I am a film investor/writer of micro-budget genre movies.
I have been working with a production company here in LA for 5 years.
The first 3 years went well (creatively), we made a lot of movies and they turned out well.
But for the last 14 months, I have been having trouble with my producer:
1. She picks poor distributors that bring in a low or no return.
2. She has gotten 1 payment from a distributor, but hasn’t sent it to me.
3. Post production has slowed and costs have doubled and tripled because I believe she has skimmed the money.
4. She shows me no financial reporting. If I ask her to send me reports, she calls me accusatory.
I would like to be in charge of the distribution of my films as I have paid for them.
What are my options here?
You have raised business law and intellectual property law issues, and possibly fraud. Whether you have control or veto power in the film choices is a matter of business law based on company control and any agreements (verbal of written) you may have with the company. Whether you have rights to the payment and a right to demand an accounting is a matter of both business and intellectual property law. Even without business rights it sounds like you may have copyright protection in joint works. A joint author is entitled to an accounting and sharing of the profits. An author whose work is used by another (for example in a derivative work) is entitled to a licensing fee. A detailed analysis of the facts with the help of intellectual property counsel is necessary to determine your rights under copyright law. You can also look at revising your relationship going forward through the use of a new or revised written agreement. If the person you reference has deceptively taken what is yours, you can seek damages through a lawsuit. I suggest finding an attorney who practices business and intellectual property law to assist you through private consultation and analysis.
In consultation with a copyright /entertainment/film lawyer you need to figure out who owns what and whether you have already formed a joint venture with the other person, and if so, what are the rights and obligations of each party. Decide on a procedure for resolving disputes. Have everything written down and signed in a co-production agreement, a collaboration agreement, or whatever arrangement you and your lawyer decide will work best in light of the past, present and future projects.
The foregoing is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice in a particular matter or the existence of an attorney-client relationship. All answers ©2017 Greg Victoroff, Inc. No further reproduction or use for any purpose.
Your rights will be as they are described in your investment agreement, or joint venture agreement, or whatever document which memorializes your business arrangement. If there is no such agreement, then you may have a difficult situation on your hands. There are many, many good Entertainment lawyers in LA. Make sure you find one with film deal experience.
Short Answer: You will need to refer to your working agreement with the production company. It sounds like you are complaining about bad choices and lack of competence by the production company. those are typically not issues you can sue on for money damages. However, if you want to part ways and want to know which works (or portions thereof) you can take with you, and under what conditions, then you need to consult with an entertainment Law attorney who can evaluate and analyze the particulars of you case and advise you accordingly. Good luck.
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