Indie Film Q & A Forum

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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

670 Question Posted On: Date: 11.10.2016 Time: 09:51:10 Posted By User From: L.A.
Subject: sharing credit
Question Posted:
Thanks for the fast reply! But I'm actually a bit confused by your response. I'm not asking anyone to take action or threatening extortion of any kind. Rather I would just politely inform the director through his reps that if he seeks writing credit on this non-union project for writing services performed for a non-guild signatory (in clear violation of guild rules), I would have no choice but to alert the WGA. If it came to that, I know the WGA would contact the production company and ask them to become a guild signatory, which the production company will not, at which point, the director would have an obvious issue with his guild.

To be clear, the WGA isn't arbitrating this non-union project; my contract just guarantees credit will be determined by an arbitrator agreed upon by all parties. But that isn't the issue here. The issue is a WGA member trying to take writing credit on a non-union project written by a non-union writer out of the belief that the WGA would never figure it out on their own. Hopefully you understand my question and don't conclude I'm trying to extort anyone!
Greg Answered:

First, on the extortion side, you are unquestionably, no matter how politely, saying, if you don’t get your credit you will report him to WGA. While you say you would have “no choice” you do. There is no actual valid reason for you to notify the WGA of their member’s violation (you have no obligation) other than spite or to gain a negotiation advantage. As for the WGA, the WGA can discipline its members for working for or selling a script to a non-WGA company. The WGA cannot force a company to become WGA. The pressure on a company to become a WGA signatory comes from the WGA member who normally would insist that the company become a signatory or they wont sell or do the writing work so that the member is not subjected to WGA discipline. What you are missing is that if your “polite” suggestions turn into the film going WGA, you might lose out on any credit as I described in the prior post. Either way, your ability to be credited or not depends on your contract.

669 Question Posted On: Date: 11.10.2016 Time: 09:00:46 Posted By User From: L.A.
Subject: sharing credit
Question Posted:
Hi Greg, I am a non-union screenwriter who sold an original script to a foreign non-union company. The company hired a director who is a member of the WGA, who rewrote my script and is seeking shared writing credit in spite of the fact that the production company will not become a WGA signatory, as the director's writing credit on the film would apparently go unnoticed by the guild. So it seems my only recourse here is to warn the director's rep that I will alert the WGA to the violation if the director attempts to take writing credit. The director did not receive a Rule 8 waiver to work on the film, so there's no question his contributions to the script are in violation of WGA rules. Would threatening to inform the guild be a bad idea? Is there some other recourse I should pursue? Thanks for any input you might have!
Greg Answered:

Technically, threatening to take that action if they don’t agree to this or that is a form of extortion (which depending on things could be criminal not just a lawsuit). I also personally think its not professional. Moreover, depending upon how your contract reads, the WGA would likely NOT give you any credit at all on the film other than “based upon a screenplay by”. If your contract does not recite that you are a professional writer, then the WGA under their credit rules treats your work as source material and only credits writing to WGA members and professional writers. The key to what you can do or should do depends on the wording in your contract about credit.

668 Question Posted On: Date: 10.25.2016 Time: 15:00:41 Posted By User From: L.A.
Subject: Writer approval of director and actor choices
Question Posted:
Hi Greg,

This is to answer the question you posted in my last question. To answer, I wanted conditions such as "I get an associate producer credit", "the director selection would require my approval." "The lead actor selection would require my approval." Are those things I would have to put in the option agreement now? Not sure he would be receptive to that yet but might be later. Can I require them later when the script is purchased? I suppose as a writer it might seen as an arrogant demand. But bad choices like those could ruin it and ruin any benefit I would get from the film. We're talking $700K - $1M budget.

Thanks.
Greg Answered:

If these are things you want, then you need to try to get them in the contract. So the contract would provide for the purchase price and ownership like they have it, but additional clauses that say you are entitled to approve this , or get this credit or that etc. If you don’t have them in the contract now, then you may never get them later. ( I have made the assumption that you are the writer. If you are not, then you need your own contract with these provisions)

667 Question Posted On: Date: 10.25.2016 Time: 14:27:58 Posted By User From: Los Angeles
Subject: Script Option
Question Posted:
In an screenwriter Option Agreement I've received, it outlines things like how much the purchase price of the script would be. And based on my limited understanding of legal terms it sounds like I MUST accept the price given and agree to sell the script unconditionally:

"If the Option is exercised, Purchaser automatically and irrevocably shall own
and be vested with, and Owner automatically and irrevocably shall be deemed to have granted,
conveyed, assigned, transferred and set over to Purchaser, exclusively and in perpetuity... interest in, to and with respect to the
Property and all rights..."

Am I interpreting that wrong? I may have conditions that I would like to place once we're funded and ready to move forward such as requiring my director approval and lead actor approval. I am a producer on it, stepped down to an associate producer more since I'm not bringing the investors. But we don't have a contract for that as yet.

Greg Answered:

An option agreement is an agreement to SELL at an agreed price. This is the case whether its an option for a script, a book , to buy some property, whatever. So yes, if the option is exercised, and they pay the stated price, they then own the rights. As for your approvals, I am not sure I follow what you are asking. Approvals over what? If you are saying that the buyer has to get the director or lead actor to approve the script, or approve the locations ,or final cut, or whatever, then that would have to be specified in the contract.



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