Posts In "Q&A"


Q&A: Why Are Unsolicited Submissions Policies So Brutal?

Q:  For some 10 years now, I’ve been trying to penetrate the 10 foot thick wall called “unsolicited.”  How do I get through it? I have no agent.

A:  We can answer your question, but frankly, you may not like what we’re going to say.  Unfortunately, that 10 foot thick wall is probably as old as the Great Wall of China and is equally as impenetrable.  For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of submitting a script to an individual, production company, studio or, god forbid, law firm only to have it returned to you with a letter classifying it as an “unsolicited submission,” we can give you a little background. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Q&A: Does Being “Pay or Play” Mean I Get to Direct My Movie?

Q:  I’m a writer/director.  I wrote a script that’s getting some traction.  I obviously want to sell it but on one condition:  I have to direct the movie.  I don’t think anyone else can do it justice…  A producer just presented me with an option agreement.  In our conversations, he agreed that I could be the director.  In the option agreement, it says that in the event the project receives financing and if a few other conditions are met, I’ll be engaged to direct the film on a “pay or play” basis.  I know that “pay or play” is a good thing so does this mean the producer is essentially agreeing that I’m the director?

A:  When I first started practicing entertainment law, I believed the term “Pay or Play” referred to the next hot NBC primetime game show, which I assumed would be hosted by Gallagher.  Fortunately for all of us, it’s not.  However, I’ve found that while it is a very commonly used contract term, and everyone wants it in their agreements, there is (as evidenced by your question) some confusion about the full extent of its implications. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Q&A: How Do I Protect Myself From a Producer Flipping My Script?

 Q: A producer has offered to option my script.  I’m just starting out so the numbers are pretty low (it’s a 12 month option for $1,000 with a purchase price of the WGA scale).  I’m cool with that but have one problem with it:  what happens if she turns around and sells the option to a studio for a lot of money?  I think that’s what she plans to do.

A:  Pat yourself on the back, my friend.  You just spotted an issue that is often overlooked in standard option agreements.  To answer this, let’s talk a little background. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Q&A: What’s the Difference Between a Screenplay Option and a Book Option?

Q:  Is there a big difference between an option for a screenplay and an option for a book?

A:  Did you ever get the magazine Highlights when you were a kid? The one they had in dentists’ offices which had Goofus and Gallant and the hidden pictures game?  If so, you probably played the other game in the magazine where you’d be shown two similar pictures side by side and you’d have to spot the differences.  If there were a Highlights for lawyers, we could play the game with a screenplay option and a book option because the two do appear so similar on the surface.  On closer inspection, however, you’d find a few subtle differences and one major one:  the book option would include a section referring to the author’s “Reserved Rights.” Continue reading the full story . . . »

Q&A: What’s the Deal with These “Short Form” Option Documents?

Q:  I was recently presented with an option agreement.  At the end of the agreement there are two more short agreements.  One is a “Short Form Option.”  The other is a “Short Form Assignment.”  Why am I signing two options?  And why would I agree to sign a short assignment agreement which says they own all the rights when they haven’t exercised the option yet?

A:  Option Agreements are like rap stars.  They usually travel with a posse, albeit their posses are much shorter than the posses accompanying rap stars.  Rap stars hang with posses for two purposes: they want protection and they want to put the world on notice that they’ve arrived.  The Short Form posses that hang with Option Agreements accomplish a similar goal:  they are used to protect the optioning party due to the fact that they put the world on notice. Continue reading the full story . . . »

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 . . . »

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