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Old 02-14-2020, 10:21 AM   #1
atomicsmurf
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Default Help with possible agreement for representation

I've been in contact with someone who wants to represent and pitch my TV Pilot in the next coming weeks to Netflix, HULU and HBO. I've been discussing percentages with him and he brought up a 1% backend. I have no idea what that means and what that would entail if this project takes off.

I'm just looking for advice on how to handle this.
His website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaypmusic

A few snippets from my email conversation with him:
=====================================
"I would need your Script Bible if you have one, The script of course, and a letter giving me permission/authorization to pitch/represent you and a brief bio. you can send the info needed to my email at:"

"As far as fees go in this arena, I don't do upfront fees. I don't think someone should get paid for just pitching, unless it's a team dedicated to pitching. What I normally do in most cases is ask for a fair percentage as well as credits (Producer and/or Writer)."

"Basically just to verify that you authorize me, Johnnie Jacobs to represent you and your project(s) on your behalf. That I have authority to negotiate contracts and option deals on your behalf. Something like that...simple and to the point. Make sure to put your full name and contact info just in case someone wants to verify that you wrote the Letter Of Authorization."

My response:
"What would be your percentage? And would you be open to a 3 month representation?"

His response:
"It would depend on what you intend to do with the script, are you wanting to sell it or attempt to stay on the project indefinitely in some capacity. I would probably require 10% and 1% backend. But as I said it would depend on what your plans for the script is. At any rate I am very open to negotiations. I am easy to get along with.

I don't know about the 3 month option only because there are a lot of factors when it comes to getting a pitch for projects. Do you have a Script Bible? Also you will need a Pitch Deck, and a Treatment as well, which I can get done (Not the Bible though), all in hopes in getting your script to the table. All to say, no one can guarantee that they can have you sold in 3 months or not, especially if you don't have a track record yet. I would in fact say that an open ended (On-going) agreement would be more efficient because with a written 30 day withdrawal either party can cancel the agreement. I was also considering pitching you along with my pitch next month, but I'm not sure if my team will be ready. But my goals is once inside, to let them know I am representing several projects and multiple genres.

Let me know what you think..."
=====================

Any advice on how to respond to this? Why do I have to write the Letter of Authorization? Isn't that something that should be provided to me with the terms and percentages? I am very new to this and very shy of signing or authorizing anything, especially a project that I feel is my "baby".

Last edited by atomicsmurf : 02-14-2020 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

What is there online that indicates to you that this person can 1) get this in front of those entities and 2) get it set up? A cursory search reveals no indication that is the case.

And they want to attach to YOUR project as a producer AND writer? Come on. Run away.

Out of curiosity how did you hook up with this person? I understand the desire to get your stuff out there and noticed, but some level of scrutiny should apply.

You say you are new to this - is your work ready to be seen by people in the industry? What kind of feedback have you received on it?
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:12 AM   #3
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

Everything about this screams run away as fast as you can. He's a music guy from Chicago, why would you even approach him?

As for the "deal," there's so much wrong with it I can't even start to list them, we'd be here all day.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

I don't disagree with others impressions that this guy is probably not the serious, legit producer (I guess?) that you want in your corner. That said . . .

If you're an unproduced writer who LA-based producers or reps are unlikely to open their doors to, sometimes it may be worth a 3-month roll of the dice so long as you are adequately protected in terms of your legal rights.

So if you think you have nothing to lose from taking a flyer on this guy, tell him to memorialize HIS terms for a shopping agreement (don't bid against yourself) and if you agree with the basic terms, tell him "great, let me just have my own attorney review it and I'll get back to you with my decision." And then have an attorney with (real) entertainment experience spend an hour going over the terms. If the producer balks at THAT step, well then you know you're probably okay to walk away. But if the attorney says you're protected for the future, it probably couldn't hurt, even if nothing comes from it ultimately.

(My real concern for the future in situations like these is not so much screwing the writer out of a present opportunity but more typically the guy can't do anything with it in 3 months or a year, but if it ever sold somewhere further down the road then they usually come running back into the picture to wet their beak)
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Old 02-14-2020, 12:23 PM   #5
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

When I asked Johnnie how he got his pitches with Netflix, Hulu and HBO his reply was "I have a few connects that write on a couple of shows on Netflix, also my team has put together all the material in a pitch packet and are pretty effective at getting people's attention. "

So yeah, I'm with you guys and girls as far as credibility. I just had to hear it from folks who have been around. It just didn't feel right, which is what prompted me to come here and seek some knowledge.

As far as how we met... I have my script listed on Stage 32, which is where he approached me.

The interest that I received when I contact production companies was okay. There was some interest from New Palace Films, Gabriel Horn, and Mark Castaldo from Destiny Pictures. But the response was one of those, "I like it but we just can't use it right now", or "I'll keep it on file and pass it to other producers that may be looking for material like this." Both replies were probably polite brush offs. But I'll take it as a win to even get a nice reply from either producer.

Honestly, I'm just writing the story for the pleasure of it, but posted it around to Stage 32, Simply Scripts, and Script Revolution for feedback, which has been encouraging. BTW it is copyrighted and registered with WGAe.

But yeah, I've been exchanging PM's on Stage 32 with Johnnie for the past week and it took that long just to get the kind of information I posted to you all. So I'll pass on signing anything and letting him represent me. I actually feel better about that now. Thank you.

Any other advice is welcome!!
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Old 02-14-2020, 02:48 PM   #6
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

Quote:
Originally Posted by atomicsmurf View Post

Honestly, I'm just writing the story for the pleasure of it, but posted it around to Stage 32, Simply Scripts, and Script Revolution for feedback, which has been encouraging. BTW it is copyrighted and registered with WGAe.
Why didn’t you use any of the script services under “Sites, Services, Software, & Supplies” whose stickies give their credentials, I’d like to ask?
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Old 02-15-2020, 10:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

A few things to consider/ask for clarification:
  • Have they ever sold a pitch to any of the three studios?
  • Do they have any relationships with the production companies that each of these three studios and 1) have development deals with, and/or 2) has worked with previously to develop material, 3) do they have access to financiers, 4) do they have relationships with distributors, 5) access to talent (actors and directors) or any other Third Parties
  • What's concerning is that they're asking for a backend percentage which you don't get from "streamers" or "pay for cable service," because there are no box office, rental, licensing or streaming revenues like you would receive from a film's theatrical release, or residuals from reruns, or syndication.

    This is the entire reason that Shonda Rhimes and other big-time writers received huge up front deals with Netflix (hundreds of millions) to offset what they would have received if they had sold their pitch to a Network. I'm pretty sure I understand this correctly.
  • Is he a Manager or an Agent? His linked in says both and he can't be both. An agent can negotiate a contract on your behalf, a manager cannot.
  • If he wants to represent you for 6 months exclusively to these three organizations his fee is 10% of your fees, period. He doesn't get an extra percentage for a consulting fee, that's BS. Presenting and pitching IS THE MANAGER'S JOB.
  • And Agents do negotiate deals, but YOU determine the final execution of that document, not the Agent. Unless you give them Power of Attorney, which I would never do. IMO, writers should want to understand the legal document their name is being used to execute.
  • Ask them to send you an example of a previous pitch they've submitted and state you'll be happy to sign an NDA.
  • And finally, if they've never sold a deal to any of these Third Parties, or even have any experience in film/TV, how can they possibly negotiate the best deal for you?

There are some red flags here. He has no profile on IMDBPro-- they aren't listed, there no credits, nothing in production, optioned, or in development for film. It looks like they are primarily in music.

Some additional information.

You don't "copyright" your material. Your material is protected by "copyright laws," and is copyrighted the moment it is fixated into a finished form. eg. screenplay, treatment, outline...

The act of "registering" your screenplay with the WGA is a method to establish an origination date of the work in its completed form. It is an additional protection against litigation. The WGA is basically a log and file system. They don't read your material, they don't verify its authenticity, authorship or ownership, they simply accept a copy that you claim is yours and the stamp it with a receipt date. Do you see what I mean?

You automatically receive copyright protection once you complete the screenplay. This is why it's important to keep all development files, rewrite history, and submission logs.

I am not a lawyer and am not offering legal advice.

Good luck with your project. Have you considered sending queries directly to managers or putting it up on The Black List?

Good luck,
FA4

PE: I need to amend this. I does look like they have a project in pre-production under Artwerks Entertainment titled SHIR HAN. Looks like they started the first pre-prod in 2014?
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Last edited by finalact4 : 02-15-2020 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 02-15-2020, 11:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
You automatically receive copyright protection once you complete the screenplay.
But that's still not enough. I've talked to lawyers about this. Don't just work off the whole "auto receive" notion, simply because you created/wrote something.

As noted in numerous places around the internet, and again, by lawyers I've talked to:

Quote:
While there is a presumption that this is your work even without notice or registration, you cannot seek a claim for copyright infringement unless it is registered.

Registering with the United States Copyright Office does have several advantages. It formally establishes a public record and it is required prior to bringing an action for infringement (meaning, you usually cannot sue for copyright infringement unless you have first registered your work with the Copyright Office). Registration includes submitting an application, non-refundable filing fee ($35), and a copy of the work to be protected.
One of the examples a lawyer gave me was a client of theirs was/is one of the big three networks. Everyday after their morning show -- a show clearly seen by millions of people, broadcast on live TV with their logo on the screen, no question who did it, etc. - they would print out a transcript of the show and register it with the copyright office.

If you don't want to spend the money or don't care, then sure, don't register it. But the lawyer noted one of the first things a judge will ask is, "Did you register your material? Do you have an "official" copyright on it?"

Granted one can get nit-picky, and say well you own the copyright right off the bat. Sure. But when people say, copyright it, what they mean is officially & formally copyright it by registering it. One can argue the expression or semantics of it all, but it's not worth it. It's like arguing that the copier was made by Canon so no one should be asking you to make a Xerox of the document, but rather they should ask for a photocopy or Canon of it. A "Xerox" is/was just an expression -- shorthand.

Just go register/"copyright" your script officially. Pay the $35. It's not like it's a $1,000 each time. Get the best protection and full coverage you can, which includes covering your legal fees, damages, etc. if you win.

Do you want to put your small child in the back seat of a car and simply tie them in with a single piece of rope? Or do you want to put them in a proper, regulation baby seat, all nice, strapped in and protected? Your script is your baby. I'd say, protect it as fully as you can. Your call.
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Old 02-15-2020, 11:41 AM   #9
finalact4
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
You automatically receive copyright protection once you complete the screenplay.
But that's still not enough. I've talked to lawyers about this. Don't just work off the whole "auto receive" notion, simply because you created/wrote something.
To clarify, I was NOT in any way suggesting anyone should not register their material. Nor was I suggesting to use this as protection on its own.

I was explaining the terminology, because many writers mistakenly assume that by "registering" their copyright that this is "obtaining copyright" on their material and that simply isn't a fact.

For example:

I could register a copyright to material that is not mine with the WGA. I could change the title and register it, stating I own the copyright. Yes, it's illegal, but that is not the be all end all of the claim.

If legal action were taken against me, and there were two registrations for the same material, say with different titles for example and mine preceded theirs, one would need to also fall back on the creation history and documents to validate the registration. The WGA registration alone isn't PROOF of copyright, it is only proof of registration of a copyright.

There is a difference. IOW, don't destroy your creation history.

https://copyrightalliance.org/ca_faq...rotection-ata/
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Old 02-15-2020, 12:04 PM   #10
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Default Re: Help with possible agreement for representation

Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
To clarify, I was NOT in any way suggesting anyone should not register their material. Nor was I suggesting to use this as protection on its own.

I was explaining the terminology, because many writers mistakenly assume that by "registering" their copyright that this is "obtaining copyright" on their material and that simply isn't a fact.
You're right. I'm not saying what you said was wrong. I'm saying your not noting the full story. When you post something like what you said, that is misleading I feel. Not awful. Not terrible. Not vindictive. But a little misleading or lacking, if you will.

You are leaving off the "but..." Yes, someone's work is auto copyrighted when they write it, BUT the need to register it/copyright it with the U.S. government to get the full and proper protection. That's why I noted what I noted.

Your terminology is fine. I just strongly believe based on my experiences in the business and talking with copyright lawyers, that it needs to be emphasized the writer or creator should & still needs to register it officially. You never said, "but be sure to register it too" which I think is important. People frequently need every step spelled out -- err on the side of caution. That's all; and I thought I clearly & respectfully noted that.
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