Does the film producer really need a movie lawyer or entertainment attorney being a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias plus my stacking of the question notwithstanding, 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 other types of lawyers, and so, usually can take care of themselves. But the movie producers to worry about, are the ones that act as if they are entertainment lawyers — but without a license or enjoyment attorney legal experience to support it. Filmmaking and motion picture practice include 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 vision of entertainment attorneys working for the particular studios, the distributors, the banking institutions, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance companies. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job perform of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.
I also suppose that there will always be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial adnger zone without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and financial obligations like flying bats are respected to avoid people’s hair. By way of analogy, one of my best friends hasn’t got any health insurance for years, and he is still 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 inclined 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 attorney, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real helpful asset to a motion picture producer, along with the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of film production previously, then that entertainment lawyer has already learned many of the severe lessons regularly dished out by commercial world and the film business.
The film and entertainment attorney can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By very clear thinking, careful planning, and – this is the absolute key – competent, thoughtful and complete documentation of all movie production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as simply the person seeking to establish compliance. Certain, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes be the one who says “no”. However the entertainment attorney can be a positive push in the production as well.
The movie lawyer can, in the course of legal portrayal, assist the producer as an efficient business consultant, too. If that will entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film productions, then the motion picture manufacturer who hires that film attorney 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, foreseeable, and necessary one – akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the price of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may cost themselves out of the price range of the typical independent film producer, other enjoyment attorneys do not.
Enough generalities. Regarding what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film attorney and entertainment attorney?:
1 . INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the extra-large mobile phone, this entity-formation issue generally 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 generate, file, and maintain a corporate or other appropriate entity through which in order to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to maintain 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 financial obligations and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:
Patient: “Doctor, it 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 Valley film studio level. It is illogical to run a film business or any various other form of business out of one’s personal bank account”. Besides, it appears unprofessional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, bankers, plus distributors at any point in the future.
The choices associated with where and how to file an entity are often prompted by entertainment attorneys but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is inexpensive. Good lawyers don’t look at integrating a client as a profit-center anyway, due to the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer must be aware that under U. S. legislation a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment attorneys who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that will same client – especially if the particular entertainment attorney bills the first work reasonably.
I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more compared to I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture — or any more than I would tell the D. P. -client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a movie production set, everybody has their very 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 gel for the film production in ways that will couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.
2 . TAKING INVESTMENT: This issue also often produces a wake-up call of sorts. Parenthetically that the film producer wants to make a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting money for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible ways, and may actually start collecting a few 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 of “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will therefore be selling securities to people. When 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 rendering, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities compliance function is among the most difficult of matters experienced by an entertainment attorney.
Since both entertainment lawyers and investments lawyers will opine, botching a 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 never worth monetary fines and jail time – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it really is shocking to see how many ersatz movie producers in the real world try to float 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 and imagination, but usually with no enjoyment or film lawyer or various other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these makers think of themselves as “visionaries” whilst writing the prospectus.
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Entertainment lawyers 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 take an assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment lawyer guidance yet, that the production organization will need to be a signatory to group bargaining agreements of unions like Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the particular Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject matter area that some film suppliers can handle themselves, particularly producers with life experience. But if the film producer can afford this, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer just before making even any initial connection with the guilds. The producer will consult with an entertainment attorney or even film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure in order to plan out these guild issues with movie or entertainment attorney counsel in advance, could lead to problems and expenses that will 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, as any 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 a couple of days before the planned travel. A film manufacturer should remember that a plaintiff your house for breach of a bungled agreement might not only seek money with regard to damages, but could also seek the particular equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… quit this motion picture… stop this movie… Cut! “).
A film producer will not want to suffer a back declare for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child work authorities – threatening to enjoin or shut the motion picture creation down for reasons that could are already easily avoided by careful planning, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or enjoyment lawyer. The movie production’s agreements needs to be drafted with care by the entertainment attorney, and should be customized to encompass the special characteristics of the manufacturing.