cry from the studio paying the screenwriter $100,000; and then the screenwriter paying the agent $10,000 with after tax dollars! And how does it work for managers or attorneys?

Answer: (Michele Wallerstein)

Sorry to tell you but the screenwriter pays the agent fees, lawyer fees and manager fees him or herself. This holds true for all creative talent, whether they are actors, directors, producers, etc. The good news is that these fees (commissions) are tax deductible. So you can either pay it to the government or to the people who work hard for you.

If a writer is a member of the WGA, he/she may not work for less than the WGA minimum plus 10%. That is to make sure the writer never receives less than the minimum amount. The agent will make sure that this is handled, however, the client still pays the fee. The production company never pays the agent/lawyer/manager.

In the event that the writer is not a signed member of the WGA and if the producing company is also not a signatory, then the agent can negotiate whatever fee they can get. The client still pays the agent’s commissions.

However you look at it… the client pays those fees.

Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.

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