Really does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney like a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias and my stacking of the question in spite of, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time – the forthright answer is, “it depends”. A number of producers these days are them selves film lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or even other types of lawyers, and so, frequently can take care of themselves. But the film producers to worry about, are the ones who act as if they are entertainment lawyers : but without a license or amusement attorney legal experience to support it. Filmmaking and motion picture practice consist of an industry wherein these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as substitutes for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and inadequate production treatments will never escape the trained attention of entertainment attorneys working for the studios, the distributors, the banking institutions, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance service providers. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job function of film production counsel plus entertainment lawyer is still secure.
I also suppose that there will always be a few fortunate filmmakers who, throughout the entire manufacturing process, fly under the proverbial adnger zone without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and debts like flying bats are most respected to avoid people’s hair. By way of example, one of my best friends hasn’t experienced any health insurance for years, and he continues to be in good shape and economically afloat — this week, anyway. Taken in the combination, some people will always be luckier than others, and some people will always be more willing than others to roll the dice.
But it is all too simplistic and pedestrian to tell oneself that will “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if I simply stay out of difficulty and be careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a motion picture producer, and also the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of movie production previously, then that enjoyment lawyer has already learned many of the severe lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film company.
The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By obvious thinking, careful planning, and : this is the absolute key – skilled, thoughtful and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as this is the person seeking to establish compliance. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may occasionally be the one who says “no”. However the entertainment attorney can be a positive drive in the production as well.
The film lawyer can, in the course of legal rendering, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that will entertainment lawyer has been involved with quite a few film productions, then the motion picture producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney benefits from that quite cache of experience. Yes, it sometimes may be difficult to stretch the film budget to allow for counsel, but professional filmmakers tend to view the legal cost expenditure to be a fixed, expected, and necessary one – similar to the fixed obligation of lease for the production office, or the price of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the typical independent film producer, other amusement attorneys do not.
Enough generalities. To get what specific tasks must the producer typically retain a film attorney and entertainment attorney?:
1 . USE, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: In order to paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox during the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually constitutes the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, informing the film producer that it is period. If the producer doesn’t properly make, file, and maintain a corporate or even other appropriate entity through which in order to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to keep that entity shielded, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film manufacturer is potentially hurting himself or even herself. Without the shield against responsibility that an entity can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the motion picture producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) are at risk plus, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:
Patient: “Doctor, this hurts my head when I do that”.
Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.
Like it or not, the film attorney entertainment attorney continues, “Film is really a speculative business, and the statistical most of motion pictures can fail economically : even at the San Fernando Area film studio level. It is irrational to run a film business or any additional form of business out of one’s personal bank account”. Besides, it looks unprofessional, a real concern if the manufacturer wants to attract talent, bankers, plus distributors at any point in the future.
The choices associated with where and how to file an organization are often prompted by entertainment attorneys but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the particular film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is affordable. Good lawyers don’t look at incorporating a client as a profit-center anyway, because of the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer should be aware that under U. S. regulation a client can fire his/her attorney at any time at all, many entertainment attorneys who do the entity-creation work obtain asked to do further work for that same client – especially if the entertainment attorney bills the first work reasonably.
I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture : or any more than I would tell a D. P. -client what lens to use on a specific film chance. As will be true on a movie production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that when the producer lets a competent entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will start to skin gels for the film production in ways that will couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.
2 . SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This issue also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Parenthetically that the film producer wants to create a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The movie producer will likely start soliciting money for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible methods, and may actually start collecting some monies as a result. Sometimes this happens prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about this post facto from his or her customer.
If the film producer is not a lawyer, then the producer should not even think about “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this innately speculative business called film, and collects money on the basis of that portrayal, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems compared to conscience to deal with. Securities compliance function is among the most difficult of matters experienced by an entertainment attorney.
Because both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching the solicitation for film (or any kind of other) investment can have severe plus federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the particular film script is, it’s by no means worth monetary fines and incarceration – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the particular producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in the real world try to drift their own “investment prospectus”, complete with blustering, bragging anticipated multipliers of the box workplace figures of the famed motion pictures “E. T. ” and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity plus imagination, but usually with no amusement or film lawyer or various other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these makers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment attorneys and the rest of the bar, and counter, may tend to think of them, rather, as prospective ‘Defendants’.
3. DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer provides decided, even without entertainment lawyer guidance yet, that the production enterprise will need to be a signatory to group bargaining agreements of unions like Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the particular Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the particular Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject material area that some film makers can handle themselves, particularly producers with life experience. But if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a movie lawyer or entertainment lawyer just before making even any initial connection with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or even film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or putting your signature on any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with movie or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to afterwards continue with the picture’s further creation.
4. CONTRACTUAL AFFAIRS GENERALLY: A film production’s agreements should all be in writing, and not saved until the last minute, every entertainment attorney will observe. It can be more expensive to bring film counsel within, late in the day – sort of like booking an airline flight several days before the planned travel. A film maker should remember that a plaintiff suing for breach of a bungled contract might not only seek money intended for damages, but could also seek the equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… cease this motion picture… stop this film… Cut! “).
A film producer does not want to suffer a back declare for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child labour authorities – threatening to urge or shut the motion picture manufacturing down for reasons that could have already been easily avoided by careful preparing, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or amusement lawyer. The movie production’s agreements must be drafted with care by the entertainment lawyer, and should be customized to include the special characteristics of the manufacturing
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