Indie Film Q & A Forum

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688 Question Posted On: Date: 02.17.2019 Time: 08:27:40 Posted By User From: LA
Subject: Pay or play
Question Posted:
Thank you so much for this forum!!

We recently gave an actor a pay-or-play deal memo which the actor signed. If we decide to go with another actor, we have to pay off the first actor for his entire pay, correct?
Greg Answered:

It depends on the event that makes the actor pay or play. If the wording says pay or play on signature, that means he/she is guaranteed the money. If its pay or play when the film starts shooting, well, that event may not have occurred. But, if the event occurs, with our without this actor having to work on the film, they will be entitled to the money. The second half of pay or play depends on the terms of the deal. The pay or play is payable at some point. Usually a date certain. So if the actor say is pay or play for a start date of June 12, then on June 12 they would be entitled to their payments in accordance with the contract.

687 Question Posted On: Date: 01.28.2019 Time: 05:51:23 Posted By User From: LA
Subject: Dates for Actors
Question Posted:
Thank you so much for this forum, sir.

We're doing a SAG ultra-low movie and our question is we're unsure of the exact shooting date for one actor.

How do you say this in a deal memo? We need the actor in this window? Do we pay for that window? It's so confusing. We appreciate your thoughts or help!
Greg Answered:

Typically, you would say something like on a date to be mutually agreed between X and Y. or during the summer of 2019. Etc. As for paying, some actors may not want to be held for a long period, or too far out, without a deposit. Many times it may be the full amount.

686 Question Posted On: Date: 12.11.2018 Time: 16:29:21 Posted By User From: Hollywood
Subject: re: Promise to Actor
Question Posted:
Hi Greg, thank you so much for this forum. We know you do this pro bono to help indie filmmakers and hope people will pay it forward by hiring your wonderful firm.

Tough question: Back in January 2011, we promised a well-known actor the lead role in a movie we will be shooting soon. But now, we can no longer afford him. There was no formal pay-or-play offer as he was a friend, but we did tell him he would get a 5% share of the profits. Can we still make this movie now without him? Or should we try to resolve with him now? Any input would be great and we know it's just a suggestion and won't rely on any of your advice! THANKS GREG!
Greg Answered:

You may have liability depending upon the facts. An oral agreement is binding. But whether you have one depends on what was said, what was agreed. Simply “promising” him the role is probably not enough. Was there agreement on the compensation? Dates to shoot? Credit? etc. Probably not. Not to mention its 7 years ago. And I assume not much if any contact since? Putting aside the legal issues, there is also the professional one. Whether you will face any backlash from the actor or their representatives. Again, being 7 years ago, probably no issues. But, as the legal determination depends on the facts, I suggest having a lawyer take a look at it.

685 Question Posted On: Date: 09.27.2018 Time: 20:44:26 Posted By User From: Santa Monica, CA
Subject: re: Motorcycles?
Question Posted:
Hey Greg, quick question: If we want to portray a Harley Davidson motorcycle gang as thugs, can we show the Harley bikes without getting permission from Harley Davidson?

Sticky question and thanks so much for any thoughts.
Greg Answered:

If you are going to show their logo or name, you will need to get permission . but if you are not showing those things, just the motorcycle, then you wont. permission is needed to show logos, trademarks etc. The fact you are showing the bike in a negative light only means they may not approve the license

684 Question Posted On: Date: 08.10.2018 Time: 17:10:29 Posted By User From: Santa Monica, CA
Subject: Using Real Stories
Question Posted:
Hey Greg! Thank you so much for this forum again and we look forward to working with you someday. Many filmmakers recommend you and we appreciate you doing this pro bono - may all of us pay it forward for you kindness.

QUESTION: If a friend shared a true story, but it didn't make the media rounds (newspapers, online articles, etc), can we use this story without permission? We've searched online to try to find whoever and get their rights, but it's impossible and the friend heard it from another party. THANK YOU FOR ANY INPUT!
Greg Answered:

Since the story is not public, nor is he a public figure in any sense (such as the event was in the news) you would be invading his privacy. Also, usually, filmmakers embellish the story to make it more exciting. That might also lead to other causes of action. Long story short, you should get a release.

683 Question Posted On: Date: 12.06.2017 Time: 12:09:26 Posted By User From: Los Angeles
Subject: Indie Film Contract
Question Posted:
I was a producer on an independent film and I was terminated without cause. The contract allows for me to collect $50,000 at the time of pre-production for the film (which has not begun) if I am terminated without cause. How do I ensure to be paid?
Greg Answered:

This all comes down to the contract. In general, if there was a binding agreement and the other side just decided they did not want to pay you, that is breach of contract and you could sue to get what is owed to you, and maybe your credit too. You should speak to a litigator who could review the agreement and the facts and determine if you in fact have a case. As your claim, or lack thereof, is all based on the facts, a lawyer needs to review it. Finally, many times the threat of litigation by a lawyer might trigger payment.

682 Question Posted On: Date: 11.25.2017 Time: 18:16:41 Posted By User From: LA
Subject: Libel and Slander on Facebook
Question Posted:
Hi Greg,

Recently some disgruntled actor who didn't get the part made some stark lies about me and our film on his Facebook page. He lied about our production being in turmoil, etc - really immature. What do you suggest? Should I sue this guy or let it be? It's like someone punched you in the face when this happen. Thanks for any tips!
Greg Answered:

First, I am not a litigator, so you would need one to evaluate if you have a claim, the likelihood of obtaining redress, and the cost. That said, the typical issues with defamation is not just that its something untrue, but a) what damage was suffered by reason of the statement (most but not all defamation claims require a showing of actual damage), and b) the cost to pursue. The non-legal answer is that I have found such postings to be frustrating but do now warrant taking any action. The likelihood of recovery, or obtaining an injunction for such comments would be difficult. Not to mention, people posting things like this are disgruntled and responding only emboldens them to do more. Moreover, ultimately the film speaks for itself. Not how you got to the finished film or what issues, true or false, happened a long the way. Distributors don’t care about the back story. So, all in all, I say move on.

681 Question Posted On: Date: 09.17.2017 Time: 12:47:06 Posted By User From: LA
Subject: Shooting on Public Land
Question Posted:
Hi Greg, so appreciate you doing this for indie filmmakers - I hope they return the favor by HIRING you!

Anyway, quick question: we shot our feature film and one location (a beach) we honestly didn't get a permit for. Can the government sue us? Do they have a trademark or copyright to the beach if it's state owned?

Many thanks for any input!
Greg Answered:

Assuming you did not photograph and use any signage there is not a copyright or trademark issue. They could have fined you for being on the property without a permit. I have no idea if they can still come back to you if they find out. But the film you footage you can use.

680 Question Posted On: Date: 05.18.2017 Time: 07:28:17 Posted By User From: New York
Subject: Finders Agreement
Question Posted:
Hi Sorry to bother you again. Reading up on shopping agreements it seems that most of the online articles revolve around Producer/writer relationships. In my case I am acting as Producer until I find the right producing partners and the people I am currently working with are people who simply may be able to get the script to known actors and/or investors.

Would a finder's agreement perhaps be what I am looking for? Ideally I'd like to have one contract that I can use with anywhere from six to eight people who might be able to introduce the project to known talent/producing partners/investors.

I understand that I would still need to use an entertainment lawyer for the job but it would be great to know what exactly I need. So thank you in advance for any insight you might have.
Greg Answered:

Whether you need a shopping agreement or a finder agreement depends on what it is the people you are teaming up with you want them to do. Finder and shopping are fairly similar . Finder is more typical for someone who is going to go out and find the financing (or could be for other elements). Shopping is more typical with setting a project up (such as with another production company , distributor or financier). Either way, you need a lawyer to help navigate you through this.

679 Question Posted On: Date: 05.12.2017 Time: 06:51:20 Posted By User From: New York
Subject: Response to Q # 678
Question Posted:
First, thank you so much for your quick response and for what you do with this forum. I've read many pages of it and find it amazingly informative.

I did get a strange feeling from the lawyer I called because I have had initial consultations in the past where I was not charged.

Though my project is episodic I am developing it independently with the idea of trying to partner with known talent so in that regard the approach is similar to one sometimes taken with feature development.

I didn't mean to minimize the importance of having legal ducks in a row and I appreciate your pushing me in the direction of taking a more cautious approach. That said, I am only acting as a producer out of necessity. I am a writer/director living a pretty right-brained existence which can be tough in a business where knowing your way around contracts and spreadsheets can be very helpful. So in that respect I might even be more in need of expert legal assistance than others. There are scores of filmmakers out there who struggle because they love the art of film and are not particularly business savvy and they invariably have a harder time getting their films off the ground. There are also scores of filmmakers who have substantial family money behind them and seem to be able to cut to the front of the line so to speak. So it shouldn't be a sore spot as some of the best actors and directors have had to go through very lean times before getting their voices heard.

Most people would never write twenty episodes over the course of 6 years because it would seem impractical. I did it because of my love of the subject and the medium. I've sacrificed a lot to do this and certainly hope that the script itself will propel the project along despite my not having a strong personal source of backing.

Having said that, what would you suggest is the range I should expect to pay for an initial contract that I can use to incentivize my producers to actively shop the script to their name actor contacts? These are not full fledged producers with production companies looking to option the script just people who would like to help the project move forward and be compensated if it is a success and, if it is in the cards, play some kind of role as a producer or participant in the production or business end.

Thanks again for the great work!
Greg Answered:

What you are asking for is a shopping agreement or attachment agreement. Basically, you give them a period of time to do something (attach cast, find financing or distribution) and if they do, then they are attached as producers. These agreements you have to be very careful with so I would only recommend using an experienced lawyer. Pitfalls include everything from being stuck paying and crediting them even though they did nothing, to them pitching the project all over town so the project is “burned” and no one else can come in and help get it made. I myself charge an average of $3k for such contracts, based on my hourly rate and the typical time it takes between drafting , negotiating, and several drafts back and forth.

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