Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. is an entertainment and intellectual property attorney and partner with the New York law firm of LaneCrowell, LLP. A former television producer and director of development for STN, Mr. Crowell counsels clients on a wide range of entertainment law and intellectual property rights issues. He has worked with clients who have had deals with TLC, Elsevier Publishing, Starz, Discovery Communications, Focal Press, the Smithsonian Network, WE: The Women's Entertainment Network, The Science Technology Network, IDW Publishing, and Sony Entertainment. His clients' work is seen in the pages of Marvel and DC comics and on movie, TV, computer, and mobile screens across the world. A frequent columnist for film industry publications, Mr. Crowell is also the author of a best-selling legal guide for independent producers, “The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers” (Focal Press), which has been adopted as a core textbook in many film and law schools across the United States. His latest book is “The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators” (Focal Press) — is the very first dedicated legal guide for the comic book industry. He currently serves as a series editor for Focal Press and its new line of legal guides for artists. Mr. Crowell has taught media law courses in law schools and film schools around the world. He is the co-creator and Director from Practice, emeritus, of the “Indie Film Clinic” at Cardozo Law School and has spent the better part of the last two decades creating ways to make difficult legal concepts accessible to artists. Full Bio »
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Acquiring the rights to a literary property with an eye towards turning it into a movie or television series is one of your primary responsibilities as a filmmaker or producer. Or, if you’re a writer with a screenplay or someone who owns IP that can be made into a film or TV series, how do you know you’re signing the right contract with a producer? Whether you are looking to acquire a screenplay, article, book, graphic novel or comic book series you need an option/purchase agreement — or is it shopping agreement? Or is it an attachment agreement? Trying to understand which agreement is right for you can make your head spin. But, it’s important to make sure you come to the table with the right agreement to protect yourself upfront and secure all the necessary rights to the amazing property you’re after.
At a glance, it seems that there is overlap between the holy trinity of rights agreements: shopping, option/purchase and attachment. Unfortunately, many people confuse the terms and as a result people often end up coming to the bargaining table with very different ideas on what kind of agreement they are — resulting in the creation of Frankensteined-together versions of these three types of contracts. The wrong drafting can leave the writer stripped of their copyrights or producers and filmmakers unable to secure financing because they don’t have the rights they thought they paid for. There are key distinctions between these three agreements and any producer or filmmaker(or on the flipside, writer)must know the difference between them. Experienced entertainment attorney Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. is here to help.
Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. counsels clients on a wide range of entertainment law and intellectual property rights issues, including clients who have had deals with TLC, Elsevier Publishing, Starz, Discovery Communications, Focal Press, the Smithsonian Network, WE: The Women's Entertainment Network, The Science Technology Network, IDW Publishing, and Sony Entertainment. His clients' work is seen in the pages of Marvel and DC comics and on movie, TV, computer, and mobile screens across the world. A former television producer and director of development for STN, Thomas has spent the better part of the last two decades creating ways to make difficult legal concepts accessible to creatives.
Thomas will give you a solid foundation of the legal issues involved in the acquisition of film rights, as well as a rubric for understanding, negotiating, and drafting key provisions in the option/purchase, shopping agreement, and attachment deals. He will walk you through the basics of copyright law and the legal steps necessary in transferring rights. Next he will discuss common pitfalls writers and producers make when it comes to breaks in the chain of title, joint authorship, and work for hire. Critically, Thomas will spell out the differences between shopping, option/purchase, and attachment agreements and will give invaluable tips on how to negotiate and draft these agreements to ensure you’re getting what you need and not being taken advantage of. You will have the tools you'll need to navigate the murky waters of copyright law and to land the rights to your dream literary property.
Plus! Thomas provides you with a 32 page detailed resource guide to help you navigate the nuances of various agreements
Praise for Thomas' Stage 32 Webinar
“I would wholeheartedly recommend this webinar not only to producers and writers, but to anyone in the business, even if you think you know what you're doing. It's mandatory viewing if you call yourself a professional."
- Anna H.
"Very informative. Liked how he emphasized applying for copyright. I still thought registering with WGA was enough. Liked how organized his lecture was. I'll watch it again."
- Joanne E.
"The best I've heard this explained."
- Patricia C.
"The best webinar I have taken here so far. Great visuals, clear explanations, relevant topic."
- Maritere Y.
"Thomas was excellent. Articulate, helpful diagrams, and I liked his delivery and vast experience as a producer and lawyer."
- Virginia K
THIS PRESENTATION HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT QUESTIONS YOU RAISE DURING THE WORKSHOP ARE NOT CONFIDENTIAL. ONLY YOUR ATTORNEY CAN ADVISE YOU WHICH LAWS ARE APPLICABLE TO YOUR SPECIFIC CASE AND SITUATION.
Thomas A. Crowell, Esq.
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What is the most important element toward your film to landing a distributor? The script? The director? You may be surprised. For many distributors, the choice of one film over another often comes down to whether your film features an actor that audiences recognize. Actors’ performances breathe life into a film, and their fame gives a film its marketing power. Whether you're shooting a student or short film, ultra low budget, low budget or new media, it's important to sign talent that will help move the needle on your project. As important, you must know how to navigate the wide, varied landscape of actor agreements to assure that you are buttoned up legally so that distributors and sales agents are attracted to your project. Because performers realize the hold they have over a film project, negotiating talent services agreement can be a nail-biting experience. Virtually every recognizable performer has a team of agents, managers, and attorneys ready to protect the actor’s interests and negotiate the best deal they can for their client. For producers, knowing how to negotiate an actor’s contract is critical for the success of their films. Making sure that you have your film set up properly from the legal perspective at the get-go will help put you in the best position to negotiate. And, making sure you know the clauses to look out for during negotiation and how to handle them is crucial. Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. is an entertainment and intellectual property attorney and partner with the New York law firm of LaneCrowell, LLP. Mr. Crowell counsels clients on a wide range of entertainment law and intellectual property rights issues, including deals with TLC, Elsevier Publishing, Starz, Discovery Communications, Focal Press, the Smithsonian Network, WE: The Women's Entertainment Network, The Science Technology Network, IDW Publishing, and Sony Entertainment. His clients' work is seen in the pages of Marvel and DC comics and on movie, TV, computer, and mobile screens across the world. Throughout his career he's helped hundreds of producers and actors protect themselves when signing the Talent Services Agreement. Thomas will walk you through labor and employment issues to consider when hiring key cast for your production, as well as give you payroll company resources you can use. You'll learn how to sign you production up as a signatory with SAG-AFTRA and how to be compliant. He will help you determine which union agreement your film will fall under and discuss the differences to consider between a student/short film, ultra low budget, low budget or new media project. Once you understand how to set up your film correctly, he will teach you how you can negotiate with agents, managers and other actor's representatives. Finally, Thomas will go over the key elements of a legal actor/talent services agreement. This is an all encompassing look at the broad landscape of actor's agreements taught with an easy to understand and comprehensive delivery. Whether you are making student films, short films, feature films, or new media projects with ultra low, low, medium or big budgets, you will learn EXACTLY what you need to get your actor's agreements buttoned up and protected. "One of the best yet! All are informative and I have learned from each, but this one topped the charts. Definitely want Thomas back. Thanks!" Jessica R. "This was incredibly detailed. I appreciated that Thomas took a lot of time showing real life examples and included easy to understand descriptions of all the clauses that would make my spin. Well worth the time." Paul P.
Creating a movie is more than just a labor of love: it's also an investment of time and money. But while countless hours are spent raising money, putting the project together, setting up shots, and editing footage, many producers and filmmakers spend too little time or have little understanding of how to take care of the legal aspects of their productions. As a result, producers and filmmakers often learn the difficult lesson that no matter how good their films may be, a distributor can't sell a movie unless all of the necessary rights and permissions have been secured. In fact, without the correct agreements in place, filmmakers may be surprised to find out that they may not even own their own films! Thomas A. Crowell, Esq. counsels clients on a wide range of entertainment law and intellectual property rights issues, including clients who have had deals with TLC, Elsevier Publishing, Starz, Discovery Communications, Focal Press, the Smithsonian Network, WE: The Women's Entertainment Network, The Science Technology Network, IDW Publishing, and Sony Entertainment. His clients' work is seen in the pages of Marvel and DC comics and on movie, TV, computer, and mobile screens across the world. A former television producer and director of development for STN, Thomas has spent the better part of the last two decades creating ways to make difficult legal concepts accessible to creatives. Thomas will outline how to spot the top 10 major legal problems that filmmakers and producers face. He'll go through aspects of copyright law and a deep dive of a filmmaker's ownership of the film to make sure you keep your rights. He'll go over critical deal points for option and purchase agreements and talk about fundraising "sand traps" and how to avoid them. Finally Thomas will teach you tips and tricks for negotiating with agents. Whether you have a finished film, a script, or the beginnings of an idea for a television program, you will leave this webinar with a set of tools you can use to tackle legal problems that may come your way. "One of the best webinars yet! All are informative and I have learned from each, but this one topped the charts. Calmly and clearly explained every pitfall I fear. Definitely want him back. Thanks!" - J. Rose
As a director, one of your most important jobs is eliciting great performances from actors. Fail at that, and your film or series could crumble under the weight of bad acting. Although the best directors shape performances with a deftness that may seem effortless, it is not. In fact, becoming a great director of actors is hard work and takes years of disciplined practice. Like playing a violin, it is a skill that must be nurtured. But there is a place to start: Set the goal of becoming an “actor’s director.” You’ve heard the term before, but what does it really mean? Why does it matter? And how can you become one? An actor’s director is simply a director who respects actors, can read their wants and needs, understands the craft of acting, and knows how to optimize an actor’s performance with simple, short directions (or no apparent direction at all). While actors routinely compliment directors by bestowing this title upon them, becoming an actor’s director means far more than earning the respect of those in front of the camera. In truth, the best directors are actor’s directors by definition. The temperament and skillset of an actor’s director yields superior performances, and it leads to more fulfilling actor-director relationships. By studying the strategies, attitudes, knowledge base and habits of actor’s directors, you too will be on the path to better performances in your own films and series. And, who better to know what it takes to become an actor's director than Matthew McConaughey's teaching partner at University of Texas, Scott Rice. Scott is an Emmy Award-winning director who has directed projects for Sony Pictures, A&E, MTV Networks and more. His films have been distributed by Hulu, Showtime, Comedy Central and PBS. After studying under world-renowned film scholar David Bordwell, Scott began his career as a 3D animator and art director for Activision. He scripted the groundbreaking hit game SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and has since written on assignment for Elizabeth Avellan (SPY KIDS) among others. Scott is also an ADDY award winner for his commercial work. His national commercial clients include Shell, Las Vegas, MasterCard and Sears. As Scott explores how to become an “actor’s director,” he will share a volume of best practices and wisdom born of a rich 25-year career. Scott will begin by explaining what it means to be an “actor’s director” in general and will go over what you need to be familiar with ahead of time in order to be one yourself, including a basic rundown of the craft and challenges of acting and how to use empathy. He’ll illustrate what a strong actor-director collaboration looks like, how to harness the power of ‘yes’, and how to correctly ‘watch’ a performance while on set. Next Scott will delve into how best to prepare before production, including navigating scene work, the read-through and rehearsal process, dealing with shot listing, and creating a schedule while keeping your actors’ needs in mind. He’ll also discuss how best to handle walkthroughs and blocking and when to use stand-ins. Then Scott will teach you the best ways to interact with actors on set, including how to meet with them ahead of time, and how to hold yourself and speak while on set. He’ll spend time talking about the casting process and ways to serve as an “actor’s director” while auditioning and interviewing talent. Scott will then offer tips on how to work with non-actors, including children and animals, and share Steven Spielberg’s techniques for these challenges and how to use improvisation. He will delve into strategies for solving problems that occur on set, including how to identify a weak performance, getting out of a ‘black hole’, when to move on and circle back, and how to decide what you really need to move forward. Scott will share 8 things you should avoid while on set in order to be a better “actor’s director”. In the end, Scott will leave you with a thorough understanding of what it means to be an actor’s director and, more importantly, provide actionable advice for how to become one yourself. Scott will accompany his presentation with exclusive material from his nationally recognized film course which goes behind the scenes of Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey’s latest films. Scott will illustrate successful actor-director relationships through anecdotes from McConaughey and notorious directors including Gary Ross (THE HUNGER GAMES), Jeff Nichols (LOVING), and Harmony Korine (SPRING BREAKERS). Praise for Scott's Stage 32 Webinar "Scott was a great choice for an instructor. Very knowledgeable and a good teacher" -Blake N. "Scott was a fabulous presenter. He definitely brought his A-game today. Thanks, Scott!" -Paul T. "It was terrific. Great instructor. I loved his insights and recommendations. He clearly stays on top of his profession and is always learning." -Crystal B. "Just what I needed to hear" -James G. "Great. I have been an actor for a long time. Loved Scott's approach to working with actors. Spot on" - Shelagh M.
Part 1 - Playing the Field Steve discusses the kinds of 1 hour TV pilots networks are looking for, and more importantly, what kinds they are not. He talks about the differences between cable, network, and online (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) as well as the differences between procedurals and serialized series. Part 2 - Character and Structure Steve leads a discussion on characterization. He runs through some of his favorite TV characters and explores the development process most networks go through to amp up the characterization in scripts. He also explores supporting cast, archetypes, structure and act breaks. Part 3 - Creating an Engine to Your Show Steve discusses the engine of a TV show. He runs through the importance of a clear week-to-week and explores series longevity and how to craft story lines that can stretch out for 3-8 years.
Do you suffer from writer’s block? Do you ever get stuck on a scene — at odds with how to proceed, what your character should do or say — for hours, days, sometimes weeks? Do you ever read a scene and think, something’s just not working? Join the illustrious club of every writer ever. Luckily, this very common problem has a simple solution. In this webinar, you will dig down to the building blocks of excellent scene work, those elements which are fundamental to establishing character, advancing plot, capturing tone, and planting memorable moments. By using iconic scenes from landmark film and TV and by citing examples from his 5+ years of TV writing and producing experience, Charlie will offer an array of tools and skills that will harden any writer against the obstacles and pitfalls that come with attacking any scene. Perhaps more importantly, participants will come away with some vital ways to overcome the feared writer’s block that plagues us all.
It’s the dream of many to have a career as a writer for TV or film, to be able to make a living creating worlds and telling stories. It is no doubt an exciting career, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. For as many people that find success in screenwriting, there are many others who don’t. This doesn’t just come down to talent, but also to a huge array of other aspects (not to mention a good amount of luck and circumstance). Ultimately if you want to write full time, it’s important not just to hone your writing skills, but also the skills needed to live a writer’s life. It’s common for people to jump into the world of screenwriting and strive to write full time without really considering what goes into this lifestyle beyond simply writing. But the life of a screenwriter isn’t exactly straightforward or easy. Even the most successful and in-demand writers face unique challenges and difficulties. After all, you’re not just writing; you’re constantly finding new opportunities, you’re developing your craft, you’re building your brand, and balancing all of it with your own personal life. Though of course, along with these obstacles come incredible opportunities to create, to inspire others, and to contribute to today’s culture. So what does it actually mean to write full time, what does that life look like, and how can you best shape your career and your day-to-day to make the most out of your screenwriting profession? Let’s dig in. Lorien McKenna is a full-time screenwriter as well as co-host of the popular podcast THE SCREENWRITING LIFE with her writing partner Meg LeFauve (INSIDE OUT, CAPTAIN MARVEL). Lorien was a former Pixar story manager who worked on such features as UP, BRAVE, INSIDE OUT, and THE GOOD DINOSAUR and served as a producer for Paramount Animation, where she oversaw development for the animated hit WONDER PARK. Lorien and Meg sold their romantic comedy anthology, THIS THING CALLED LOVE, to Hulu with Dan Lin producing; as well as a half hour sitcom, POOG, to NBC and WBTV. Lorien also wrote HOW TO SET A FIRE AND WHY, based on the book of the same name by Jesse Ball, for Straight Up Films. Previously, she served as the Co-EP for Hulu's CURIOUS GEORGE series, and has developed projects for Disney Jr., Funko, and Netflix. Lorien has found her path and road to success through screenwriting, and has learned a slew of lessons along the way. Now she’s excited to share her perspective and advice with the Stage 32 community. Lorien will dig into what it actually means to be a full-time screenwriter and offer strategies and advice for those starting out to find their footing and create a long-lasting career. Lorien will describe what a day, month, and a year in the life of a full-time writer looks like and how she’s navigated successes and setbacks along the way. She’ll offer tips into how to make ends meet as you get started and when you might be able to give up the side job. She’ll speak to finding the writing/living balance so you can stay connected. Next Lorien will go into advice into how to get your actual writing done, day in and day out and how to improve and learn along the way. She will discuss what she has done to build her brand and reputation and why she hates networking. Finally, Lorien will share the five most surprising things she’s learned in her writing career. Every person’s writing career is different, but Lorien will provide you with context, perspective and a collection of tools you can include in your own toolbox as you work to build your own path as a screenwriter.