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Pasquali56
03-01-2014, 07:38 PM
I've held off telling anyone about this story, but it's been a while now -- so what the hell. Two years ago, I had an offer to buy (not option, but buy) a screenplay of mine for an inspirational drama based on a true story (I bought and owned the story/life rights and wrote the screenplay). I had an entertainment attorney negotiating on my behalf and the producer's attorney was negotiating for him.

Well, the initial offer was ridiculously low, even for an indie production. Regarding the rights I purchased and owned, I had expected that the producer would pay the woman (the protagonist in the story) a legitimate amount for her life rights. But instead, the lawyer said I owned the rights, so I would have to pay the woman out of my screenwriting fee. Of course, that's absolutely ridiculous -- because the story rights would ultimately be transferred over to the producer as part of the deal.

Anyway, I happened to be going through chemo at the time -- and the producer's attorney knew it. But it didn't stop him from calling me numerous times, even on Sundays, to tell me that I needed to bug my attorney and tell her that she needed to hurry up and close the deal. The attorney even said to me several times "I want you to have a few bucks in your pocket and have something to look forward to." I reminded him again and again that I was going through chemo and he should be talking only to my attorney (whether or not I was going through chemo) -- yet he continued to badger me. I was obviously feeling pretty fatigued at the time and didn't want to get into any fights, so I didn't even tell my attorney about the producer's attorney calling me. I just kept redirecting him to my attorney to no avail.

We finally did agree on a deal (a really lousy one -- and I even agreed to pay the woman 50% of my writing fee because the producer's attorney refused to give in on that point) and it was signed while I was still going through my chemo. The production is still up in the air. Not sure what's going to come of it. But once the deal was signed I never heard from the producer's attorney again. Not even an email to tell me that he was glad to hear that I was in remission months later. Comparing a snake to this guy would be an insult to snakes everywhere.

I should mention that the woman/protagonist is an amazing person and I am more than happy to share my fee with her. More than anything, I hope the film is made to see her incredible story told. I do believe that the producer should have paid her a legit amount out of his own pocket, but it is what it is. I should also say that the producer (who I met after the deal was done) is actually a very nice guy and I honestly don't believe that his attorney was keeping him apprised of the negotiations -- and certainly not his underhanded tactics.

emily blake
03-02-2014, 10:27 AM
Ugh. Thank you for sharing this. I hope good things come out of it. At least you got into remission. That's got to make this easier.

Alfred Parker
03-02-2014, 11:12 AM
Pasquali - hope something good eventually comes out of this in terms of a finished production for you -- and I wish you continued good health.

Re: the attorney contacting you directly, that is pretty shady. In fact, in my most recent negotiation, there was some sticking points and I told my attorney that based on my conversations with the producer I think his attorney is drawing a harder line than necessary and if my guy would just call the producer it would probably be resolved. And my attorney's response was that in fact, he COULD NOT communicate or negotiate directly with the producer, it would be unethical and a violation of conduct rules. Once both parties have engaged attorneys, the attorneys must communicate only with each other - (with or without their clients present).

I'm sure there are attorneys here on the board who could speak more intelligently to what those rules may or may not cover. But that was my experience and at least made me feel good that my attorney has SOME ethics he follows ;)

Anyway, ultimately, in order to convey what we wanted to the producer, my attorney sent his "thoughts" to me which he ccd my agent on and my agent replied while cc'ing the producer - just so he got the communication in a roundabout way without "Directly" coming from my attorney.

Geoff Alexander
03-02-2014, 11:33 AM
I'm not an attorney, but my wife is a litigator, and my understanding is that you can be sanctioned for attempting to communicate directly with a client around their attorney.

As to OP, wow, I am so sorry to hear it. You should never ever talk directly to attorney when you are represented. Glad to hear you are feeling better.

Pasquali - hope something good eventually comes out of this in terms of a finished production for you -- and I wish you continued good health.

Re: the attorney contacting you directly, that is pretty shady. In fact, in my most recent negotiation, there was some sticking points and I told my attorney that based on my conversations with the producer I think his attorney is drawing a harder line than necessary and if my guy would just call the producer it would probably be resolved. And my attorney's response was that in fact, he COULD NOT communicate or negotiate directly with the producer, it would be unethical and a violation of conduct rules. Once both parties have engaged attorneys, the attorneys must communicate only with each other - (with or without their clients present).

I'm sure there are attorneys here on the board who could speak more intelligently to what those rules may or may not cover. But that was my experience and at least made me feel good that my attorney has SOME ethics he follows ;)

Anyway, ultimately, in order to convey what we wanted to the producer, my attorney sent his "thoughts" to me which he ccd my agent on and my agent replied while cc'ing the producer - just so he got the communication in a roundabout way without "Directly" coming from my attorney.

madworld
03-02-2014, 11:47 AM
Glad you're doing better! Hopefully the project gets filmed and it all becomes worthwhile. Lawyers get a bad rap but I know quite a few who never would have acted like that one. Wow.

RobWriter
03-02-2014, 12:51 PM
Glad you are feeling better.

For those that are interested - there are rules that govern this type of situation. Every state is different - but all bars basically adhere to some form of the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility.

If an attorney knows you are represented - the general rule is that attorney cannot contact you. To the OP - depending on when this happened - and if you have record of it - you could notify the Bar Association in whatever state you live in. Absent some case law or statute, it could be sanctionable conduct. The only other situation I can think where this would be OK (in addition to case law, statute) is where a person's own attorney authorizes opposing counsel to contact you directly.

As far as two represented parties contacting each other - e.g. - writer with attorney and producer with attorney - that is allowed and, depending on the circumstances, can be encouraged. If you are going to go this route - definitely consult with your attorney beforehand.

As an attorney, hearing about this kind of situation really pisses me off - sorry it happened to you.

Ronaldinho
03-02-2014, 01:04 PM
This sucks. I hope your chemo has gone well.

That being said, you've got to be a better advocate for yourself than this.

That you didn't tell your attorney that his guy was doing this was a huge mistake. As others have pointed out, this is an ethics violation. He would have known this.

Furthermore, at a certain point, when somebody is holding your feet to the fire on an unreasonable deal point, sometimes you just have to say "no" even if you don't mean in. I've had this work and not work.

eg, one time my lawyer said, "We can't do this. This isn't going to work if you insist on that." And they caved. Another time, they said, "We can't budge on that," and we caved. We weren't willing to walk.

Your attorney can't help you if he doesn't know what's going on. You cut his legs out from under him by not keeping him informed. I mean, don't you think the producer's attorney might have budged if he realized "oh, ****, I need to make a deal here or else he'll file an ethics charge against me?"

Similarly, the cc'd email is sometimes a useful tool. "Your attorney is insisting on this term that we can't agree on. This will scuttle the deal." At the very least that lets you know if the attorney is doing the producer's bidding or if he's off his leash.

Craig Mazin
03-02-2014, 01:51 PM
Disgusting.

CameronAlexander
03-02-2014, 01:58 PM
This is unbelievably poor behavior -- even for Hollywood entertainment lawyers.

You seem like quite a person to deal with that type of ethical and professional bankruptcy and still remain positive.

sc111
03-02-2014, 03:48 PM
Karma will get them. The silver lining is you're in remission. :)

Pasquali56
03-02-2014, 04:08 PM
Thanks for all the nice thoughts. Yes, the main thing is that I'm in remission and feeling great. Whether or not this movie gets made is small potatoes in the scope of things.

One time I did snap at the attorney was when he whined to me about how exhausted he was. He said he was up late doing some sort of deposition. So I told him that I don't think staying up late for work compares to chemo. There was no response to that -- and I felt pretty good about putting him in his place.

Ulysses
03-03-2014, 12:04 AM
Thumbs up, Paquali, for you being in remission. We all hope you'll be back on track soon.

Hearing your story I have an urge to seeing this sleazebag being submitted to a "Breaking Bad" experience at the wrong end of the stick.

I hope your story will work out, and that you can connect to the producer!

Good luck!

grumpywriter
03-03-2014, 09:29 AM
Glad you're feeling better and I hope this movie is a hit!

OCeeBee
03-03-2014, 10:20 AM
Yo dude,

You ever need a stranger to punch the guy in his face for you, I got your back. Holler at me.