Steve’s Lawyers Corner
I completely understand what drives a producer to seek help to market her film that has just been completed. The actual pre-production, principal photography and post-production activities are fun. And it’s a great place to showcase your creative talents as an added bonus. We all know that if there is cast and crew that really gels, the weeks during principal photography are the times that real friendships develop and can last a lifetime.
Is it any wonder then that the producer will always want help with what is arguably the most important and difficult part of the entire process: selling the film to a distributor?
The fun part of filmmaking has been completed. The money has been spent. And, without a distribution plan, you probably won’t even know what direction to turn at that time. So who is there to help you understand how to go forward? Typically nobody with any real appropriate experience. As the result, it’s easy to become a bit needy at that time. You need to get the money back to your investors, generate a return for the cast and crew who took deferrals in the project, and of course, you would like to make some money.
I thought that you might find the facts of the lawsuit that indirectly involved both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Radcliffe relevant to you. The producer of two films, one with each of these two actors, retained an “international distributor” to market their film throughout the world.
The distributor must have been a bit short of cash at the time, and the first $400,000 that came in from the presales and sales of the film with Pierce Brosnan in it was appropriated to their own uses. The distributor came up with a number of unacceptable excuses for this misappropriation of funds, and was ultimately found guilty of misconduct by an arbitrator. When the distributor was unwilling to re-convey the funds taken to their corporate account set up for this project, the producer sued it to force them to give the money back.
As of today, this matter is still in court and the outcome seems rather obvious, but of course, until the court decides on a course of outcome, there is no enforceable decision.
How does this relate to you, you might ask? Most of the “sales agents” or “producer’s representatives” with whom I have dealt on behalf of my production company clients have demanded money up front, made only general assertions of what they might be able to do, and all have flimsy and often even no agreements.
I would urge you to avoid the trap of “easy money” by letting others do the heavy lifting of getting your film sold. You will be the best sales agent, ultimately. No one knows the project better than you do. And, you can track down the same people that most of these small reps or agents might know (or might not even know).
Kids, don’t try to deal with big fancy Hollywood Sales Reps at home, and without help. This is one area that could cause you to lose precious time and even more precious money.
The Replin Law Group