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I am a first time feature film producer with a background in the theater. I am looking for an entertainment lawyer.

New York, NY |
Filed under: Entertainment law

What is a ballpark figure for a flat fee for wall to wall legal, from development to distribution? Are their Entertainment lawyers out their who will help with casting getting the screenplay into the right agents hands? What should I look for in hiring this lawyer? I want someone with reach & track record of working with names. Where should I look for this person.

I know its a lot of questions any answers are greatly appreciated ... Thanks!

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

Mr. Michelen is right. Legal fees are usually broken up in stages since most attorneys charge hourly for development, finance & distribution work, but a flat fee for production legal since that part is included in the production budget. Also, most attorneys do not pitch scripts for financing, casting or distribution - even at big firms. You really do need an agent and/or good casting director for that. However, if you have some financing in place, you should be able to find good legal help. If you need legal help re: financing though, you'll find out fast what a Catch-22 you're in.

I know how hard it is for first-time filmmakers to get help. I've done exactly this type of work for over 25 years in LA & NY. I'd be willing to talk to you. Call or email me.

Please note that this answer should not be considered "legal advice" and no attorney-client relationship is formed by answering this question. You should hire an attorney licensed in your state and familiar with the relevant areas of the law to conduct an analysis of your situation and provide you with fully informed legal advice. This answer is posted for general purposes only.

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Asker

Posted

Hello Bennett, Can you elaborate on this particular catch 33 situation that could arise having an attorny help with connecting to finance? Thanks, Nick

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Posted

What I meant was simply that it is extremely important to hire an attorney when raising financing (because the legal issues are so complicated), but you need to figure out how to pay that attorney for their services whether or not the financing is actually raised (because only a foolish attorney would agree to do financing work on contingency); a real chicken & egg problem.

Asker

Posted

Yes I get that and of course agree everyone needs to get paid up front thats only fair, why should anyone be expected to take a risk by investing with their time and expertise. But a couple of industry people have mentioned to me that in certain cases an entertainment lawyer with contacts in the world of finance can facilitate meetings for their client if they believe in the project etc and they belive in the structure so that there is indeed an opportunity to make something off the venture. What do you say about this?

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Posted

There are always exceptions to the rule and simply making an introduction is very different than putting in significant time handling a particular deal. If you find an attorney who believes in you or your project strongly enough to get involved without up-front compensation, then you are very lucky. There are also some attorneys who make financing introductions because they are acting as a producer's rep and not strictly as an attorney. They usually take a percentage of the amount raised as a finder's fee & they often get Executive Producer credit as well.

Asker

Posted

Have you ever done that? If not would you consider doing that? If not where would you suggest finding such a lawyer willing to do that? Would they be listed on IMDB as what producers & legal or how to spot that breed of attorney?

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Bennett Jay Fidlow

Posted

Just like good agents that will actually consider representing a first-time writer, experienced attorneys who will work for a producer completely on spec are mostly mythical creatures. In my experience, even producer's reps want some sort of minimum guarantee before committing to a project. The only time someone might work completely on spec is if they have a prior long-term close personal relationship with the producer client or the producer has a significant track record and has already put together a fairly significant package to sell (not just a script). There is just too much risk otherwise.

Asker

Posted

Why do you say SPEC? Assuming the fee is paid in full up front what else is considered to be on good faith? Can`t those types of tasks, making introductions and the like assisting with finance be included in the equation? That would make them as you say prodcuer rep and they would get credit etc but is that something that is also fee based, at that stage there must be some finance in place to take care of legal from. I`m going to call you this week.

Posted

It's hard to answer your questions as they are varied and complex. The kind of lawyer you seek may best be found in a large firm for example like Gibson Dunn but they may not accept you as their unsolicited client on your first project and their fees will be high. Smaller firms like mine have the kind of legal experience you seek but we generally do not get involved in finding you an agent and getting your screenplay into their hands. It might be best for you to first seek an agent for your screenplay. Legal fees can be expensive and most film producers work that into their budget when they seek financing. It is hard if not impossible to quote a flat fee for everything at the start. Normally we price our services in stages and base the fees on the amount of work requested of us. Perhaps your first step ought to be seeking an initial consultation to get oriented in the field and to konow what is necessary now and what will be necessary down the road. Then you can budget accordingly.

The answers given are informational only and do not constitute legal advice.

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Posted

Hi Oscar and thank you for your detailed answer. Would an agent be part of the eqation if we already have a director attatched? Would they be presenting the screenplay agent to agent, lit agent to talent agent or what exactly would their function be? I have heard between 25-50 for wall to wall legal depending on the firm etc Is it possible to get a complete and detailed itemization for each faze at a consultation? The lawyer I have been dealing with has been very reluctant to give me any sort of over view. I would like to avoid getting into a similar situation again if possible. Thank you very much for your feedback.

Oscar Michelen

Oscar Michelen

Posted

Yes you can and should be given a budget for each part of the reprsentation. Id be glad to discuss it with you.

Posted

I suggest you try using the Find A Lawyer tab on Avvo.

The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.

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Posted

Cute.

Posted

It's very difficult to answer. My firm charges a flat fee for production work, and one the financing is clear, which may affect distribution, we agree on flat fees there too. Much depends on the complexity of financing, and production. It's not simple, or easy.

This post does not create an attorney-client relationship between my firm and the asker. In all events, the asker is well advised to secure advice from an attorney with experience in the area covered by the question asked. This answer is posted for general purposes only.

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Asker

Posted

Hi Marc, What is it that gets you interested in a project besides the obvious, that a client can handle the fee etc

Marc Jacobson

Marc Jacobson

Posted

My answer is very personal. Its less about the project, or the genre, or the budget or the package. For me, its more about the client's passion for what they are about to embark upon. If the producer or director (who are typically the people who engage my firm) is insanely passionate about the project, then I'm very interested. After all, the project will consume 1-3 years of the client's life. Investors are faced with dozens of films that need financing, maybe in the same genre, with comparable packages. but what distinguishes one project from another is the person doing the pitching--the producer/director. If that person isn't selling themselves, and displaying immeasurable passion for the project, it will just be another picture. Ho Hum. We've all been to the movies to see that. In addition, a client who is organized, accepts advice, is willing to debate on the big issues, and give on the little ones is someone with whom I would enjoy working. Handling the fee, however is extremely important. I have enormous amounts of time invested on films, for which the likelihood of getting paid is very low. So I don't want to do that, anymore, at all. I hope this answers your question. Good luck on your project!

Asker

Posted

Wow Marc those are some powerful words ... And like wise I have a romantic notion of what a lawyer is, I don`t want someone who just pushes paper, I want to feel this persons energy and presence engaged in whatever tasks are at hand ... I don`t want a puppet I want a mind, heart, and soul of an individual who happed to go into this proffession. I also understand many lawyers have been sweet talked and then burned so they are weary. I feel that an attorny should get paid well for their services up front but of course I don`t want to be eaten alive and hit with crazy invoices for nonsence. I think both parties need to have an open direct communication and no games from either side. I hope to find a lawyer who has my back and I can trust that they see themselves as a valuble part of the posse. And yes without the zeal this kind of monumental undertaking is an up hill battle every step of the way. Passion can move mountains and is often just the ingredient that can bust open doors that would other wise be forever inaccessible. I find whenever I have to deal with anyone out of seemingly out of reach that switching into passion mode always wins them over to the cause. I also think that when you tap into the theme of a particular story and identify with it on a gut level you become like a mother lion protecting its young and you can awaken that in anyone who lives in the real world and has concerns of their own. Thanks again Marc! Nick

Posted

This is a situation where you would be best served meeting with an attorney for an initial consultation. Once you sit down with them and explain your needs, then your potential attorney will outline his or her fee structure. Some attorneys are willing to work with less established clients, but many are not. I also believe that while an attorney may be out of your price range, they may be able to refer you to someone that is willing to take you on. And some of the things you are asking for are not things a typical attorney does, so they may refer you to a non-attorney that does specialize in the things you need. So I suggest you ask colleagues and mentors for some referrals and make an appointment to meet with a local entertainment attorney and go from there. Even if they are out of your price range, they can be a valuable resource and may be able to point you in the right direction. Good Luck.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT. I have not heard the whole story and have not had the opportunity to review the relevant documents. This communication does not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by viewing or responding to this post. If you need an attorney, you should contact a local attorney, rather than relying on a post on the Internet. Kalyan is licensed to practice law in California (State Bar number 259947.) This is a communication concerning my availability for professional employment within the meaning of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400(A). Viewing of this post does not constitute the provision of legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by viewing or responding to this post

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Posted

Hi Kalyan, What is it actually that conditions the price range? Is it working with other established players in the field or what? I mean the paper work is the paper work right, isn`t it basically the same give or take the scale of the porject? Or is there some other factor that disguishes the price, like one lawyer can do this while another lawyer can do that ... In other words what is the most you can get out of working with a great lawyer, what deifnes that, it can`t just be price or can it? Are the best lawyers the most expencive? Say they all took the exact same fee, what would they have to do to stand above the rest from the clients stand point? I know that was a lot but your answer triggered this responce : )

Christopher C. Carr

Christopher C. Carr

Posted

If I may, I believe what is being said perhaps with a bit too much subtlety is that if you hire a local lawyer or a solo like me who has the power to set his or her own fees rather than going to the hidebound executive committee of a large firm, you will likely have much better luck in getting high quality entertainment representation at a fee that you can afford, perhaps even on a fixed fee per stage (development, finance & distribution) basis. I have represented starting artists before and understand your Catch 22. Best of luck to you!

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