AGENTS V. LAWYERSComplications Ensue
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

... Now, that's a cage match I'd like to see.

Q. A network has asked to read our two-page tv show pitch, but they want it sent in by an agent or a lawyer. We don't have an agent yet, and we're not sure we have good enough samples to get one yet. Should we hire an entertainment lawyer?
If you can get an agent, get an agent. Agents are better than lawyers because they're free and they can come up with other places to sell your material or you.

On the other hand you can probably hire an entertainment lawyer with a couple of phone calls. Generally an agent won't rep you unless they've read your stuff -- their credibility is on the line with every submission.

On the other other hand, an entertainment lawyer can run you serious dollars. And the likelihood that your pitch, without a champion attached, will go anywhere, is tiny. Not try to discourage, it's just the odds.

If it's just for this submission, you might be able to get away with having a friend who is a lawyer send the submission in on his or her letterhead.

Networks insist on you being represented because (a) it means you're not a complete nutbar and (b) if you have problems with them, they can refer you to your representative, who won't bug them as much as you will.

The network will almost certainly ask you to sign a release form that pretty much says that if they want to steal your idea, they can. I hate those. I've signed them. It is unconscionable, but it is the biz. Networks are not really in the habit of stealing ideas. They just don't want you to sue them when Tom Fontana brings them the exact same idea, and they go with Tom.



Then again:

A good friend of mine is one of the top writers on two of Canada's biggest shows. (I know, in the grand scheme of things that's like saying you're the meanest sonofabitch in Belgium, but still...)

He's never had an agent. He finds his own work. An agent takes 10%. A lawyer gets an hourly fee. So long as there's no big back and forth, you can actually make using a lawyer work for you. Especially if it's a one off big deal.

Alex is right, I feel, longterm -- you need an agent to build your career. They don't find you all the work, but they do find you some. But if you're going in starting from zero, you could do worse than to engage an entertainment lawyer to negotiate your first deal.

By Blogger DMc, at 12:59 PM  

ESPECIALLY guys on top shows need representation. Because when they're paying you well, you don't always ask for more money ... or created by credits ... or rights of first refusal to write the movie ... or print rights ... All an agent has to do is get you 11% more and they've justified their existence.

Also, the producer can get mad at your agent, not you.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 1:16 PM  

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