I have made a will several times in the past 11 years. It is possible to buy a preprinted form -- in Britain they are sold in W H Smith’s and Ryman’s, in America in various stationery stores. It doesn’t take much time to complete the document and get it witnessed.
It’s not possible, as far as I know, to buy a preprinted form for a film option. This causes problems in cases where the principals to the deal have no representation. I have often had difficulties because a producer or director wanted to buy an option and there was no document ready to be used: the business advisor brought in to handle the transaction started negotiating for things of no interest to either principal (ice skating rights, business-class fare to the premiere), and the deal fell apart.
Since I have recently sold an option on the film rights to The Last Samurai, I now have a document of which this may be said: it has successfully done what it was meant to do. It has transferred a specific right to a piece of intellectual property from the possessor of that right to a director who needs that right to develop a film.
If I had had this document in June 1996 I could have finished The Seventh Samurai in July 1996. I could have finished the predecessor to The Seventh Samurai in the second half of 1996. If I had had this document in January 2005 I could have finished the book I had been working on for the previous 6 months.
I will discuss some of the pitfalls of dealing with the movie business at a later date. In the meantime I have posted a copy of the contract here.