Independent filmmakers have it hard enough between developing the script, building a budget, organizing the shoot, and finding the right cast and crew to get the project done. A lot of producers have it dialed in when it comes to the aforementioned tasks, but it's a whole different ball game when it comes to the legal issues that arise throughout the filmmaking process. This is where your production counsel comes into play.
Production counsel works with a producer through every phase of production: development, pre-production, production, and post-production.
During development, the production counsel's most important role is ensure that the producer has control over the rights. Controlling the rights boils down to chain of title, meaning that the filmmaker owns the rights to intellectual property, including all of the rights to the distribute it.
If the script is completely original, the lawyer will set up a production company for the producer (usually an LLC) and write a screenplay purchase agreement transferring the rights from the writer to the production company. Other times if a producer is still testing the waters to see if a piece of IP is viable, a production counsel will create an option agreement which allows the producer to exclusively have the right to purchase the IP within a specific period of time. During that timeframe the producer will further develop the IP and work to secure financing or attachment agreements with talent. If the producer is successful, he will purchase the rights and move into pre-production.
Once the producer secures financing and pre-production is in full swing, production counsel is focused on locking in your cast and crew and securing locations. All of your cast and crew will need deal memos outlining their employment agreement (including credit, compensation, specific services to be provided, consultation rights, trailer/dressing room, and perks) and eventually long form contracts. Location releases include the fee, period of use, and level of liability on the producer for every location. Without location releases, the owner of a property has the potential to stop your project from being distributed, even if it's already made.
Bits and pieces tend to pop up during post-production. Did the producer have to hire an extra editor, is there additional money for a colorist, what about licensing that amazing song, re-shoots, and most importantly . . . . if someone actually wants to buy the movie, what goes into a sales or distribution agreement?
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR COUNSEL
Get the most out of your production counsel by having them not just paper your deals, but negotiate them too. If you are a relatively new producer and don't know market rates for talent, crew, locations, financing, and distribution, there's a good chance your lawyer has seen it before and can get you a better deal. Pitt Entertainment Law will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the best deal possible and protect your rights. Call the office today at (424) 202-4239, send an email to [email protected], or visit the website at pittentertainmentlaw.com to set up your free consultation.