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Filmmakers.com

THE FILM PRODUCER Page 2

View Spec Screenplays
If a 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 follow.

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.

It is crucial to either have the option renewed or the option exercised. If the option expires, all rights to the material will be lost. 
For 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 controlled.

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 be lost. 

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.

 Working with Agents 
One 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.

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.
For 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.

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