LEGAL SERVICES.

Do you accept new clients?

Yes.  As long as the anticipated legal work is within our area of practice.  However, generally we do not take on new clients who currently have a small project (less than five hours of our time is expected) and not much else anticipated .

How do you charge for your services?

As with most lawyers, we charge by the hour.  However, because we are a smaller, more experienced firm, many projects cost less than some lawyers who charge a lower hourly rate, but spend more time.  In general, a good rule of thumb is that an average contract (option agreement, sales agency, script acquisition, or distribution agreement, etc) will run $2,500 to $3,500 in legal fees.  Obviously some contracts, like a bank loan or complicated LLC or studio distribution agreement, will run significantly more, while some other transactions will run less. 

Some legal work, like production legal, we agree to do on a fixed price, based on certain parameters.

Do you require a retainer?

Yes.  Our general retainer is $7,500, however on bigger projects we may require a larger retainer to start, and in special situations the retainer may be lower.  Our representation will not start until we receive our engagement letter (the contract we will send you between our firm and you) signed by you, and the retainer. We do not require a retainer for producer representative services alone.  Where we are retained for production legal, our retainer is generally the greater of $5,000 or one half the fixed fee.

 What if I do not need $7,500 of legal services?

Except for very small films (which we take on occasionally), for all new clients we require a minimum of $7,500 of initial work (either as the first project or over the first month or so). So, our retainer is essentially a minimum fee.  So if you do not have at least $7,500 of legal services you will need in the first couple months, you should probably not retain us. The exception to this is small films of under $100,000 budgets, where are fees are likely under $5,000. See discussion below.

Once the retainer is used, do I have to put up another retainer?

No.  We bill monthly.  Once the retainer is used, in general we just bill you for our charges and expect our bills paid before the end of the next month.  If you do not have good credit, or you are not paying timely, or there are other factors of concern to us, we may ask for a security deposit.

Can I afford you as my production lawyer on my low low low budget film?


Yes.  One of the biggest mistakes indie producers make is not retaining a competent lawyer on their film.  Not only can they find themselves unable to sell their film, but they may also end up spending a lot more than if they had done it right to start.

For films under $100,000, our fees usually run between $3,500 and $5,000.  This is not a fixed fee but an estimated range based on how much you use us.  Our retainer is in this range based on the expected work you will have for us.  At this budget level our services cannot be 24/7 and so they are limited.  A lot of responsibility is placed on you, with our guidance.  We do the very important contracts, like getting the “chain of title” in order, the agreement with the director and a key actor.  We have a production legal forms package that we provide you that will cover most situations that arise on these kinds of films.  We are also available as issues arise, like clearance issues.

For films of a bigger budget, we agree on a fixed fee that fits the budget and the anticipated level of work that will be required of us.  Generally, we document all the contracts with the key cast and crew, advice on location and clearance issues, chain of title, guild registration and many other typical issues that arise in production.

If you help me agree to act as my producer representative and help me get distribution for my finished film, how do you charge; is there an upfront fee?

If we are retained just to act as a producer rep, we do not require a retainer.  For producer rep services, we are on a contingency fee (many other producer reps require an advance against their contingent fee. We do not). We take 10% of grosss receipts you receive from the sale, licensing and distribution of the film.   We include in this percentage our legal time to negotiate and document the licenses.  If you need other legal services, such as finishing production, delivery issues, collection issues, etc, we charge our usual hourly rates for those services.

Do you work on spec or percentage?

Other than as a producer representative on a finished film, we do not work on spec or contingency.  For some writers, directors or actors, we may work on a percentage basis in some, limited,  cases.

FILM PROJECTS

Can I submit a script, synopsis or idea to you for consideration?

No.   We are not producers, nor are we literary agents.

Can you help me get financing for my film?

No. I do not take on clients to help them find financing.  Sometimes I might be able to recommend an element to help finish the financing for a film, or a strategy to use, but I do not act as an investment banker or finder.

Can you help me get actors for my film?

No.  That is the job for the casting director, or you as the producer. However, in our capacity as your lawyer, we may submit an offer on your behalf. 

A production company, agent,, director or actor will not accept my script submission unless it comes from a lawyer.  Will you do this for me?

No.  We do not take on clients to submit projects on their behalf. This is different than if you are making an offer for someone’s services.  Still, if we feel we were retained to essentially make submissions for you, we will withdraw as your representative.

Can you help me get distribution for my finished film?

Sometimes.   We sometimes will act as a producer rep and help place a film with distributors, sales agents or licensees. We do not take on every film that is sent to us. We evaluate the commercial prospects for the film to make a decision if  its worth it to us to spend the time.  Unlike many other producer reps, we do not charge an upfront fee for this service, so we are discerning about what we will agree to try to help place for distribution.   Please do NOT send any materials without first obtaining authorization via email. 

Can you help me get distribution for my film that I am trying to produce?

Generally, no.  The market today is very difficult for “presales”.  However, in some cases, for existing clients, I may be able to help under certain conditions and circumstances.

What are “presales”?

Presales are contracts with distributors (buyers) where the distributor is buying the film before its made.  The distributor agrees that when you finish the film according to the script they approved, and with the approved actor and director, they will pay you an agreed price.  That payment is usually an advance against how well the film ends up doing.  That said, most of the time you never see anything beyond that upfront money.

How come you never see profits on a film or more money after the advance?

Pundits always refer to “creative accounting” in Hollywood as the culprit.  But while the accountants get all the credit, its actually the lawyers who deserve it.  It’s not creative accounting but the terms of the contract that are stacked against you.  The accountants just calculate the numbers based on the terms (formula) in the contract. 

The main reason that there is usually no more money beyond the upfront payments from the distributor is because of how video is usually calculated. While video amounts the most significant revenues on many films,  most distribution contracts only include 10-15% of video gross receipts in the equation.  On top of that there are all the distribution fees and expenses.