Everything you need to know about the TV business, and why you should look no further than Kerry Law for your Entertainment Lawyer needs.
No other entertainment industry has undergone such drastic change in the last several decades as that of television. First, cable disrupted the monopoly of major broadcast networks and now the streaming giants of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are changing the game once again. With that said, television producers have never been in more need of a knowledgeable entertainment lawyer to navigate the ever-shifting landscape. We are here to help! We are your one stop shop for all your legal needs, from financing and production to distribution.
Industry Considerations & Services we offer
Many of the legal considerations facing television production and distribution are similar to that of the film industry. However, there are still many industry specific concerns that one must be aware of.
Forming the proper entity is paramount in launching your production. We are experienced and knowledgeable in how to make sure your project starts on the right foot. It is important to keep your movie business separate from your personal assets.
Pitching your idea to financiers, producers, and distributors can be stressful. We are here to make sure this process is streamlined and successful. We will counsel you on how to create the perfect pitch, package your idea into a pitch deck no one can ignore, and represent you in selling your idea to the highest bidder.
Before putting your well-thought-out idea on the market, it’s important to ensure your story and characters are protected. We are here to make sure that your idea stays in your hands, and if someone infringes your rights, we will will use our experience and expertise to make sure they pay! More on idea theft here!
If your story is based on the life of one or more real people, then it is likely that it will be necessary to obtain at least some rights to foreclose the risk of lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy, and violation of publicity rights. However, depending on where the production takes place and the content, you may be protected by the First Amendment rights. However, studios are quite conservative on what they will release without the proper licensing and the same goes for errors and omissions insurance.
These agreements are often option purchase agreements. Basic terms are as follows;
- The length of the initial option period and any extensions
- The price of the option and whether these payments are applicable against the purchase price
- The purchase price either based on a percentage of the budget or a flat fee.
- The scope of the release and information use.
- Control over the script and degree of fictionalization permissible.
- Any use of copyrighted works created by the subject such as music or films
- The first step in starting any TV show is the creation of what’s called a “treatment.” This is a description of the characters, the central theme of the series, and a brief description of future episodes. You also want to create a treatment specifically for the pilot episode. If studios like your treatment they will order a script for the pilot and possibly a couple more episodes.
- Writers should also seek our counsel to ensure that their are no potential rights issues in the content of your script or treatment such as trademark or privacy violations that could create future headaches. Our pre-publication review is both thorough and affordable.
- If you plan to acquire a script, play, book, or life story, we are here to negotiate option contracts and acquisitions. Rights acquisition agreements need to be extremely detailed and thorough so as to cover all possible uses of the acquired material. It’s important to get the broadest possible grant of rights, including the right to distribute in all formats presently known and that may be invented in the future.
- Finally, hiring a screenwriter to develop your idea requires work-for-hire contracts that ensure you as the producer retains the rights.
- Whether you are writing it yourself or acquiring a script, it will need to be scheduled and broken down so that potential financiers know the cost of your project. We can walk you through this process from start to finish
Studios, networks, and production companies will almost never pick up a show based solely on an idea and a completed treatment is necessary which involves writers. These agreements need to be made on a work for hire basis so that the producer will own the copyright in the content. Basic terms of these agreements are; the writing services to be performed, payments for each writing step and guarantees if any, credit, royalties, and option to write subsequent productions based on the source material.
It is extremely important to know whether the writer is a member of the Writers Guild of America. Members of the WGA are prohibited from entering into deals with production entities that are not signatories to the Writers Guild of America Basic Agreement. This Allows the WGA to prescribe certain minimum fees for treatments, scripts, and pilots and also gives the WGA right to determine the writing credits for the film.
It’s important to note that most writing contracts will provide for a “turnaround provision” which permits the writer to take the series to another network or studio for syndication upon repayment of certain development expenses. If the writer is also the creator, then the writer will receive ongoing royalties if the series is produced and even if the writer has no more involvement past the pilot
Getting a development deal from a major studio or network is every TV producers dream. In a typical development deal the studio pays the writer, producer, or production company a minimal annual payment and provides offices, a development fund, and other essential services in exchange for a first look at anything created under the agreement.
Syndication simply means selling a program individually to affiliates in local markets or cable networks for as much as possible. This is sometimes paid in cash or in exchange for advertising spots which are then sold to advertisers. Syndication is sometimes the only way for creators to make money on their shows since they run such large deficits in the creation and make back only about 80% of that in the licensing to studios.
Many syndication deals will only include weeknight rights so that the weekend rights can go to other affiliates.
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