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 »
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.
Praise for Thomas
“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.
Q: What is the format of a webinar?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Webinars are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.
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Q: Will I have access to the webinar afterward to rewatch?
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
After reading well over 1,000 screenplays over the course of my career, from both professionals and amateurs, I can tell you that I have a solid idea of what makes a good story. Also, as someone who has been a professional reader, I can show you through a reader’s eyes where a story becomes flawed, and how those stories can be improved to prevent you and your script from getting the dreaded PASS on coverage notes. The Dirty Secret of Story Structure will take a meticulous look at the art of building dramatic structure within your story by learning how to do it in individual scenes. Each and every scene in your script should serve as an opportunity to move the story forward. If it is not doing that, it’s not serving its correct purpose within the world of your story. Just as your overall screenplay has a beginning, a middle and an end, so too should each scene. Within each scene should be a character who wants something, and another character or entity that is trying to stop her. Developing a structure within each scene to determine how those events transpire is just as important to telling your story as making sure the Act I to Act II transition happens somewhere between pages 25 and 30. However, the notion of dramatic structure has been misinterpreted for years. Dramatic structure is not necessarily what you think it is, and when it is re-examined, the thought of fitting a story within the confines of dramatic structure becomes less daunting. This webinar will provide detailed examples on how to build solid dramatic structure within your scenes, as well as within your overall screenplay.
It’s a competitive landscape right now for film and TV writers to break in. If you want to stand out and get that next job, you need to prove that you have the goods. This might require you to do the work ahead of time and write a dynamite script on your own dime to later show to interested parties. This is a spec script, or a speculative screenplay. It’s a script that you write for free to hopefully sell or garner interest for once it’s complete. Writing on spec is a gamble, since it’s not guaranteed you’ll ever get paid for your work. But it can also be the best (or only) way to get in front of executives and put your best foot forward. Writing the right spec script is intimidating. This has to serve as your calling card, after all. This one script should show Hollywood not only that you’re a great writer, but also who you are, what makes you different, and what you can bring to the table that no one else can. It needs to be exciting and it needs to be something that people are going to want to make. That’s a lot of pressure, enough to psych out anyone. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The spec market is booming and executives are constantly looking for new voices to invest in. Learning some simple tips and tools to apply to your script could be what it takes to get you over the edge, get you in a room, get your project sold, and get you that next job. Matt Duffett is an LA-based screenwriter who recently completed writing CRASH UNIT for Sylvester Stallone to star in and direct. He has been hired to adapt New York Times' Book of the Summer THE DESTROYERS for Star Thrower Entertainment (THE POST). Meanwhile, his Boston crime thriller THE GUNSMITH has Tommy Wirkola (HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY) attached to direct. His sci-fi spec script FLASHBACK was on the Blacklist and his first comic, COLD ZERO, is also headed to print this year. Matt's scripts have received several awards, including the 2017 Hot List for Best Screenplays of the Year, the 2017 Young & Hungry Breakout Writers list, Best Screenplay at the 2017 LA Film Awards, and two Black List Shortlist nominations. He is represented by United Talent Agency and Circle of Confusion. Throughout the journey he’s mastered the art of getting in the room, winning the job and delivering the goods. Matt will go over how you can make your spec stand out and how it can help you land your next job. He’ll begin by discussing what things you should consider before you start writing your spec, including how to take advantage of your own unique background, how to zero in on your writing brand, and how to better understand the marketplace to make a more informed decision. He’ll then teach you how he outlines his scripts and how to use this to not only better structure your script, but to have more fun while writing. Matt will delve into what makes a good scene in a spec script, what types of scenes always work, and what types never do. Next he’ll talk about characters and how best to create your own not only to work on the page, but also to attract high profile actors to play them. He’ll detail the important people to focus on during the process of delivering a script. Matt will give you tips on how to best put finishing touches on your spec and how to use that spec to land a manager or agent. He’ll then talk about what to do once that spec script starts generating some interest. He’ll go over how to work with your reps to find the next paying gig and how best to pitch your project, including how best to prepare, the number one thing that sells in every pitch meeting, and what you should never do. Next, Matt will discuss how to handle notes from reps and executives. Finally, Matt will use his own past work as case studies to better illustrate the points he’s making. These include CRASH UNIT, which Sylvester Stallone is attached to direct, THE GUNSMITH with Tommy Wirkola (HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS) directing, his adaptation of New York Times Book of the Summer THE DESTROYERS, and The Black List script FLASHBACK. Things to Consider Before You Start Writing Your Spec How to harness your unique background to better write your script How to zero in on your writing brand Navigating the marketplace and understanding what there is and isn’t a need for before starting to write How to Write an Amazing Spec Script Tips to better outline and structure your script How to write a perfect scene What scenes always work What scenes never work How to write characters that actors are going to want to play Getting feedback and putting on the right kind of finishing touches Using Your Spec to Find Success How to get an agent or manager off of your spec And how to work with your reps to find your next job Pitching your spec The steps you should take to prepare for your pitch How to best tell your story in a room What you should NEVER do in a room The #1 thing that sells in pitch meetings What you should leave people in the room with Handling notes and continuing to alter your script Matt’s Case Studies CRASH UNIT (Sylvester Stallone) THE GUNSMITH (Tommy Wirkola, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) THE DESTROYERS (NY Times Book of the Summer) FLASHBACK Q&A with Matt Praise for Matt’s Stage 32 Webinar “This was a great webinar! Matt made things feel a lot more possible and achievable” -Rory D. “Matt has had so much success so recently that he really is uniquely qualified to talk about selling specs. I appreciated hearing what he had to say” -Candace V. “I’m so glad I saw this webinar. It got me excited to take another stab at my script” -Jerry F. “This was so helpful! Thanks!” -Carly E.
Ask any executive where most screenplays go wrong and they'll tell you it's in the 2nd act. That's because many screenwriters type FADE IN knowing their opening (Act I) and closing (Act III) inside out, but haven't thought through how to bridge the gap (Act II). How many times have you watched a film and thought that it dragged in the middle? It happens more often than you think. Introducing a great concept and fantastic, deeply drawn characters is, of course, a staple of Act I, but the Second Act is where the heart of the narrative happens and where momentum must be found. Your Second Act must propel you through to the climatic Third Act. If your Second Act stalls, anyone reading your material will likely quit right there and then. As a 10+ year executive and producer, Jason Mirch has read (or partially read, when things go bad) thousands of screenplays. He's also been involved in some of the most successful films of the last 10 years including THE HELP, THE BEST MARIGOLD HOTEL, FLIGHT and more. Jason has taught for Stage 32 for 6 years and now serves as our Director of Script Services. There are few that know story and story structure better. In this webinar, Jason will explain the common pitfalls and why so many Second Acts fail. You will learn techniques for crafting dialogue that moves the narrative forward, while exposing their characters’ flaws. You will learn how to carefully order their scenes in such a way that it creates a series of authentic and escalating obstacles for their characters to overcome. He will identify and explain key plot points that typically exist in a well-written Second Act, and explain how you can use these as guidelines for their own projects. Jason will be citing specific examples from films in several different genres as well as providing you tools to apply to your own writing.
Founded in 2011 by Richard "RB" Botto, Stage 32 is the world's largest online platform connecting and educating film, TV and new media creatives and professionals worldwide. Stage 32 works with over five hundred industry professionals and executives who provide education, instruction and professional opportunities for members of the platform. Stage 32 currently has over 1,200 hours of exclusive film, television and digital craft and business education in its library. Stage 32 members use the platform daily to build their network, take online webinars, classes and labs, find work and cast and crew their projects. Stage 32 members range from students to Emmy, BAFTA and Academy Award Winners. Over the last few weeks, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that you know that Stage 32 is your online home to stay connected with over 600,000 creatives and professionals from across the globe. Now, we are looking forward to bringing you another virtual event to help you stay up-to-date about the state of the entertainment industry featuring some of the top professionals in the business. In this special event webcast we presented a virtual panel featuring some of the top minds in the Stage 32 community to discuss the current state of the entertainment industry as we are all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Stage 32 Managing Director, Amanda Toney, hosted this incredible lineup, where you will hear the point of view of a production company (Andrew Fried of Boardwalk Pictures), a lender (Viviana Zarragoitia of Three Point Capital), lender counsel (Carolyn Hunt of Barnes & Thornburg LLP), a talent representative (Tracy Christian of TCA Management), all moderated by producer and production company counsel (Elsa Ramo of Ramo Law PC). Stage 32 is proud to be putting the "social" in #SocialDistancing. Please share this event on your social media and tag @stage32 on Twitter and @stage32online on Instagram.