Indie Film Q & A Forum

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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.

678 Question Posted On: Date: 05.11.2017 Time: 11:02:48 Posted By User From: New York
Subject: Compensation for introductions
Question Posted:
Hi,
I have written the first twenty episodes of a series and have a specific wish list of A list actors (who have all been outspoken about the subject of the film) who I would like to enlist as producing partners. I currently have three aspiring producers with contacts to at least three of the actors on the list and are ready to approach them with the script. I spoke to a lawyer who said I should come and meet with her for $500 to discuss the matter in an hour after which she will outline a general direction to take(?) before coming back and paying her several thousand more to make some contracts.

When I told her I could not afford to just pay her to talk and would have to move things forward before being able to afford larger fees she warned me against the risks of taking any other approach. I didn't bother asking her what she would advise someone in my predicament I.e not having the funds to pursue the proper legal approach, because by the end of what felt like a long winded sales pitch for her services she just didn't seem like the right lawyer for me even if I had the funds.

So my question is this: Is there some simple contract and standard back end offering that I can use to unleash those who are eager to help get the project in the right hands without my having to incur serious legal fees yet that completely protects my intellectual property?

In other words how does a cash strapped filmmaker figure out what to offer would-be producers to motivate them to move quickly and pitch with passion without giving away the store and how does said filmmaker formalize such offers before they have the funds to create the full legal strategy and documentation?

Thank you for the website which has been very educational.
Greg Answered:

First, I don’t know what lawyer you spoke to , but something sounds very strange. No lawyer I know or have worked with in this business would charge you just to meet and talk about whether you want to hire them as your lawyer. Now some lawyers charge an initial consultation fee to talk about your project and the issues, but most of the lawyer in this business who really know what they are doing probably would not charge like that . As for your question of simple contracts, TV is not my area. Only film. And nothing is ever simple. The reason you pay a lawyer to do a contract is because these things are complex. We lawyers not only deal with the deal itself, or the legal wording , but also think of the issues and situations you might not think of . I cannot tell you how many times I have a producer finally get his film off the ground, and then he has all kinds of legal problems because of deals he did earlier without a lawyer. And most of the time, it ends up costing him thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars more than if he had a lawyer do it from the beginning. As for your last question about cash strapped, you hit a sore point with me. I never understand how people think they can get into this business as a producer with no money. This business is a very capital intensive business. Not just legal fees, but all aspects of development, production and distribution.

677 Question Posted On: Date: 05.09.2017 Time: 05:54:20 Posted By User From: L.A.
Subject: foreign rights sale?
Question Posted:
Hi Greg,

Many thanks for offering your expert input here. I am a screenwriter with a script under option to a UK-based producer, but I just received an inquiry from a producer in Asia who wants to produce a foreign language version of my script. I realize I cannot make any sort of deal with this producer with my script under option to another party, but if the UK producer wanted to assign rights to this foreign producer to allow that foreign version to go forward, would the producer first need to execute his option on my script? Or could he just make the deal without any additional compensation to me?

My option deal includes remake terms, so I'm guessing that those terms would apply to me in the event the foreign version reached production, but the larger question is whether the current producer could assign (sell) the rights to another party while merely owning the option to the script. Thanks again for your input!
Greg Answered:

The answers to your questions depend on the agreement you have for the current option. That said, the normal option would give the producer the unlimited right to assign the option to another party, or exercise the option and have one or more works made based on the script, including a foreign project. No permission by you would be normally required. Nor any notice. But again, it depends on the terms of your deal.

676 Question Posted On: Date: 02.25.2017 Time: 11:40:16 Posted By User From: West Hollywood
Subject: Non-Union Foreign film and SAG actors
Question Posted:
Hi, my wife and I were recently hired for a part in my cousin's non-union film. He is a Brazilian director shooting an ultra-low budget film in Ireland.

My wife and I are both union actors, and the contract is not a payed contract but one that constitutes that we pay for our own flight ticket, and get 2% back in points for the film.

How does the SAG rules apply to these cases? Would I need to make the project SAG?

You do a great service to many people, thank you so much.
Greg Answered:

SAG has a rule called Global Rule 1. It essentially says that SAG actors cannot work on non-SAG films. If they do, they can get fined , suspended or even expelled from SAG. (the exception to all to all of this is if the actor has elected to go CORE, in which case they can work for any film, union or not. SAG , in my view, put up a lot of roadblocks and false information about CORE, which is a right given all union members by the Supreme Court). So as a member, you should insist that the film go SAG. If the film is owned and financed by a company not based in the US, and shot entirely outside of the US, then a special application, called a GR1, is used. This means that only SAG actors are covered under the contract and the locals are not. By being SAG, that means the actors have to be paid SAG minimum (low budget rates do not apply), and all other SAG requited benefits, including air, hotel ,residuals ,etc. The actor cannot waive the minimum benefits and salary.

675 Question Posted On: Date: 01.31.2017 Time: 06:08:04 Posted By User From: Los angeles
Subject: non-union script deal
Question Posted:
Thanks again for this site!

A producer wants to option my script for a non-union production, though there is a small chance the production could become union at later date, or if not the production itself, the completed film could be sold to a distributor who is a WGA signatory. The producer claims this will not be a union production but is willing to name me as a professional writer for the purposes of credit arbitration just in case, but wants to include a caveat in the contract that I would not be entitled to any entitlements based on this designation beyond credit arbitration, such as residuals, pension, etc. Is this even enforceable? Would I be sacrificing any benefits entitled to me if the production did become a WGA signatory by agreeing to this clause? Thanks for any input you might have on this!
Greg Answered:

Frist, the fact that a film is sold to a WGA company has no bearing on your services, fee or anything else. What matters is whether, at the time you are engaged, is the company a WGA signatory, or at a later date, before the film is made, does the company, or its assignee, become a WGA signatory. I assume you are not a WGA member. As such, its important to recite that you are a professional writer for all WGA purposes, including credit determination. If you are not engaged as a WGA writer, then you do not get pension or minimum WGA rates. It does not matter whether the contract says this or not. As for residuals, I cannot recall, but do not believe, residuals would be allocated to you by the WGA if you were a credited writer on the film. However, this is all per WGA rules and it does not matter what the contract says (and btw, it does not cost the production anything more as the residuals are exactly the same with or without you). So the bottom line is , regardless of what the contract says, if the WGA has jurisdiction because the film becomes WGA at some point in the future, the WGA rules supersede anything in conflict in the contract.

674 Question Posted On: Date: 12.30.2016 Time: 16:03:22 Posted By User From: Berkeley
Subject: Contacting a prominent writer to propose a collaboration
Question Posted:
As a writer with a producer partner, I wish to contact a well-known writer / producer to communicate about possible collaboration on possible projects I have written and registered treatments of that I think they might find of interest. Should this go through an entertainment attorney for documentation and maintenance of confidentiality to prevent stealing of the concepts and ideas, or is it acceptable but perhaps not a good idea due to the need to keep one's intellectual property close to the vest because of the well-known risks of thievery in this industry?
Greg Answered:

As a writer with a producer partner, I wish to contact a well-known writer / producer to communicate about possible collaboration on possible projects I have written and registered treatments of that I think they might find of interest. Should this go through an entertainment attorney for documentation and maintenance of confidentiality to prevent stealing of the concepts and ideas, or is it acceptable but perhaps not a good idea due to the need to keep one's intellectual property close to the vest because of the well-known risks of thievery in this industry? First, I am not sure where you come up with the comment about “well known risks of thievery in this industry”. That is a folktale. Rarely does anything get stolen. However, if something is not legally protectable, then its not stealing. Concepts and ideas are not intellectual property and are NOT legally protectable in and of themselves. The copyright laws do not protect such things. That said, there still may be ways to sue someone over ideas or concepts but it depends on the facts. The bottom line for either material that is subject to copyright protection or not is having the documentation to show what you had in writing prior to submission to anyone, and who you submitted the material to and when, and if you met them when and with whom and what was discussed. There is a second more important issue you will need to deal with when speaking with a potential writer. Not that they will steal anything of yours, but once they look at your material , and talk about ideas with you, they may have a case to stop you from doing anything with your treatment/script without them. So , to protect against this, and to help protect against your concerns, its best to have the potential writer sign something before you meet that essentially says you are meeting to discuss the project, and will send him the treatment to read etc, but that anything you guys discuss , and in particular anything he might suggest, you own, whether or not you hire him or otherwise decide to work together and do not owe him any compensation , credit etc. You should have a lawyer prepare this document so its enforceable. BTW, if the writer you are going to meet with or send your materials wont sign, well, that is a good indication you would have trouble with them later, but the easy answer to them about signing is , sign but if he is concerned about making valuable contributions and not getting credit or payment, then meet and talk but don’t make any valuable contributions

673 Question Posted On: Date: 12.20.2016 Time: 12:58:39 Posted By User From: Toronto
Subject: Writer's Agreement on Spec pilot
Question Posted:
Hi, I'm a non-union freelance writer who wrote two drafts, and Bible for a TV show. The Agreement states payment is pending on the sale of TV Pilot.

If the show gets picked up by Network what contingencies should I incorporate in my writer's agreement? I don't have funds for a lawyer now..thanks.
Greg Answered:

Sorry, but this Q&A is about film, not TV. I myself dont handle TV shows so I would not even know how to respond.

672 Question Posted On: Date: 12.09.2016 Time: 11:14:53 Posted By User From: Los angeles
Subject: non-union script deal
Question Posted:
Thanks for this site!

Here's the question: If a non-union screenwriter is going to sell a script to a non-union company with the knowledge that the company will become a WGA signatory and hire a WGA writer to rewrite the script, is it possible for the non-union writer to still be considered for writing credit by the WGA (with the necessary language added to the non-union contract)? Assuming the company has agreed to add language naming the non-union writer as a professional writer and any assignment of rights is subject to that provision, would that be enough? Thanks!
Greg Answered:

You have to make sure that the agreement whereby you sell or option the script to the company recites the phrase that you are a “professional writer” for all purposes, including for WGA credit determination. Without that, you will get source credit. Something like “based on a screenplay by”. But with that wording, subject to the guild rules and possible credit arbitration, you could get a writing credit (story by, written by, shared screenplay etc) Ultimately its still a matter of how much the new writer revises what you wrote whether you would get sole writing credit, shared, or just story by.

671 Question Posted On: Date: 11.22.2016 Time: 11:49:20 Posted By User From: Burbank
Subject: $1 Option Agreement
Question Posted:
If an option contract on a script is for $1 for 6 months, is that legally binding? Does it need to be more than $1? If so what is the minimum?

I have not even received the $1. Does that mean I can get out of the contract?
Greg Answered:

Yes. A contract, any contract, can be valid for even no money. A promise, or agreement, is valid consideration too. And if you go with the old english law upon which consideration is based, even a peppercorn, or recital about good consideration, is enough. Whether not having received the $1 is enough to get out of it depends on facts and the terms of the contract. So its not that easy to answer in this Q&A



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