Displaying the most recent of 17 posts written by

Production Counsel Keith E. Cooper

Raising Money For Your Movie from Investors

First of all, you need to be aware that raising money from investors is governed by securities laws. A “security” exists when a person has invested value in a common enterprise with an expectation of profit derived from the efforts of others. What this means is that someone not actually involved in making your film is giving you money because they expect your movie to make a profit and they will share in those profits. The upside for the filmmaker (and the reason most filmmakers like this method of fund raising) is that the investors are taking a risk with you and you don’t have to pay back the investment unless your film makes money. This article discussing the risks of raising money from investors.

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Submitting Material to Film And Television Companies

While studio executives don’t usually steal ideas from submissions they receive, other people along the way might be tempted. Receptionists, messengers, and assistants may read your script. They may be struggling writers or producers themselves. They may like your concept and characters, but think they can write it better. Especially if they are new to the business and ill-informed, they may not consider it stealing to rewrite a version of your script and call it their own.

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Using Snippets of Music in Your Film

If your film is a documentary or news piece that comments on music (whether your comment is positive or negative), you may be entitled to use segments of the music to illustrate your point. If your film is a fiction narrative and the characters happen to be discussing a particular piece of music, whether that can be considered fair use is a bit more of a gray area.

United States Copyright law (in 17 U.S.C. § 107) contains a provision for “fair use of a copyrighted work” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. This provision allows, among other things, journalists and critics to quote passages of a work in their reportage on that work.

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Attachments to Screenplays

In simple terms, an attachment is someone (other than a writer) who has become involved with developing a screenplay to production and must be hired when production begins. When someone in the movie business says there is an attachment to a script, this is usually what they’re talking about. Usually, attachments are made because the script is good, but the writer is unable to get it to the “right people.” The “attachment agreement” can be a simple writing between the parties to record their mutual understanding of what is being promised.

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Why does a Filmmaker need a Lawyer?

Filmmakers need lawyers to advise them on their rights, protect those rights, and make sure those rights are accurately documented.

One of the saddest things I see in my practice is a filmmaker with a completed project who can’t sell it because the legal documentation isn’t correct. Why is this sad? Because it’s completely preventable.

Let me share with you one of the most important principles of professional film making: It doesn’t matter how good your movie is, if your legal work isn’t right, you don’t have a film to sell. (NOTE: if you’re making a home movie you plan to never show to the public, legal documentation is far less important.)

Why?

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How Attorneys Fees are Determined and Etiquette in Dealing with Attorneys

Keep in mind that attorneys sell only one thing: Time. Not legal advice or contracts. Their time. And to take it without paying for it is, quite simply, stealing. Most attorneys offer a short consultation with potential new clients to see if the subject matter and client fit their law practice. A few attorneys will even answer general legal questions. This should not be interpreted as an invitation to call more than once and ask additional questions. The second phone call should be to notify the attorney that you want to hire him (if you have not done so already) and arrange the details. Most attorneys set their fees based on careful calculations and expectations of a reasonable profit. If they regularly work for free, or at a loss, they won’t be around to help you very long. Be wary of attorneys who are overly flexible about negotiating fees. It may mean they are inexperienced and expect to learn as they represent you—which can be very costly when they make mistakes on your behalf.

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Welcome! Introducing the Production Counsel Blawg

Discusses the meaning of the word “blawg”, how the Production Counsel Blawg came about, and the dangers of not having a lawyer review entertainment agreements. Includes a biographical introduction to the blog’s author.

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