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Old 06-08-2012, 11:46 AM   #1
davidraphael
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Default What kind of contract?

Hi

I hope someone here will be be able to advise me.

A producer - a friend - is based in Hong Kong but has a sister company in the US. He has approached me offering a collaboration but neither of us really know how to approach our collabration from a legal standpoint.

The basic idea is this:
I will write a feature animation screenplay partly based on publc domain material.
His company will do all the animation, ie, ostensibly his company will be the production company.
(at the moment I'm creating a treatment while his company has started work on character design, visual look, etc)

We will then package all this together and pitch the project to either potential co-producers or investors to get finances for the actual production.

At this early stage what sort of contract should me and my producer-friend have with each other? Should his company option/buy my story materials? Should we have some kind of collaboration agreement? Should I become a co-producer with him?
(subsequently, there's what should be included in the contract, but that's a whole new discussion)

Help ...no idea what to do!

any advice greatly appreciated

dR
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Old 06-08-2012, 12:23 PM   #2
SoCalScribe
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidraphael View Post
Hi

I hope someone here will be be able to advise me.

A producer - a friend - is based in Hong Kong but has a sister company in the US. He has approached me offering a collaboration but neither of us really know how to approach our collabration from a legal standpoint.

The basic idea is this:
I will write a feature animation screenplay partly based on publc domain material.
His company will do all the animation, ie, ostensibly his company will be the production company.
(at the moment I'm creating a treatment while his company has started work on character design, visual look, etc)

We will then package all this together and pitch the project to either potential co-producers or investors to get finances for the actual production.

At this early stage what sort of contract should me and my producer-friend have with each other? Should his company option/buy my story materials? Should we have some kind of collaboration agreement? Should I become a co-producer with him?
(subsequently, there's what should be included in the contract, but that's a whole new discussion)

Help ...no idea what to do!

any advice greatly appreciated

dR

The all-important question here is who's going to own the rights to the movie? You, you and him, or his company? Generally companies own the rights to the movie, so if I were your producer friend, I would run everything through my company (to minimize my personal risk). Then I'd bring you on as a writer/producer for hire. Your contract with the production company will outline the services you'll provide and the compensation to which you're entitled (as a writer and as a producer). In theory, I would also have a deal with my own production company for my producing services, so that everything runs through the company, and the company would be the one approaching investors, handling the production, etc.
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Old 06-09-2012, 07:48 AM   #3
davidraphael
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Thanks for your reply.
At this stage I think it's very possible that we will both own the copyright, though I understand that any future investor may want a cut (if not outright ownership, depending on the nature of the investment)

My producer-friend seems to more-or-less agree that we should reap the rewards or the failure together.
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Lawyer up.
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Old 06-11-2012, 11:09 AM   #5
SoCalScribe
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidraphael View Post
Thanks for your reply.
At this stage I think it's very possible that we will both own the copyright, though I understand that any future investor may want a cut (if not outright ownership, depending on the nature of the investment)

My producer-friend seems to more-or-less agree that we should reap the rewards or the failure together.
You can easily structure a deal where the two of you profit equally from the film (if it makes a profit) and even mutually control the creative decisions. But if you want to own the copyright as an individual, that means you're the entity (as an individual) people will sue for copyright infringement, and whatever other bogus lawsuits always get threatened if a movie is a success. And hell, sometimes even when it's not.

You can also create a production entity (a LLC) for which you two are the sole managing members and protect yourself that way. That entity would then be the one that hires each of you for your services.

But yeah... once you figure out how you want to structure it, make sure you have a lawyer do the actual drafting so it's airtight.
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:35 AM   #6
davidraphael
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

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Originally Posted by SoCalScribe View Post
You can easily structure a deal where the two of you profit equally from the film (if it makes a profit) and even mutually control the creative decisions. But if you want to own the copyright as an individual, that means you're the entity (as an individual) people will sue for copyright infringement, and whatever other bogus lawsuits always get threatened if a movie is a success. And hell, sometimes even when it's not.

You can also create a production entity (a LLC) for which you two are the sole managing members and protect yourself that way. That entity would then be the one that hires each of you for your services.

But yeah... once you figure out how you want to structure it, make sure you have a lawyer do the actual drafting so it's airtight.
Thanks a lot - I will share this with my friend and we'll take it from there. Much appreciated.
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:28 AM   #7
davidraphael
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

We basically agreed that I would sign over the story/screenplay copyright (as either an option or outright buyout) to his company and then I would have a contract with the company that lists my various compensations.

He's kind of left that up to me.

Ideally, what kind of compensations should I be thinking about?
There's the obvious writer stuff such as credit and getting paid, of course.

But then there's all the other stuff: residuals, %'s of remake rights, sequels, shooting draft, adaptation into other media: games, musicals, merchandising, etc.

And then there's my involvement essentially as a kind of 'on paper' assoc/co producer. I've no idea how any of that works...

If I had an agent this might be hell of a lot easier!

Also, I found out Hong Kong law is still using UK law, so maybe I should also seek out a British agent or entertainment/intellectual property lawyer..

anyone have any tips or advice?

thanks

dR
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:37 AM   #8
NikeeGoddess
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

if you're not going to lawyer up then research.
first stop: http://www.wga.org where most of your questions can be answered
2nd -- ask for an associate producer credit
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Old 06-14-2012, 02:49 PM   #9
SoCalScribe
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidraphael View Post
We basically agreed that I would sign over the story/screenplay copyright (as either an option or outright buyout) to his company and then I would have a contract with the company that lists my various compensations.

He's kind of left that up to me.

Ideally, what kind of compensations should I be thinking about?
There's the obvious writer stuff such as credit and getting paid, of course.

But then there's all the other stuff: residuals, %'s of remake rights, sequels, shooting draft, adaptation into other media: games, musicals, merchandising, etc.

And then there's my involvement essentially as a kind of 'on paper' assoc/co producer. I've no idea how any of that works...

If I had an agent this might be hell of a lot easier!

Also, I found out Hong Kong law is still using UK law, so maybe I should also seek out a British agent or entertainment/intellectual property lawyer..

anyone have any tips or advice?

thanks

dR
It's time to lawyer up. Honestly, when you get into the specifics of how you get paid and what rights you should have, you really, really need to be consulting an attorney rather than seeking advice on a message board. How people in this industry are paid for their services is a topic that could take weeks to properly explain and you're better off just paying an attorney who deals with it for a living to tell you what's standard and what you should be asking for.

That said, the WGA standard terms is a good place to start for your rights in terms of remakes/subsequent productions, passive payments, etc.

Your lawyer should be able to tell you what you should ask for as a writer, what you should ask for as a producer, and help you pull all of it together into an agreement that he's okay with you signing.
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:26 PM   #10
Geoff Alexander
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Default Re: What kind of contract?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidraphael View Post
Thanks a lot - I will share this with my friend and we'll take it from there. Much appreciated.
My only piece of advice on this deal--stop thinking of this guy as your friend.
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