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BizIPEsq.
BizIPEsq., Attorney
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience:  I am a tech attorney and I represent clients with technology, internet and intellectual property matters
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I am an independent film maker based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Resolved Question:

I am an independent film maker based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Pretty small time, but I feel we have a winning concept now. The story is this: A friend of mine, "Jennifer," was a victim of violent abuse for years. After she finally escaped her abuser, she became a police officer. Her best friend, "Rachel," a disabled woman who lives with her parents, was key to Jennifer finding the strength to finally escape this abuser. Years later, when Jennifer's former abuser murdered a woman, her testimony about the violent past of the former abuser earned him a 2nd degree murder conviction. He is half way through an 18 year prison sentence now. Here is my question:

I have gotten signed releases for me to tell their life stories surrounding this event from all the key parties: Jennifer, Rachel, Rachel's mom & dad, and Jennifer's husband.

Of course, I don't know if we will ever make any money from this film. We are actually making it as a shor (10 min.) to enter into a competition that could bring substantial financial reward down the road. The principals involved in developing the film are myself (Terry - writer / producer) and Charley (director).

I would like to offer some financial return to the key parties for their working with me on this, specifically Jennifer and Rachel. I would like a suggestion as to how you might typically see a financial agreement that would be fair to all.

Once the short film is done, even if we don't win the contest, we hope to raise funds to make the feature version. Would we offer a percentage of any money earned ABOVE costs and, if so, what percentage to:

Jennifer - central character (age 38)
Rachel - second most important character (age 38)
Myself - screenwriter and producer (15 yrs exp as TV writer/producer, age 61)
Charley - director (film school grad, very talented, age 22)

Can you give me some general direction on this?

Many thanks.
Terry Prince
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  BizIPEsq. replied 1 year ago.

BizIPEsq. :

Terry, I will be assisting you

Customer:

Great. Thanks!

BizIPEsq. :

Generally back up compensation in movies varies. Certainly short films don't have a standard scheme. I've seen co-author or story rights holders being compensated up to 10% (10% being very high)

BizIPEsq. :

back end is typically give n on gross profits (before taxes eyc.)

Customer:

I am writing the script and overseeing the locations, recruitment of actors, and interviewing the principals. The director is selecting and managing the crew for the shoots.

BizIPEsq. :

who's idea this was?

Customer:

So I see it as the 4 of us: Jennifer, Rachel, Charley (director), and myself (Terry) as the people really due to benefit financially if this makes money. It was all my idea. I had known TJ before. I was a development director at a battered womens shelter. Jennifer was on the board. I had her share her story at some fundraisers. Got a good response. So after I left the job, I asked her about making the film.

Customer:

Jennifer is now a detective with a local town's police dept. Rachel suffered a major stroke and lives with her parents - probably 70% disabled. Both women are 38 years old.

BizIPEsq. :

generally the life story rights holders though may be an important part of the film are not necessarily an important part of the production

BizIPEsq. :

therefore, unless they are actively involved in producing/financing see my notes above

Customer:

Okay. So, are you saying that Jennifer / Rachel (J/R for simplicity) are not due financial benefits?

BizIPEsq. :

as far as you and the director the split would be anything that the two of you believe is equitable. 50/50 60/40 etc. If one if you is putting money in addition to time then that's needs to be taken into consideration

BizIPEsq. :

as noted JR are due generally it's less than 10% (much less)

Customer:

Because J/R are friends, and I could see asking them to make public appearances to help promote the film later, I want to keep them close. So you think that offering them to split 10% would be fair?

Customer:

And then maybe the director and I split the remaining 80% with prod costs coming out of that as needed first?

BizIPEsq. :

short films don't have rules per say and there are many less examples than features. In feature films life store rights holders get just a couple of points in the back end

Customer:

I am footing most of the costs at this time, but we want to stage some fundraiser, including a Kickstarter site. (Do you know about Kickstarter?)

BizIPEsq. :

(i.e. 0%-3% on back end earnings which means revenue-all expenses before taxes)

BizIPEsq. :

I do know kickstarter

BizIPEsq. :

if you are footing most of the cost then you should have a higher percentage than the director

BizIPEsq. :

you have "skin in the game" so to speak

Customer:

I see.

Customer:

When you say, 'back-end,' can you explain that to me?

Customer:

My background more in tv than film.

Customer:

My thinking has been perhaps:

BizIPEsq. :

Back end is a way for an author, life story rights holder or anyone else participating to get some "profit participation." This means that such folks are then paid some of the profit the film makes after it breaks even. As noted it can be up to 10% of the total gross after the film covers production and promotional costs, which is called the net gross.

Customer:

My thinking has been perhaps: After all production costs are met, 50% for me / 40% for director / 6% for Jennifer and 4% for Rachel. Based on what you're saying, that would be generous. I guess because I know Jennifer suffered violent abuse for 5 years, which is the basis of the story. Then, after Rachel had a major stroke at age 18, they've kept their close friendship. It was Rachels' love and encouragement that made the way for Jennifer to finally escape her abuser. This man murdered his next girlfriend. With Rachel's encouragemtne, Jennifer gave testimony that put him away for a long time. That's a lot to go through for both women. So I'm inclined to generosity with them. But I welcome your thoughts because I'm new at this.

Customer:

I suppose I could just offer a flat 10% to Jennifer and Rachel to split equally.

BizIPEsq. :

I think leaving the split up to JR is a good idea. Takes you out of that mess. My sense though that as someone who is footing all the money upfront your exposure is higher than 50%. Obviously it's your call but consider you and the director each having 30% and then another 30% in recognition of the fact that you are paying all the money. These are just sample figures but you can take this mode of thinking and apply it to any figures you want

BizIPEsq. :

Let me know if that answered your question

BizIPEsq. :

correction: the additional 30% is for you

Customer:

I see. You have been extremely helpful. Presuming we have a contract drawn up to reflect the financial arrangement, I wonder what we would expect to pay an attorney to do that for us? Also, is this something you could do for us if you are not practicing in N.C.?

BizIPEsq. :

Under the terms of the site I am not permitted to offer legal services to customers. A colleague of mine is an IP / entertainment attorney and he would be able to help you. I don't believe he is admitted in NC he is from NY you can reach him by writing toXXX@XXXXXX.XXX. My rough estimate would be that it would take a couple of hours to draft such an agreement which could mean around $500-$600

BizIPEsq. :

Thank you for allowing me to assist you!

Customer:

You have been most helpful. Thank you very much.

BizIPEsq. :

you're welcome

BizIPEsq., Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience: I am a tech attorney and I represent clients with technology, internet and intellectual property matters
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