A Good Start

(Let’s just forget that it’s been nearly a month since my last post (it’s wild berry season, c’mon!) and just jump right in.)

When first faced with a legal document, every novice writer or filmmaker has heard the advice before: Get a lawyer. And every novice writer or filmmaker that I know, has emphatically replied: Why bother?

Well, my fair reader, I’m here to lend what cred I have to this bit of age old wisdom:

Get a lawyer.

I’ve had years of experience handling contracts myself. There are plenty of template legal docs out there for the start-up filmmaker and plenty of websites describing what everything means and what types of red flags to look out for and I think it’s prudent to read all of them. Learn as much as you can as tedious as it is. Never the less:

Get a lawyer.

Sure, it’s easy advice to give. I’m not the guy who’s going to have to shell out hundreds of dollars an hour, you are. And do you really want to shell out money on a project that you don’t even know has legs yet? Probably not, which is why so many of us forego getting proper legal counsel. And yeah, if your project dies in pre-production then hey, way to go, you saved yourself some dough by not getting a lawyer right?

No.

Here’s why: Maybe you shouldn’t have been wasting your time on that project in the first place. See, I’ve learned that the get a lawyer question is not only not a question (you should get a lawyer) but it’s a good qualifier for your project. Are you confident enough in this project to put down money up front? Are your partners? Are you going to take it the distance? If not, why not? You could even ask the lawyer - as entertainment specialists they’ve probably seen more warning signs than you and they can probably tell you if your project has a shot. And, yes, when I say get a lawyer, I mean an entertainment lawyer - preferably one from your province or state - and one who comes recommended.

Now, glorifying attorneys isn’t my point here. Ultimately they are a tool at your disposal that you should utilize. Like a dictionary. Ooh, that’s good, actually - good simile. Because like a dictionary a lawyer is going to be able to tell you literally what you’re getting into by signing any given document but what they can’t do is make the decision for you. Like a dictionary, they can show you the word but they can’t tell you if it’s right for your text. What if it’s a homonym? Hm? Those damn homonyms… You think your spellchecker’s the best thing since sliced bread when BAM: A heel slips by.

What was I talking about?

Right. Lawyers. They can’t prevent you from making a stupid decision but they will help you make the most well informed stupid decision possible.

What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.

You know what else is a good start?

Getting a lawyer.

One Response to “A Good Start”

  1. Tyler Gibb - Writer, Director, Editor, Filmmaker » Blog Archive » Copyrighting Your Written Copy Says:

    […] a schmuck and nothing beats consulting a professional entertainment lawyer (as I’ve stated previously) in your […]