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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A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand webinar, you will have on-demand access to the audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!
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! For the last 2 decades, Thomas Crowell has been one of the most respected legal voices in the entertainment industry. He's helped countless filmmakers and producers get protected and stay protected throughout the life of their projects. He'll be using real documents and legal examples to show you in layman's terms how to avoid the biggest traps filmmakers and producers fall into. No matter what budget range you're working in, his information is actionable and applicable. Whether you have a finished film, a script, or the beginnings of an idea for a television program, this course will show you how to spot the top legal problems filmmakers and producers face… and give you a set of tools you can use to tackle them! "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
Are you a screenwriter, producer, director, storyboard artist, animator, voiceover artist or composer interested in making animated films? Then you need to join us for this exclusive Stage 32 Masters of Craft Webinar taught by Conrad Vernon, screenwriter, voice actor, director and producer of some of the highest grossing animated films of the last 20 years including the Oscar-nominated SHREK 2 and BOSS BABY in addition to SAUSAGE PARTY, THE ADDAMS FAMILY and more! Animation is one of the hottest sectors in film, TV and digital content right now. From major film studios to independent production companies to networks, streaming platforms and digital online streaming platforms, animation is red hot. So, how can you stake your claim in this growing area of entertainment? By learning from one of the successful and brilliant creative minds working in the animation industry today, 25-year animation film veteran, Conrad Vernon! In what is sure to be the most comprehensive animation webinar anywhere in the world, Conrad will peel back the curtain and take you behind the scenes of his most recent film, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, to show you step-by-step how an idea went from script to storyboard to filming to screen. This is a never seen behind the scenes breakdown of Conrad's work process and includes a breakdown of how ALL departments work in bringing an animated project to the masses. If you work in animation, always wanted to work in animation, or have wondered how the sausage (party) is made, this is the webinar for you! This webinar is exclusive to Stage 32 members only. Conrad will be sharing and teaching from his private script pages and storyboards. Here are just a few!
While our industry is changing rapidly in response to world events, so is the conversation around STORY. As you know, regardless of the setting or the protagonists, the attraction of the most highly regarded films lies in a commonality - how people think, empathize, and react. How will story evolve and adapt to the world as it changes? And how will you write these stories in an authentic way with themes that attract and are relatable to a global audience? This webinar will look at STORY as a cultural phenomenon and ourselves as narrative designers with a goal toward making us all better writers and filmmakers. When we look at the research and analysis of our industry, there is great disparagement in representation, gender parity, and cultural, ethnic and international voices. In other words, we’re telling an inauthentic story about our world. How do we change this? Should we care? The trends in what is being bought, distributed produced and screened by film festivals around the world, the streaming platforms and the international marketplace says YES! You can take a more active role in creating responsible and compelling content for the global audience. Heather Rae is a film and television producer and narrative change activist. As a former programmer for Sundance, she has alos produced such films as Academy Award nominated FROZEN RIVER Netflix Originals TALLULAH with Ellen Page and Allison Janney and Dude with Lucy Hale. She was named as one of Variety's top producers to watch and for six years ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute and was a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. She is currently in post-production on BULL starring MUDBOUND'S Rob Morgan. She has also produced and directed a number of documentaries including recent film PAULETTE, executive produced by Davis Guggenheim, that tells the story of Paulette Jordan, the first Native American to win a gubernatorial primary in the country’s history. As a speaker and social critic, Rae is working to deepen the dialogue of reconciliation and responsibility in the Americas for storytelling in film. Heather will begin by making a very compelling argument the global audience for film, TV and new media is not only growing, but is hungry for more content. She will dive into the disparagement in gender, cultural, ethnic and international representation and how we can create content that levels the playing field. Heather will then dive into a conversation centered around story and narrative design. Are we presenting a singular, authentic voice, or are we simply contributing to the collective narrative impact culture? The difference is extremely important and will help you recognize how to tell your story and not have it influenced by pre-existing material. From here, it's time to discuss how to create responsible and compelling stories for a global audience - so important in today's marketplace where regional buying has been replaced by regional stories for a worldwide audience. And finally, Heather will discuss how to challenge ourselves to make sure that we are finding the true story during the development process. For those who are looking to tell stories of the under-represented or people and worlds unseen, misunderstood or marginalized, Heather will show you how to make those stories universal and attractive to a global audience. Praise for Heather's Stage 32 Webinar "Heather is amazing. Exactly what I needed!" -Sakura R. "Heather is so genuine. It’s exhilarating to know there are people in Hollywood who think and talk about ending neo-colonialism and white privilege in such an honest, loving-of-all, brave, humane way." -Sarah B. "Heather was engaging, relevant, and motivating concerning the topic." -Valerie O. "I love how much Stage 32 thinks outside the box with webinars and opportunities -- Heather is a fine example of that. She is refreshingly different in her approach, her experience and her advice. She is a kindred spirit, and one with whom I would love to connect. Thank you!" -Anna E.
Part 1 - Writing, Budgeting & Pre-Production How to write an effective short script The brainstorming process Utilizing real life experiences, what are memorable moments in your life that stick out to you? Moments in a friend’s life? Creating characters: What topics do you uniquely understand? What jobs have you held? What did your parents do for a living? Where did you grow up? Writing in proper format What is the difference between writing “is working” and “works” in a screenplay and why does verbiage matter when writing action? Should I put my WGA and copyright notices on the title page? The business of making a short film What do I need to do to protect myself? Creating an LLC and lawyering up for the right reasons. How much is this really going to cost? Evaluating SAG Short Film Agreements, cost of renting equipment, everything from lighting to locations, and looking forward to release and distributions, what are the costs beyond the actual production of a film? Logistically, how will I be able to execute all the elements? How do I handle room and board for out of town talent? Is there a local film commission I can work with, and if so, what exactly is their role in helping me execute my vision? Part 2 - Directing, Marketing & Distributing Your Film Preparing to direct and the production process What do I need to do before I get to set? What is the purpose of having location walkthroughs? When and how to I make the shot list and how many shots do I really need? How do I make my vision clear to crewmembers while still being collaborative in the process? How do I work with an actor for the first time? How much say should they have in the script and changing the character? Should I allow an actor to change my lines? How do I follow their emotional journey over the course of shooting a film that is totally out of order so it makes sense in the final product? When problems arise on set, how do I respond? What are best practices to maintaining authority without creating conflict? How do I ensure that everyone is getting the proper attention they need so I can avoid problems? What happens if I find out we didn’t shoot something we needed? How do I work with footage or sound that didn’t come out the way I expected? How long should my final product be so I can be successful at film festivals? Marketing your film What can I do to promote my film before we ever start filming? When is the appropriate time to start promoting? What kind of promotion looks and feels professional versus amateur? Is there such a thing as oversharing information on social networks? During production, how can I use my cast and crew to promote the project? What parameters should I set to not give away plot points? What is the role of a still photographer on set and how can I leverage the still photographer for publicity? How do I reach out to press outlets to promote my film? How do I find out what press outlets are the right ones for my film, and how do I even get a journalist interested in covering it? What makes an effective versus ineffective pitch letter? Releasing your film What makes an effective trailer? How can I best prepare and present the trailer and still photos for promotional purposes? Should I create a Facebook page for my film and a website and a Twitter and an Instagram, etc.? How do I get into Sundance? If I don’t get into Sundance, is my career finished? There are entirely too many film festivals, how do I begin to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad? What are effective ways of meeting, then following up, with producers and gatekeepers that I meet at these events? What kind of communication does an executive find annoying? Should I sell my film or give it away for free? If I give it away for free, how will I be able to pay myself back? How do I quantify if my film was a success? How do I use the short film to get myself ready for my next project? What if the film didn’t come out the way I wanted, am I completely done as a filmmaker? How do I use the lessons I learned to make my next project better? Now that I’ve made my first short film and loved it, how do I make this my full time job and become a professional filmmaker?
Great Characters should have Great Introductions. Join us as we breakdown how characters are introduced in features and TV scripts including Star Wars, Fargo, The Good Place, Mad Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Arrested Development.