Does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney as a matter of professional practice? An entertainment solicitor’s own disposition and my stacking of the question notwithstanding, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time : the forthright answer is, “it depends” گرشا رضایی. A number of producers these days are themselves film lawyers, entertainment legal professionals, or other kinds of lawyers, and so, often 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 permission or entertainment attorney legal experience to back it up. Filmmaking and film practice comprise a market in which these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as replacements for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and inadequate production procedures will never escape the trained eye of entertainment legal professionals doing work for the studios, the distributors, the banks, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance carriers. For this reason alone, Perhaps, the job function of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.
I also suppose that there can be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial radar without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will web 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 already had any health insurance for years, and he is still in good shape and cheaply afloat : this week, anyway. Taken in the aggregate, some people can be luckier than others, and some people can be more inclined than others to roll the cube.
But it is all too basic and pedestrian to tell your self that “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if i simply stay out of trouble and stay careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a film producer, as well as the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential financial obligations. 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 harsh lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film business.
The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By clear thinking, careful planning, and : this is the absolute key : skilled, polite and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be considered simply the person seeking to establish concurrence. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes function as one who says “no”. But the entertainment attorney can be a positive force in the production as well.
The film lawyer can, in the course of legal representation, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film production, then the film producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney advantages from that very 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, predictable, and necessary one : akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the cost of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the average independent film producer, other entertainment legal professionals do not.
Enough generalities. For what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film lawyer and entertainment attorney?:
- INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the film “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually points to the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, telling the film producer that it is time. If the producer doesn’t properly create, file, as well as a corporate or other appropriate business whereby to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter remember to keep that business shielded, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film producer is potentially hurting himself or herself. Without the shield against liability that an business can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the film producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) have risk and, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to meet the debts and financial obligations of the film producer’s business. In other words:
Patient: “Doctor, it damages my head when i do that”.
Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.
Like it or not, the film lawyer entertainment attorney continues, “Film is a assuming business, and the statistical majority of motion pictures can fail cheaply : even at the San Fernando Valley film dojo level. It is unreasonable to run a film business or any other form of business out of one’s own personal bank account”. Besides, it looks not professional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, brokers, and distributors at any point in the future.
The choices of where and how to file an business are often advised by entertainment lawyers but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or film 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 home based business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer probably know that under U. S. law a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment lawyers who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that same client : particularly when the entertainment attorney bills the first job reasonably.
I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer : any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actresses you ought to hire in a film : or any more than I would tell a D. P. -client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a film production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that as soon as the producer lets a capable entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will begin to gel for the film production in manners that couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the film producer.
- SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This matter also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Let’s say that the film producer wants to produce a film with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting funds for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in numerous possible ways, and may actually start collecting some payments as a result. Sometimes this occurs prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about it post facto from his or her client.
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 thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this inherently assuming business called film, and then accumulates money on the basis of that representation, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities concurrence work is among the most challenging of matters faced by an entertainment attorney.
As both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching a solicitation for film (or any other) investment can have severe and federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the film software is, it’s never worth monetary fees and penitentiary time : not to mention the veritable unspooling of the not finished film if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in actuality try to move their own “investment prospectus”, complete with boastful anticipated multipliers of the box office figures of the credited motion pictures “E. T. inches and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity and imagination, but usually with no entertainment or film lawyer or other lawyer. I am certain that some of these producers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment legal professionals and other bar, and standard, may tend to think about them, instead, as prospective ‘Defendants’.
- DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment attorney guidance yet, that the production business will need to be a signatory to collective bargaining agreements of unions such as Screen Actresses Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the Writers Guild (WGA). This is a material area that some film producers can handle themselves, particularly producers with experience. However if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer prior to making even any initial contact with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or film lawyer prior to providing any articles to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with film or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to thereafter continue with the picture’s further production.