I have a concept for reality show. Do I need an attorney to pitch it?

I came up with a concept for a reality TV show. I know that lawyers are taken more seriously than the rest of us, so should I hire a lawyer to pitch it to production companies? I have everything written up nicely, it just needs to get to the right people. Also, how do I pay the lawyer if I hire one? Is it a percentage of what I make or do I just pay them for making the contacts?

Pittsburgh, PA -

Attorney Answers (6)

Frank A. Natoli

Frank A. Natoli

Business Attorney - New York, NY

I have been in show business since the age of 12 and am still a member of SAG-AFTRA. As a consequence, I have known a great many people who have met with success taking their material from concept to production and I cannot think of a single one that hired a lawyer to achieve that. Once deals are struck, YES, absolutely you will require legal counsel to ensure your interest are protected and you should never sign anything without the benefit of legal guidance. In fact, my firm has a movie deal client on our work docket at present.

There are lawyers out there, such as my colleague that responded here, that may have contacts that can be of great value. Some attorneys in entertainment law will work this way, but this is really attorney acting as agent not as attorney. That is, if they successfully get you a deal and take a percentage of those proceeds this is exactly what an agent will do. But most lawyers will require a retainer to be deposited upfront, so this would be considered a huge luxury spend with no guarantee that it will culminate into a deal for you. This is not to say that all lawyers work this way, so you really need to inquire yourself.

I advise that you contact as many different providers (agents and lawyers) and get a sense for how they work and what if any upfront costs will be.

Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

Best regards,
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the... more
Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Business Attorney - Sacramento, CA

You should read a previous question and answer on this topic, a number of books on how to pitch scripts and screenplays to entertainment companies, and all you can about literary agents [via the links below]. Yes, some entertainment attorneys pitch ideas to entertainment companies. But once you do the research described you should, instead, try to persuade a literary agent to help you pitch your idea. Attorneys are vital when closing deals, not opening them.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and... more
Bartley F Day

Bartley F Day

Entertainment Lawyer - Portland, OR

You are more likely to have success using a good agent who specializes in pitching reality shows, rather than using an attorney. A great resource for this is the Documentary and Reality Television "Group" on linkedin.com.

I've had some instances in which clients have asked me to submit pitches (logline, etc.) to production companies, only because those companies would not accept pitches from the clients directly. There was success in some cases, but it was mainly, if not entirely, due to the fact that the clients had created great concepts and had done a great job researching the companies most likely to bite on their ideas.

In general, your best use of attorneys would be: (1) Being advised on how to protect yourself and how to structure your approach; and (2) Reviewing and negotiating your contracts.

If you're new to reality TV production, but are serious about it, you might want to check out the Westdoc Conference in LA. For info, thewestdoc.com. It happens in September.

As far as how to pay an attorney, there may be some attorneys who are willing to do it on a percentage basis, but the vast majority work only on an hourly rate basis.

Again, though, as far as who to use for pitching, the best approach generally is either to make your own connections and/or using an agent who specializes in Reality TV.

Good luck.

The above is not intended as legal advice and does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship,... more
Paul Jonathan Sieg

Paul Jonathan Sieg

Entertainment Lawyer - Atlanta, GA

Do you need an attorney to pitch your idea? No, not necessarily. But you DO need an attorney to assist in protecting your intellectual property.

Potter Sieg, LLC Phone: 404-270-9289 Fax: 404-935-9308 psieg@pottersieg.com Paul J. Sieg is a criminal... more
Ivan Jose Parron

Ivan Jose Parron

Entertainment Lawyer - Miami, FL

This area of entertainment law is my specialty. You need an entertainment attorney not only to assist you in advising whether your concept is protectable but also to submit your idea to TV networks and/or production companies since they do not normally accept unsolicited materials unless presented by an entertainment attorney or agent. The entertainment attorney can also assist you in negotiating a shopping agreement if your show is liked and you are presented one. An attorney will not normally represent you in these types of engagement on a contingency basis unless there is already a deal with money on the table and the show has been "greenlit" so expect to pay an upfront retainer. Good luck!

Daniel Gary Rosenthal

Daniel Gary Rosenthal

Entertainment Lawyer

There's two different things at play here. You need a lawyer to handle your business affairs. You need an agent to actually pitch the show. In theory, your lawyer could be your agent, but in practice this never happens. They are two entirely different skillsets. For instance, I practice entertainment law; I do not pitch shows, because I don't have the skillset that an agent does. The point is you actually need both a lawyer AND an agent, but for two separate purposes.

Finally please understand that most pitches are thrown out, no matter how nicely you've written them up. You may have the one-in-a-million idea that becomes the new hotness, but just understand that statistically the odds are against you. I don't say this to be mean at all, because I don't know what you've written -- I only say this to give a frame of reference.

The author is a Maryland attorney; however no answer given on Avvo is intended as legal advice or intended to... more

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