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Is there anyway an entertainment case can be pro bono?

Dallas, TX |

I am a film student planning to shoot a movie with my class. I presume legal representation will not be needed but I would like to have representation in place if needed. This is a low budget film, nonetheless we would like for your firm to be in place if representation is needed. Thank you!

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

You're asking a great question, and at the right time. Is the film intended for public distribution, or only as a class project? If it's the former, you will want to avoid many of the simple pitfalls indie filmmakers encounter, such as making sure there aren't copyrighted materials in the background, and you have proper releases in place with talent. It will probably be difficult to have a firm represent you on a pro bono basis as there is a lot of legal work involved, and an attorney must always provide the same level of professional services whether or not they are being paid.

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Asker

Posted

Thank you for your response! This is film is a class project that is not intended for distribution. After the class has ended the writer of the script has the option to seek public distribution. For this particular project the copyright and business plan have already been drawn up. Legal representation is only needed as assurance. We do not expect to incur any expenses.

Asker

Posted

*legal expenses.

Duncan Clayton Macfarlane

Duncan Clayton Macfarlane

Posted

So the issues of music clearance, literary rights, etc will fall to the scriptwriter, as he/she has the option to seek distribution. You should qualify/limit the term of the option and determine if the option is assignable. When I serve as production counsel on a film there are a litany of matters that I am responsible for, i.e., it is production counsel's job to anticipate issues, not be reactive to them when they arise. I understand you're thinking of the attorney as backstopping the production, but that puts the attorney in an awkward position.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

You should be able to get pro bono help. If you are at, for instance, SMU in Dallas, go to the law school and ask to talk to an intellectual property law professor or entertainment law professor (at SMU they will likely be one and the same). If you are not at a college with a law school call TALA (see my answer for contact information) in Houston. Once you get successful and have some funds, one of the top priorities is to get legal representation. Don't put it off any longer than you absolutely must, as the entertainment business is basically run by lawyers that know their stuff, so you need one to make the negotiations fair so you don't get fleeced.

Asker

Posted

Thank you both so much for your responses! Very helpful

Posted

Yes. There is a pro bono lawyer organization for the arts. http://www.vlany.org/legalservices/vladirectory.php If you are in Dallas as you listed, you should contact
Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts
1540 Sul Ross
Houston, TX 77006
(800) 526-8252 (toll-free)
tel: (713) 526-4876 x201
fax: (713) 526-1299
info@talarts.org
www.talarts.org

Good luck.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Your presumption that a lawyer will not be needed because you are low budget could not be further from the truth. It is precisely underfunded startup indies like yourself that need a lawyer the most because you do not know the law and the entertainment field is replete with rip off artists and shark-like producers and agent that will eat your lunch if you let them.

Asker

Posted

Thank you so much for all of your help! I really appreciate it!

Edward James Kazaleh

Edward James Kazaleh

Posted

Mr. Burdick is 100% correct, but I might add that if it was film set on a topples or nude beach there would be a lot more art supportive pro bono organizations that would help, or be created, to help.

Posted

The most important thing to a filmmaker is knowing that they indeed own the assignable rights in their project that they have created as an asset and can freely exhibit, sell or license it accordingly. This can only be achieved by having the right written contracts, releases and agreements in place to assure chain of title. If this is going to be your career and not just a hobby you should consider making an investment and hiring competent entertainment counsel to protect your interests and guide you. You will learn a great deal about your craft along the way as well. Good luck!

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Posted

Yes, definitely consult with Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts so you can have your ducks in a row from the beginning. Even low budget films should have basic contracts in place with the actors, locations, key personnel, music rights, etc., and good representation regarding distribution if you are going to go that route. Also, as someone else stated, there can be copyright and trademark issues, as well as accounting issues if there is going to be any money made. You want to know your way around SAG if applicable.

The Beverly Hills Bar Association put out a great book a few years ago, a legal guide for filmmakers, but I only recommend it so you have an idea of the issues. I don't advise that you try to do this yourself, especially if the film is ever going to be released.

Good luck to you.

If my answer was helpful to you, I would appreciate if you would mark it either "helpful" or "best answer" if you feel that applies, as AVVO gives us rating points based on feedback. Thank you! Please note that the above answer is not to be construed as legal advice. It is my personal opinion based on your question, and it was given without obtaining the detailed information that I would normally request in order to render comprehensive legal advice. I advise you to consult with a local attorney of your choosing to obtain specific legal advice. The fact that I answered your question does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and me.

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Posted

If making movies is going to be your career then you need to learn the business side of things. Read the book linked-to below and some of the others cited as well. Good luck.

The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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