THE FILM PRODUCER Page 2
producer is serious about optioning or purchasing the material, this type
of search is crucial. Once a producer has determined what material he
would like to pursue and the rights status has been ascertained, the next
step is to try and option those rights. By optioning the material, the
producer is gaining the right to acquire something by the subsequent
payment of additional money. In most cases, a purchase agreement is
negotiated at the same time as the material is optioned. At this time,
numerous rights (including publication, television, videocassette,
dramatic and merchandising) are discussed which all pertain to the future
prospects of the material.
The producer will find out quickly that to
option and purchase a script, a lot of legal matters will be involved.
Option and purchase agreements are far from casual documents, and a
lawyer's involvement may prove very helpful. Lawyers are obviously not
cheap, but in the long run having a lawyer negotiate the contracts for you
will save the producer a lot of time, confusion and frustration. An
experienced entertainment lawyer will know exactly how to state things on
paper and will be able to offer the producer many business guidelines to
To protect the film and its supporters from claims of copyright
infringement that may result after the film is made, an insurance policy
known as an errors and omissions policy (E and O policy) is normally drawn
up by an attorney and carried by the picture. In most cases, if a claim of
infringement is brought forth, it can be successfully defended without
ever going to trial. The leading firm involved in reviews of such material
is de Forest Research, Inc, based out of Hollywood California. Not only do
they review your work, but also they have an extensive library that can
prove useful to the writer during the initial scriptwriting.
is crucial to either have the option renewed or the option exercised. If
the option expires, all rights to the material will be lost.
the producer, protection of their work can be provided by several
different means. One way is to copyright the material the producer himself
is working on. Another option is to join the Writer's Guild of America,
which allows for registration of written material. Either way, the date
that the material was within the control of the producer will be
established and may prove crucial later if a claim is brought about. One
last way to protect one's own material is to mail your material to
yourself by registered mail that establishes a date that the material was
One important thing for a producer to
remember when optioning material is the date in which the option expires.
Because it normally takes a long time for the motion picture process to
get underway, it is crucial to either have the option renewed or the
option exercised. If the option expires, all rights to the material will
Because the term "producer" is so
vague in the industry today, an option agreement is crucial in
demonstrating the producer's drive, determination and belief in the
project at hand. The most important first step is, once again, to find
material that is believed in, gain a hold of the rights to that material,
and start the process of development.
of the key players for a producer to be successful is the agent. In the
motion picture industry there are very few pictures that have been put
together without an agent being involved. Some of the major talent
agencies today are International Creative Management (ICM), the William
Morris Agency, TRIAD and Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Due to the close
relationships they have with both studio executives and independent
producers, the head of the motion picture department of these agencies are
one of the greatest forces to getting pictures made today.
Agencies generally commission a
maximum of 10% of their client's gross income, which they justify for work
done on behalf of the client. These agencies are licensed (by the state)
and are franchised by various professional guilds including the Screen
Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the American
Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).
Agents are considered the middlemen between
those trying to sell their material and those trying to buy it. Although
they are not necessary in making any particular deal they are almost
always involved. To find out who is represented by whom in the business,
SAG offers a service that will furnish the names and telephone numbers of
agents of its members. This service can prove very useful to a producer
because much of the time an actor will only be able to be reached through
their representative agent.
is not necessary for a producer to have an agent of their own to make a
film, but agents are needed to gain access to individuals that the
producers need to make the film.
any producer attempting to get their project off the ground, the
enthusiasm of an agent can be of great assistance. If the agent feels good
about the project they are more apt to suggest it to their clients. The
problem is, sometimes just getting an agent to listen to you is difficult.
For the new producer or someone whose name is unknown in the industry, an
agent may not even take the time to answer your phone call. The key to
this problem is persistence.
Agents are very busy people and do not have
the time to listen to everyone, but if you keep pursuing them they may
eventually listen. Because agencies are made up of many individuals, it is
best for a producer to establish relationships with at least one agent
from every agency they can. That way, there is more than one outlet that a
producer has to choose from when trying to make a film. It is not
necessary for a producer to have an agent of their own to make a film, but
agents are needed to gain access to individuals that the producers need to
make the film.