Programming has grown in scope over the last decade to reach enormous proportions. There is no longer a clearly defined television "season" as many shows take a mid-season break and start fresh months later. Further, streaming sources such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu can add original programming at any time during the year. With the near-constant drive to produce new programming, industry professionals are always on the lookout for their next project.
With the ubiquitous nature of scripted and unscripted entertainment, it is important that individuals take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Whether for the creation of a television pilot, a reality show or programming for streaming channels such as Amazon or Microsoft's Xbox Live, a well-drafted contract can mean all the difference between financial security and a document that offers no protection.
The ability to negotiate, draft and review an entertainment contract is a skill that not every attorney has. Sandy Malone, upon wrapping filming for the reality show Wedding Island, offered her 25 tips for individuals who are about to sign a contract. Her number two item was to "Get an ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY to review everything before you sign anything."
The main point was to look to a lawyer who had the skill and experience necessary to guide the negotiation process. While an actor might have had dealings with a divorce lawyer, personal injury attorney or estate planning firm in the past, the complexities of entertainment contract law might overwhelm someone not specifically used to their unique language.
"Find good representation out of the gate," Sandy reiterates.
An entertainment lawyer can provide legal guidance and answers to questions centering on topics such as test options, series options or credit. In the future, contracts might require attention to details including merchandising or syndication. It is wise to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney who will protect your best interests as soon as possible in the process.
Source: Huffington Post, "25 Realities to Consider BEFORE You Sign a Contract to Make a Reality Television Show," Sandy Malone. June 21, 2014