Posts by Matt Galsor

Matt Galsor represents actors, directors, writers, and producers in their dealings with studios, networks, and production companies. In addition to established A talent, Mr. Galsor's practice includes a talented group of up-and-coming artists.



Q&A: Does This Rights Agreement Let Me Make a Feature Remake of a Short Student Film?

Q:  I saw a really cool short at a film school festival, and I acquired the right to remake it as a feature from the guys who made it.  I later found out that the short film was based on a 1990 short story written by an obscure writer from Georgia.  The filmmakers showed me a one-page agreement with the writer.  The agreement gives them permission to make “one short film based on the Story” and the writer of the short story keeps all other rights.  Since the filmmakers had the right to make their short and gave me the right to remake it, I should be ok without anything from the short story writer, shouldn’t I?

A:  Unfortunately, no.  While the filmmakers appear to have had the rights necessary to make their short film, it sounds like their right was limited to only making that one short.  They did not have the right to make, or authorize others to make, a feature film.  While you are indeed using the short primarily as the basis for your feature, because that short is based on the writer’s story, your feature will also be based on the writer’s story.  Therefore, in order to make your feature, you need two sets of rights:  (1) remake rights from the owners of the short film and (2) feature film rights from the author of the short story.  It looks like you’ve already accomplished number one (but see below for possible bad news).  Now it appears that you’ll have to scour the Georgia countryside looking for the obscure writer. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: Can I Create a Film That’s “Inspired By” a Short Story Without Acquiring the Rights?

Q:  I was wondering if you could help me with a problem I am having with the rights to a short story.  I have been in touch with the relevant owners of the copyright and they have been told by the author’s estate they are not allowed to do anything with the rights to the story.  However, what I am wanting to do with the story is not a direct adaptation — but more of an “inspired by.”  What I am wanting to do is a 60 minute TV one off.  The only thing I am desperate to hang on to is the short story’s “twist” and elements of the central dilemma. Where would I stand with moving ahead with different character names, different structure, but retaining the twist and profession of the central character from the short only – crediting only “inspired by”?

A:  Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas – it protects the expression of ideas.  This is a simple concept in theory, but applying it to a particular situation could be challenging.  For several excellent, definitive, and thought provoking discussions of this topic, please see our blogContinue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: How Does Final Cut Work, and Should I Get It?

Q:  I will be directing a small feature financed by private investors.  It’s based on my script.  I want to ask for final cut, but I know only big time directors get final cut.  Anyway, I wonder if it’s something I can ask for and how final cut works.

A:  In many ways, a director without final cut is like a painter who has no right to determine what his painting looks like.  Of course, in many ways, it’s not like that — a director needs a lot of other people’s money to make a film, and a painter doesn’t.  If a studio invests tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into a picture, it only makes sense that it wants to control final cut.  That’s why only well-established directors are able to negotiate final cut on studio films.

The situation is different on small films not financed with studio money.  On those films, almost everything is negotiable, including final cut.  So you should feel free to ask for it, especially since it’s based on your script.  After all, depending on the level of creative experience of the investors and producers involved with your film, you may be the person everyone actually prefers to have final cut.  Is it really better if some guy who made a small fortune in the car wash business and who decides to “invest” some of it in a small film has final cut?

So here is how final cut generally works. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: How Do I Track Down and Acquire Film Rights to a Book I Want to Adapt Into a Movie?

Q:  I am a young filmmaker in Australia.  I have been chasing the film rights to a book written by an American author.  I have gone through the various publishers and have finally been given the name of the agent who represents the author in the States.  I am interested in knowing if the film rights to the authors book are available, and if they are, I want to know the correct pathway to go down to purchase them.

A:  To find out if the film rights are available, all you need to do is ask the agent (but you also need to do a lot of other things described at the end of this blog).  Assuming the rights are available and owned by the author, the next step is to negotiate the deal with the agent on behalf of the author to option the film rights.  (If the agent is a tough negotiator, you can try to cut him out of the equation and deal directly with the author; that’s a risky strategy that can backfire.  But don’t worry, there are other books available.)  And if you make the deal, the final step is to document the deal in an option agreement.  You could actually purchase the rights, as you suggest in your question, but it’s unusual to do so — the typical way to go about this is to option the rights.

Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: What Does My Deal for “Actual Proceeds” Actually Mean?

Q: Hello, I just read the article on what “defined net profits” is/means.  I’ve just signed a deal memo and am concerned with the wording…actual proceeds, no mention of gross or net (which may be a good thing).  Please let me know what might be next steps…

A: The basic difference between gross and net is the off the top deduction of expenses and fees in calculating net.  Speaking of off the tops, I just came from a bris.  It was a particularly good one.  Have you ever been?  If not, find one on Facebook or Craigslist, grab a few friends, and attend.  You’ll enjoy it.  Mohels tend to have a great sense of humor.

Anyway, your deal is probably with a production company that will not distribute the film itself.  And the term “actual proceeds” probably refers to the revenues received by the production company.  The blog about “defined net proceeds” focused on a distributor or studio definition of back-end, which is basically distribution revenues less distribution costs.  In your case, if in fact your deal is with a production company that will not distribute the film itself, you will be participating in the production company’s revenues.

Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: What Deal Should I Get for the Trailer Being Made for My Script?

Q: A production company is planning to shoot a trailer for the script I wrote. They are paying all expenses for filming. When and how much should I expect to be paid for my script? And do I need a contract prior to filming?

A: It sounds like you took a spec script to a production company, they liked it and now want to shoot a trailer for it. This is unusual. Generally, the film is made before the trailer. Normally, if a production company likes the script, it tries to option the script (or buy it outright) or at least tries to get an exclusive shopping window during which it attempts to set it up at a studio. It’s unclear to me why this production company wants to spend money on a trailer without first tying up the script.

Maybe they don’t want to spend money for the option (but then again they’re willing to spend money on the trailer)? Maybe they’re relatively new and don’t know what they’re doing? Of course, you don’t have to be relatively new to not know what you’re doing — you just have to not know what you’re doing. And when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s hard to know what to do. Continue reading the full story . . . »



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