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The Need For An Entertainment Lawyer In Film Production

Mark Harris

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Does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney as a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias and my stacking of the question notwithstanding, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time – the forthright answer is, “it depends”. A number of producers these days are themselves film lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or other types of lawyers, and so, often can take care of themselves. But the film producers to worry about, are the ones who act as if they are entertainment lawyers – but without a license or entertainment attorney legal experience to back it up. Filmmaking and motion picture practice comprise an industry wherein these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as substitutes for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and inadequate production procedures will never escape the trained eye of entertainment attorneys working for the studios, the distributors, the banks, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance carriers. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job function of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.

I also suppose that there will always be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial radar without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and liabilities like flying bats are reputed to avoid people’s hair. By way of analogy, one of my best friends hasn’t had any health insurance for years, and he is still in good shape and economically afloat – this week, anyway. Taken in the aggregate, some people will always be luckier than others, and some people will always be more inclined than others to roll the dice.

But it is all too simplistic and pedestrian to tell oneself that “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if I simply stay out of trouble and be careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a motion picture producer, as well as the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of film production previously, then that entertainment lawyer has already learned many of the harsh lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film business.

The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By clear thinking, careful planning, and – this is the absolute key – skilled, thoughtful and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as simply the person seeking to establish compliance. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes be the one who says “no”. But the entertainment attorney can be a positive force in the production as well.

The film lawyer can, in the course of legal representation, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film productions, then the motion picture producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney benefits from that very cache of experience. Yes, it sometimes may be difficult to stretch the film budget to allow for counsel, but professional filmmakers tend to view the legal cost expenditure to be a fixed, predictable, and necessary one – akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the cost of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the average independent film producer, other entertainment attorneys do not.

Enough generalities. For what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film lawyer and entertainment attorney?:

1. INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually constitutes the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, telling the film producer that it is time. If the producer doesn’t properly create, file, and maintain a corporate or other appropriate entity through which to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to keep that entity shielded, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film producer is potentially hurting himself or herself. Without the shield against liability that an entity can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the motion picture producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) are at risk and, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts my head when I do that”.

Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.

Like it or not, the film lawyer entertainment attorney continues, “Film is a speculative business, and the statistical majority of motion pictures can fail economically – even at the San Fernando Valley film studio level. It is irrational to run a film business or any other form of business out of one’s own personal bank account”. Besides, it looks unprofessional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, bankers, and distributors at any point in the future.

The choices of where and how to file an entity are often prompted by entertainment lawyers but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is affordable. Good lawyers don’t look at incorporating a client as a profit-center anyway, because of the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer should be aware that under U.S. law a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment lawyers who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that same client – especially if the entertainment attorney bills the first job reasonably.

I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture – or any more than I would tell a D.P.-client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a film production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that as soon as the producer lets a competent entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will start to gel for the film production in ways that couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.

2. SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This issue also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Let’s say that the film producer wants to make a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting funds for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible ways, and may actually start collecting some monies as a result. Sometimes this occurs prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about it post facto from his or her client.

If the film producer is not a lawyer, then the producer should not even think of “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this inherently speculative business called film, and then collects money on the basis of that representation, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities compliance work is among the most difficult of matters faced by an entertainment attorney.

As both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching a solicitation for film (or any other) investment can have severe and federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the film script is, it’s never worth monetary fines and jail time – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in the real world try to float their own “investment prospectus”, complete with boastful anticipated multipliers of the box office figures of the famed motion pictures “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity and imagination, but usually with no entertainment or film lawyer or other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these producers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment attorneys and the rest of the bar, and bench, may tend to think of them, instead, as prospective ‘Defendants’.

Enough said.

3. DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment attorney guidance yet, that the production entity will need to be a signatory to collective bargaining agreements of unions such as Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject matter area that some film producers can handle themselves, particularly producers with experience. But if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer prior to making even any initial contact with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with film or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to thereafter continue with the picture’s further production.

4. CONTRACTUAL AFFAIRS GENERALLY: A film production’s agreements should all be in writing, and not saved until the last minute, as any entertainment attorney will observe. It will be more expensive to bring film counsel in, late in the day – sort of like booking an airline flight a few days before the planned travel. A film producer should remember that a plaintiff suing for breach of a bungled contract might not only seek money for damages, but could also seek the equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… stop this motion picture… stop this film… Cut!”).

A film producer does not want to suffer a back claim for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child labor authorities – threatening to enjoin or shut the motion picture production down for reasons that could have been easily avoided by careful planning, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or entertainment lawyer. The movie production’s agreements should be drafted with care by the entertainment attorney, and should be customized to encompass the special characteristics of the production.

As an entertainment lawyer, I have seen non-lawyer film producers try to do their own legal drafting for their own pictures. As mentioned above, some few are lucky, and remain under the proverbial radar. But consider this: if the film producer sells or options the project, one of the first things that the film distributor or film buyer (or its own film and entertainment attorney counsel) will want to see, is the “chain of title” and development and production file, complete with all signed agreements. The production’s insurance carrier may also want to see these same documents. So might the guilds, too. And their entertainment lawyers. The documents must be written so as to survive the audience.

Therefore, for a film producer to try to improvise law, is simply to put many problems off for another day, as well as create an air of non-attorney amateurism to the production file. It will be less expensive for the film producer to attack all of these issues earlier as opposed to later, through use of a film lawyer or entertainment attorney. And the likelihood is that any self-respecting film attorney and entertainment lawyer is going to have to re-draft substantial parts (if not all) of the producer’s self-drafted production file, once he or she sees what the non-lawyer film producer has done to it on his or her own – and that translates into unfortunate and wasted expense. I would no sooner want my chiropractor to draft and negotiate his own filmed motion picture contracts, than I would put myself on his table and try to crunch through my own adjustments. Furthermore, I wouldn’t do half of the chiropractic adjustment myself, and then call the chiropractor into the examining room to finish what I had started. (I use the chiropractic motif only to spare you the cliché of “performing surgery on oneself”).

There are many other reasons for retaining a film lawyer and entertainment attorney for motion picture work, and space won’t allow all of them. But the above-listed ones are the big ones.

Click the “Articles” button at: http://www.tormey.org/art.htm to return to the main Articles page.

Source by John J Tormey III, Esq

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Entertainment

Fake black Instagram model is causing controversy

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It was only recently that Cameron James Wilson revealed that Shudu was entirely computer-generated, with her followers previously under the impression that she was a real person.

Shudu Gram, is the world’s first ever digital supermodel! She has attracted tens of thousands of eyes for being the unique concept and there are positives but there is also criticism ranging as to a white man focused on a racist concept.

With a blink of an eye, a new trend has come up.

Nevertheless, the concept definitely deserves enlightenment.

Cameron James Wilson is a 28-year old white British photographer based in London. He’s spent the last years working within the fashion sector and has made a name for himself as a beauty, fashion and celebrity photographer.

The successful photographer taught himself how to create three-dimensional art online, which is how Shudu Gram was conceived.

Wilson told Refinery 29

“Basically Shudu is my creation, she’s my art piece…” He also went on to say

“She is not a real model, unfortunately, but she represents a lot of the real models of today. There’s a big kind of movement with dark skin models, so she represents them and is inspired by them.”

Although a cool concept some worry that Wilson’s monetization of the new “Dark Skin fetish” seen in media is one that stems in a deep history of social injustice.

Rihanna’s cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty, even shared a photo of Shudu on their Instagram account that shows her wearing a shade of the makeup line’s lipstick.

People also took to twitter to voice their opinions some saying.

Author at Africa Classifieds

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Entertainment

DVD Entertainment – An Alternative to Television Programming

Mark Harris

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DVD entertainment used to be the once a week family ritual Sunday night after dinner when the kids were young. We would clear the table, do the dishes, get everyone comfy on the sofa and watch one or two DVD movies the whole family could enjoy … which usually were Disney movies the kids wanted to see. Or see again. There is an unwritten rule that, as a parent, you gotta love Walt Disney.

Now the kids are grown and (mostly) gone and I am too busy Most of the time to sit in front of the television waiting for something interesting to come on. As my time has become more precious to me, television commercials have become an unacceptable annoyance in what should be an absolutely enjoyable time for me to see what I choose to watch without constant program interruptions.

What used to be an infrequent use of DVD entertainment has just become about a mainstay as far as what I watch on television. Although there are a few programs on local network broadcasting I will watch with my husband once in awhile, it is only to spend companionable time with him. The television is rarely turned on when he is away.

While never a fan of commercial television, living in the north woods of Wisconsin when there were only three local channels we could get with extra aluminum foil on the rabbit ears made it easy to ignore the bad in order to have some connection with the outside world . My tolerance for all things annoying was much higher back then as well but there was no way to justify paying for cable television.

When we moved to the Milwaukee area in 1988 we suddenly had a dozen network channels at our disposal without subscribing to cable. And we had two PBS stations to work with. It was a change in lifestyle. PBS offered absolutely great programming for the kids and became much more of a staple for family entertainment than the hideously commercial infested programs on network television. The children were responding to marketing directed toward them and that was both disturbing and difficult to counteract. Once they started school it was impossible.

Early on, purchasing recorded programs on VHS tapes became a way to give the children what we felt was good entertainment without causing too many problems most of the time. There were a few super heroes that managed a try to live vicariously through our son or twice but no serious harm was done. We were all very grateful for that.

It can be hard to tell what devices or triggers are embedded in programs or movies we watch online or on television today. Marketing used to be so much more obvious and straightforward; here is our product, this is what it does, this is how you benefit, now buy it. Today big dollar marketing is based on brain wave patterns, and psychological triggers that are intended to give us a sense of urgency and desire; here is our product which is a very limited edition and only a tiny few are available right now, it will do whatever you must buy it now, you must buy it now buy it now.

Very gradually the children began to see marketing for what it was but they still wanted the products that were marketed to them. This was right at the same time that DVD entertainment became available and we immediately began to convert from VHS to DVD whenever we had the purchasing choice. Local and online DVD rental became a much more frequent and encouraged thing in our house from that point forward if there was nothing interesting to watch on PBS.

When PBS was forced to plead for money on a regular basis instead of showing commercials to pay for their programming, at first I contributed. When the pleading began to happen every few weeks and last for a couple of weeks at a time so messing up any previous viewing schedule I had enjoyed, I stopped watching PBS on a regular basis. I gave up on TV just about completely but I missed my shows. I bought the television shows I wanted to see on DVD! Problem solved.

Today I prefer to watch DVD movies or television shows on DVD so that I can control the marketing instead of having it control my time. More and more DVDs are front loaded with unavoidable interruptions mostly in the form of trailers for other DVDs. It is easy and fun to fast forward through these to get the main menu as quickly as possible. It might even be fun to watch them once, but again I dislike the lack of choice in watching what I want to watch and nothing more.

So even while DVD entertainment is not perfect, it offers one choice of freedom from being forced to end the work of marketing geniuses who target viewers in every program on television. It is also looking more affordable with the next generation of media storage called Blu-ray entering the market as a step up. Eventually Blu-ray will rule the world and DVD entertainment will be a blur in the history books. Progress is good!


Source by Pauline Trabert

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Entertainment

The Problem With Entertainment News Today

Mark Harris

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Have you noticed the most recent news today? Have you noticed how much of the important news and issues facing society today are pushed more and more onto the "back burner?" This is because more and more the media is focused on the entertainment industries, rather than "real news." That's both the blessing and the curse for entertainment news today, it becomes good for the entertainment industry and bad for the REAL news industry.

What the major problem with focusing on nothing but entertainment-related "news" is, is the fact that our society is not keeping itself informed about the major issues and current events in our society when they are constantly bombarded with nothing but entertainment industry "news . " The complacency with which most have ALLOWED this to occur is the saddest part of this, because the average person no longer cares about major issues or world events.

And what's even worse is that what television, magazines and internet sources are calling entertainment news today is no longer even "real" news, but merely like a constantly running gossip column. When the highlight of a news piece is what someone bought at a convenience store, what color their hair is today, or whether or not they and their significant other is having problems- that's not news, it's merely gossip.

Not to mention, whenever celebrities are constantly followed around by money-hungry gossip magazine photographers or constantly speculated upon by numerous different persons in the media, their privacy and basic human rights are trampled on. All for the sake of so-called "news."

The average person does not get their face splashed all over the media anytime they buy a gallon of milk, a box of condoms or get a speeding ticket- is it right to force that up celebrities just because they're famous and call it " news? " That is the biggest part of the problem with entertainment news today, things that are not really newsworthy are being reported and discussed as if they were.

What one needs to do, if they're fed up with the lack of newsworthy reporting in the media is to complain to the media companies, newspapers and magazines about the lack of quality news that is being put out by the media companies. If enough people take the initiative and make a stand and demand better news and reporting, then the media will change to give people what they want.

If people do not demand change, and stay complacent about the condition of the news and reporting processes, then entertainment news today will stay as it is, and the media will continue to report on non-newsworthy items such as who ate what for breakfast, how much someone's ridiculously large diamond ring cost, and who got a speeding ticket the night before.


Source by Wendy Pan

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