I am a judge’s daughter. I was raised to respect the law, revere the Constitution, and look forward to jury duty. Not everybody loves lawyers. Lots of people do whatever they can to avoid them, often trying to DIY the legal aspects of their business. As a creative, there are a lot of things you can do yourself including protecting your material with copyrights and trademarks. Sometimes you need a lawyer to negotiate deals and write contracts. I know lawyers are expensive, but the headaches a solid contract will save you are worth it.
**The following is not intended to be legal advice. I am not an attorney.** See, judge’s daughter, covering myself. 😊
A contract’s job is to protect you.
Protect you from:
- Being sued
- Taken advantage of
- Having your idea stolen
Contracts also protect relationships.
It’s show business not show friends.Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) in Jerry Maguire
Even if you are working with friends and family, it is important to have a contract. This way their can be no misunderstandings, because everyone knows what is expected of them and what the payout will be.
Contracts are even more important if you are working with someone new to the entertainment business. Newbies don’t know what they don’t know and often make outrageous demands or have outsized expectations. When everything is spelled out clearly in a contract, the partners have a blueprint to move forward.
Your Deal Points
Attorneys charge by the hour. Save time and money by having deal points in mind the first time you speak. Follow up your appointment with an email recapping the conversation and what you want in your contract. In addition, to your pay, here are some other things to consider:
- Due dates of material
- Turnaround time for story notes. You don’t want the executive to take months to give you feedback.
- What rights you retain. If you are a novelist, do you have the audiobook rights, the film rights etc.?
- Can you get your material back if it is inactive for a certain amount of time?
- Screen credit
Read Before You Sign
Contracts are long, boring, and in tiny print, but it is important that you read every word before you sign. Proofread carefully. Contracts can be full of typos and mistakes. Once you sign them, they are very difficult to change. Be sure that everything you agreed to is there before you sign.
- Sometimes you need a lawyer.
- Contracts protect you, your work, & relationships.
- To save money, have a deal in mind when you talk to a lawyer.
- Always read everything before you sign anything.
Vanessa Torres’s (The Turning Pointe) advice to aspiring authors who think time has passed them by: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re too old to write. You have a lifetime of experience to draw from and that is priceless.”
Just start! Whatever you are dreaming of creating, start today.
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