Producing : Producer by Teri Peri Flores

Teri Peri Flores


Hello all,

If it's been a few years since I've been on this site and a lot has happened with my production company. Over the years we've seen some movement with some of our projects but they never fully take off. They're just inching forward but forward at least. Right now, in just the last couple months, we've made some pretty big strides with one of our feature films in development. I have a question that I'm hoping I might get some advice on from all of you who are more experienced then we are... Our project is about to be 50-75% financed By a group that can also come in as CO producers. They are leaving that up to us. My production company, consisting of four individuals in our LLC, believe it would be a good idea since they are more experienced than we are. We are bringing them the script that we own and the attached lead talent and director. We have established our relationship with a casting director and we have a "small town" film attorney.

Our actors agent is requesting we sign a pay for play contract. We do not want to sign it untill the financing is fully in place But we understand their urgency as the Actor is well known and we don't want to lose him.

We also need to be prepared for a possible contract between our LLC and our investor / possible co-producer.

My question is...

Knowing that we can't afford the retainer for a seasoned entertainment attorney until after full financing is in place, What are the most important items to consider in creating contracts with our lead Actor and potential Co-producer in order to protect ourselves as the less experiencd producer?

Erik A. Jacobson

Have you considered offering an experienced entertainment attorney back-end points instead of a cash retainer? And the same to your actor instead of escrowing pay or play monies? Another option I've used: consult with Stacy Parks of as your EP to act as go-between the parties. She's a former William Morris agent, advises on legal, casting & financing, charges a minimum of $5000 for 90 days and has put together dozens of films like yours.

Teri Peri Flores

I really like the idea of retaining the attorney with back end points I did not know that was an option. We have already agreed, verbally, a fee and back end points for our Actor. Is it common to re negotiate after the fact on a verbal agreement?

Erik A. Jacobson

Sure. Tell him things are "coming together" and you feel he deserves the same great deal you've given your actor. What harm is there in bouncing the idea off him? Just don't give away too much.

Dan MaxXx

I would not make any offers to anyone - cast, crew, partners - until I have a locked filming schedule.

If you say you have 75% of the budget, you have enough $ to prep and production. Raise the remaining balance 25% after you “get in the can.” That will have value than a paper idea.

Teri Peri Flores

Hi Dan, thank you for the great advice. Unfortunately, we could not get our Actor unless we had partial financing... of course getting financing is also reliant on us having attached talent. In both cases, we went with a verbal LOI from each. This is the only way we knew how to get things moving in our situation.

John Ellis

Ah, the old Catch-22: financing wants talent, talent wants financing. I'm with Dan MaxXx - don't make firm offers until the schedule is locked.

That usually takes some money. If your co-producers have experience, they understand that and should be willing to foot the bill, if they believe in the project. If they won't commit to some cash, you gotta wonder about their commitment. In that case, I'd say move on.

If they do fork over some money, understand that they'll want some creative say - it's their risk, after all.

And that's the reality of the biz: if you take on financial partners, you may have to give up creative control (at least some, based on how much cash they have at risk).

The Golden Rule - he who has the gold, makes the rules.

Brendan Davis

Hi Teri - I just saw this post and was going to comment in more detail, but I see that these gents said much of what I would. One thing I can add is that if / since apparently your small-town lawyer doesn't have templates for the standard movie contracts you need, you might be able to find someone who'd help you with this for a low fee via CA Lawyers For The Arts ( Re pay or play - if the talent is truly at the PoP level, you could see if the interested financier would be willing to back an offer to the actor. "Last money in" financiers are plentiful, so if they aren't willing to put some skin into the game upfront, then - as said above - move on. Good luck!

Paulette Pearson -John W. Cones is affordable and the best film financing lawyer IMHO.

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