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Old August 17th, 2005, 01:06 PM   #1
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Been approached by Producers/investors NEED ADVICE

Hey everyone,

I don't post much (usually too busy) but I need some help and have no idea what to do. My documentary is finished filming and has enjoyed some popularity in the media already. This has grabbed the attention of some people who have approached me about me possibly taking on some investors and producers to see it through to the end of editing and on to the film festival circuit. Today one in particular suggested bringing in an editor for me to 'oversee' in the editing process to have it ready for a potential Sundance deadline.

Now, its important to know this is my first film. I've never had any access to an entertainment lawyer, but am in the process of soliciting the services of one. My concerns are obvious. Is this 'normal'? Im concerned about losing control of the final product and am not sure of what to ask for so that all concerned are satisfied properly.

I'd really appreciate input from anyone who has had this happen to them.

Thanks in advance everyone.

Jay
www.HeartOfAnEmpire.com
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Old August 19th, 2005, 06:31 PM   #2
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Anytime you bring on an investor you then have someone to answer to. If this project really appeals to you and you think that you can do it without any investor money, then I think that you should ask them if they want to invest in you NEXT film. To be honest it sounds like you've got one of the harder parts done in aquiring the footage, it would probably be better if you hold off on getting other people involved.
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Old August 19th, 2005, 08:02 PM   #3
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Written contracts are wonderful things, if well drafted, because they remove uncertainty with respect to the nature of the relationship and respective rights of the parties. Unless you absolute can't afford it (you've sold your car, pawned your cameras, and you're eating three-day-old bread), I'd strongly urge you to consult a competent entertainment lawyer.
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Old August 26th, 2005, 10:03 AM   #4
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Paul,

Is it reasonable that an entertainment lawyer might give Jay a pro bono initial consultation, if money is an issue for him? If so, what is good way for him to go about obtaining this help?

In Oregon, we can call the Bar Association with our issue and they have a list of lawyers who won't charge more than $30 for the initial consultation. Does the California Bar Association have a similar program?
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Old August 26th, 2005, 10:20 AM   #5
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Brandt,

A quick google under "California Lawyers for the arts" returned

http://www.calawyersforthearts.org/referral.html

When we lived in Houston, my wife used to work with the Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts. She did copyright and trademark work pro-bono for a number of artists. Many states and cities have similar organizations. Visitors to this thread looking for an attorney, should try googling their state or city name with "lawyers" and "Arts" in it.
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Old August 26th, 2005, 04:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandt Wilson
Paul,

Is it reasonable that an entertainment lawyer might give Jay a pro bono initial consultation, if money is an issue for him? If so, what is good way for him to go about obtaining this help?
Pro bono, no. Free, yes.

Most firms have rather exacting criteria for taking matters on a pro bono basis. For example, our firm has a pro bono committee which must approve the representation. However, most lawyers give a free initial consultation.

Quote:
In Oregon, we can call the Bar Association with our issue and they have a list of lawyers who won't charge more than $30 for the initial consultation. Does the California Bar Association have a similar program?
I don't know where Jay is located, but I suspect his bar association could provide a similar referral. It might make sense, though, for him to call the LA County Bar Association -- if you want an alligator, best go to a swamp. ;)
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Old August 26th, 2005, 06:09 PM   #7
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My dumb question of the week...
Paul, what is the difference beween pro bono and free?
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Old August 26th, 2005, 06:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
My dumb question of the week...
Paul, what is the difference beween pro bono and free?
Here's what a search turned up. See the following link.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pro%20bono

-gb-
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Old August 26th, 2005, 06:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
My dumb question of the week...
Paul, what is the difference beween pro bono and free?
I'm no lawyer, but I think Pro Bono is work done for the public good or to help those less fortunate at little or no cost. Kind of written off by the firms.

Free is advice given, but not backed by the full resources of the firm. Basically you get what you are paying for, like a free consultation only.

Paul will straighten us out here.

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Old August 26th, 2005, 06:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
My dumb question of the week...
Paul, what is the difference beween pro bono and free?
Pro bono which, literally, means "for good," represents an obligation that most law firms undertake to "give back" something to society. The American Bar Association sets voluntary pro bono guidelines for law firms and lawyers and, believe it or not, firms actually compete to see which can do the most pro bono work. Firms provide their legal services for free (and, occassionally, will even pick up costs for pro bono clients). Generally, pro bono services are provided to non-profits (I've represented arts organizations on this basis, and also have done work for a small scientific organization that does work with endangered species of turtles), the very poor (usually through organizations such as Public Counsel, etc.) and even indigent prisoners -- I believe my firm has done some death penalty cases this way. Most recently, we represented a famous museum (a very interesting case that took years and resulted in a contribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars of attorney time by my firm), and have also represented church groups. By representing certain individuals or organizations without charge, we do good for society in general. Also, because I am admitted to the United States Supreme Court I could, in theory, be "tapped" by the Court at any time to argue, without compensation, for an indigent appellant -- that would also count as pro bono work. My firm offers a prize to the lawyer in our firm who does the most pro bono work each year.

"Free" is just that -- we simply don't charge, and write our time off as "marketing." I do freebies all the time, e.g. I don't charge for initial consultations, I don't charge my existing clients for short status phone calls or inquiries, I don't charge the clients of my partners for quick consultations, I try to visit all my clients at least once a year and, while there, I provide all sorts of counsel at no charge (as well as lunch or dinner on the firm), etc. All of that is, I think, just good marketing (my firm thinks so, too). Society doesn't benefit, but I do -- if I pick up a new client, keep my existing clients happy, or get associated in to cases by my partners, that ensures my and my firm's income stream. :)

Most lawyers do things for free as marketing, and also do pro bono work as well. To qualify for the latter, generally, there has to be some perceived societal benefit, even if it's rather amorphous, e.g. "ensuring that the poor have access to the legal system," or, "promoting the arts."
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Old August 27th, 2005, 09:12 PM   #11
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Thanks Paul!
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