Background first: I'm a Writer/ Film Director. I worked with a producer and finished a film- I wrote the original screenplay. He tried to get me to agree to a long term deal with his LLC- which he never even formed. I didn't like the language in his proposed agreement. It was agreed upon- in emails leading up to- that we would share the profits of the film 50/50 after his investment was returned. When I informed him I didn't want a long term deal- I gave him a written agreement ( a standard work for hire agreement), and he ignored it. I have since hired an attorney who has sent him 2 letters, demanding that he negotiate my written agreement, and also that he turns over the hard drives (footage) of the completed film. Even though it was all his money - as he was the producer of the film, everyone tells me that I have just as much right to the completed film as he does, as I am the owner of the copyrighted screenplay. He never paid me for all my post production, as it was agreed upon that we would share the net profits after the film sold. Now that he hasn't gotten back to me, I am going forward with a lawsuit. My question is two fold; My attorney is charging approx. $3,500 to prepare & sue- is this number a good fee? Also, is the law on my side here- because I am the owner of the original screenplay? In other words, are my chances good that maybe I could sue him and become owner of this film? He has been very incompetent since that film ended production. Thanks
Country relating to Question: United States
State (if USA): New Jersey
I have hired an attorney, and he has sent out 2 letters to the other party.
Hello and thank you for the question. I am sorry to read of this dilemma. The fee charged is a bit on the high end unless. Often plaintiff work of this kind can be handled at lower hourly rate or contingency fee basis. The claim has merit. A court would often encourage settlement or mediation to get this resolved, but otherwise will need to determine what the agreement was and what is a fair recovery based on the value of the service/product.
Do you feel like the costs of the attorney and the preparation for Litigation is high? I was told it would normally cost anywhere from $7,000- $10,000 for litigation. This isn't for Small Claims. The cost of the film was $100,000 to produce. Do my chances sound good that I would win this case- I have a paper trail about the 50/50 split, and also he has lied and stalled purposely, thinking I would not sue him. Isn't that alone neglect? Sorry, I just need to be more precise. Thanks.
If that is the fee for handling the case from beginning to end, that is reasonable. If it is only for filing and drafting a complaint, it is high. Consider also an incentive arrangement, such as 25% of the recovery as an alternative. The e-mails and paper trail concerning splitting proceeds and equity is excellent evidence and will often be sufficient to help a good lawyer work out a settlement early on.
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