Translate

Case Study:

Using Script Coverage to Get Name Talent.

Production Journal

How Tarantino Got Reservoir Dogs Funded.

Case Study

When To Say No To A Film Festival

Case Study

The Full Costs and Income of an Indie Film

The Production / Filmmakers Toolkit

Documents, Templates and Resources for Every Phase of Production.

5.28.2015

PRODUCTION TIPS: Just Know that Profit Participation Comes Out of the Producer's Pocket

I recently wrote an article about why it is a good thing for certain filmmakers making certain films to share the wealth with profit participation instead of deferred compensation. A caveat: that has a limited use. However, I wanted to revisit that idea and clarify what that means for a filmmaker looking to adopt a profit participation strategy to paying their cast and crew.

The truth is that while paying your cast and crew with profit participation instead of deferred compensation can lower a producer's and investor's out-of-pocket production and postproduction costs and improve morale/motivation, it has limits.

Here's why:
A producer makes multiple contracts throughout the life of a film starting with the writer and ending with the distributor. Along the way, she decides to offer back end participation (or net/gross profits or profit participation) to the cast and crew and signs a contract with them promising to do so. When the producer meets with the distributor, the distributor will likely tell her, we did NOT commit to pay your cast and crew a percentage of the film's box office gross, YOU did. And unless the distributor feels compelled to honor that agreement or sign a contract with an actor (who would have to be A-list for that to even be considered) promising them back-end, there is no way the distributor will pay anyone in the film besides the producer they are negotiating with. And so that means the back-end to the cast and crew is coming out of the Producer's portion. Say a distributor pays the producer an advance and splits the box office 50-50 then the producer will pay her cast and crew out of 50% of the film's earnings not the full 100%. That will probably make the investors and producers unhappy.

That's why profit participation for the entire cast and crew is really only possible with a tiny cast and crew or as one element of a varied compensation package (profit participation with some pay, credit, perks, etc.). But here are two possibilities that can make profit participation for cast and crew more palatable:

  1. Promise the cast and crew a percentage participation in the manager's share of the net revenue for the LLC (the production company for the film would have to be a a manager-managed LLC). This would leave untouched the investor's share (who are the other members of the LLC) although this would also lower the producer's share even more. OR
  2. Negotiate with the distributor so that the distributor assumes responsibility for directly paying out all net profit participation commitments on behalf of the producer. Note, this will still make the producer's and investor's pie smaller.

The key is knowing what it means to the producer's and investor's profits if she offers profit participation. If it is untenable to do because it will take too much out of the pie then stick to raising money to pay the cast and crew upfront or with deferred compensation you actually intend on paying out if the film makes money.


Danny Jiminian is a producer and attorney who specializes in Entertainment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Law and Nonprofits and practices out of New York. For a free consultation, email him.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it is just information and opinion. But if you want to, you can visit my professional website and hire me at www.djimlaw.com.

Woman With Money, licensed under Creative Commons.

5.15.2015

PRODUCTION TIPS: Don't be #SelfishFilms, Share the Wealth

Sometimes when a no-budget filmmaker can't afford to pay a cast and crew what they are worth, then "profit participation" > "deferred compensation  


So many filmmakers struggle with the challenge of making their film because it is such a complex artform with a gaggle of logistical and artistic elements to it. One minute you are figuring out locations the next you have to decide on wardrobe then your DP is asking you about lenses and lighting (hell you might have to be the DP too) and your lead actor wants you to help him understand the crux of the scene. That's not even taking into account the budget and the legal and the food and the... you get the picture. 

Filmmaking is hard work to do all by yourself which is why most don't. Filmmakers raise money to cover the costs of their cast and crew and those who can't raise sufficient money promise deferred compensation to their cast and crew. But even those who can't afford to pay cast and crew (and offer merely credit and deferred compensation) still find ways to pay for equipment, food, transportation and select cast and crew members. That's all and well but most people in the industry know that "deferred compensation" is code for free. Especially if the contract refers to them receiving deferred compensation out of net proceeds after the investors have been paid off.

That's why I'm surprised I don't come across more filmmakers offering everyone in their cast and crew "profit participation" instead of "deferred compensation." The profit participation can be structured as an equal split between everyone involved who has a substantial role to play or it can be structured as an amount that pays the cast or crew member the amount they would have made had they been paid their actual rate. Also, the amount can be capped so that the profit participant receives his or her pay (and maybe a little more) or it can continue to flow into their pockets for the life of the film's distribution.

Granted it's always better to simply raise enough money to pay your cast and crew (even if it's at a discounted rate) since everyone agrees that "real" money now is better than "maybe" money later. Also, profit participation is not always easy to define and structure and works better for a small cast and crew (since traditionally it's only a few select producers, investors, castmembers and the director who would be deemed profit participants, anyway). Finally, the investors should have a guaranteed first line to any monies made since they are the ones taking the biggest financial risk. But if no-budget filmmakers really want to show their appreciation for cast and crew that they can not afford but need, then offering profit participation could be better than deferred compensation. It gives everybody skin in the game to make the film a success and reflects a commitment by the producers and director to actually pay the cast and crew by sharing in any future money it makes.

Danny Jiminian is a producer and attorney who specializes in Entertainment Law, Intellectual Property, Business Law and Nonprofits and practices out of New York. For a free consultation, email him.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it is just information and opinion. But if you want to, you can visit my professional website and hire me at www.djimlaw.com.

Photo by Tax Credits, licensed under Creative Commons.

5.13.2015

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Roundup

If you missed Tribeca 2015 this year, check out the films that won the competition.

World Narrative Competition  

The jurors for the 2015 World Narrative Competition sponsored by AKA, were Paul Attanasio, Sophie Barthes, Whoopi Goldberg, Dylan McDermott, and Burr Steers.

  • The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature
    • Virgin Mountain, written and directed by Dagur Kári [Iceland, Denmark]. Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by AT&T, and the art award “Ash Eroded Film Reel” by Daniel Arsham. The award was given by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal joined by Marissa Shorenstein, President, AT&T New York.
    • Jury Comment: “With its mixture of humor and pathos, this film captured our hearts. Beyond the deceptively small frame of a mismatched love story, the film deals with the issues of bigotry, loneliness, bullying, mental illness, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit and the meaning of love.” 
  • Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film 
    • Gunnar Jónsson as Fúsi in Virgin Mountain (Iceland, Denmark). Winner receives $2,500 sponsored by Citrin Cooperman. The award was given by Dylan McDermott and Arnie Hermann, lead partner, Entertainment Practice of the firmCitrin Cooperman. 
    • Jury Comment: “The film was aided in no small measure by a performer whose mixture of comedy and sadness evokes Chaplin and Keaton, with a complete lack of tricks, pretense, or condescension. This performer relies instead on subtlety, timing, and naked honesty, creating an indelible portrait of a man fighting to be seen in a world that judges him by his appearance.

  • Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film 
    • Hannah Murray as Sara in Bridgend (Denmark).Winner receives $2,500 sponsored by Citrin Cooperman. The award was given by Sophie Barthes and Diana Mahiques, Business Development Manager, Citrin Cooperman.
    • Jury Comment: “An actress who captured the hopelessness of a lost generation. With bravery and guilelessness, this young actress led us in a descent into a world gone mad, as well as a journey into the protagonist’s own inner darkness.”
  • Best Cinematography
    • Bridgend shot by Magnus Jønck (Denmark). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Shutterstock, and $50,000 in post-production services provided by Company 3. The award was given by Sophie Barthes and Derick Rhodes, Footage Marketing, Shutterstock.
    •  Jury Comment: “Soulful and searing images, a daring use of composition and light, and an evocative sense of place."
  • Best Screenplay
    • Virgin Mountain written by Dagur Kári (Iceland, Denmark). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Freixenet. The award was given by Dylan McDermott and Tom Burnet President, Freixenet USA. 
    • Jury Comment: “The writer of this film is also the director, and is credited as one of the editors, and also performed the music, and runs the director’s program at the National Film School of Denmark, leading us to wonder when he has time to go to the bathroom. His intricately designed, beautifully observed, and bravely conceived screenplay consistently defies expectations, avoids sentimentality, and never strikes a false note.
  • Best Narrative Editing
    • Bridgend edited by Oliver Bugge Coutté (Denmark). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Soundtrack Film and Television-New York. The award was given by Sophie Barthes and Rob Cavicchio, owner Soundtrack NY.
    • Jury Comment: “Impeccable rhythms and expert balancing of many divergent narratives.”

World Documentary Feature Competition

The jurors for the 2015 World Documentary Competition sponsored by Santander Bank, N.A., were Diego Bunuel, Tine Fischer, David Gelb, Joshua Rothkopf, and Gloria Steinem.
  • Best Documentary Feature 
    • Democrats, directed by Camilla Nielsson(Denmark). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by Netflix, and the art award “Immersion (From the Holy River Series)” by Prune Nourry. The award was given by Gloria Steinem. 
    • Jury Comments: “For its choice of an important, universal subject; for filming in conditions where simply to be present is a triumph; and for prioritizing dignity, courage, and our common struggle for humanity, we give this year’s Best Documentary Feature award to Camilla Nielsson for Democrats.”
  • Special Jury Mention
    • In Transit, directed by Albert Maysles, Nelson Walker, Lynn True, David Usui, and Ben Wu. (U.S.A)
  • Best Documentary Editing
    • Palio, edited by Valerio Bonelli (U.K., Italy). Winner receives $5,000. The award was given by Diego Bunuel. 
    • Jury Comments: “This film viscerally transported us into an event and turned life into art. For subtly placing us behind the scenes; and for general technical excellence, this year’s award for Best Editing in a Documentary goes to editor Valerio Bonelli for Palio.”

New Director Competition (includes first time directors across all feature sections with films making their North American, International, or World Premiere)

Best New Narrative Director Competition

The jurors for the 2015 Best New Narrative Director Competition were Mark Boal, Minnie Driver, Don Hertzfeldt, Cobie Smulders, and Joana Vicente. 
    • Best New Narrative Director 
      • Zachary Treitz director of Men Go To Battle (U.S.A). Winner receives $25,000 sponsored by The Walt Disney Studios, $50,000 in post-production services provided by Company 3, and the art award “Trees II” by Clifford Ross. The award was given by Don Hertzfeldt and Joana Vicente. 
      • Jury Comments: “Zachary Treitz presented us with a combination of approaches not all that easy to put together: a unique and sincere vision, alongside off-beat humor, alongside historical and emotional authenticity.” 
    • Special Jury Mention
      • Stephen Fingleton for The Survivalist (Northern Ireland, U.K.).

Best New Documentary Director Competition

The jurors for the 2015 Best New Documentary Director Competition were Rachel Boynton, Lola Kirke, Will Patton, Alison Pill, and Michael Rapaport. 
    • Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award 
      • Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands for Uncertain (U.S.A). Winner receives $25,000 sponsored by Netflix, and the art award “Athena” by Elizabeth Colomba. The award was given by Alison Pill along with Philip Maysles and Sara Maysles. 
      • Jury Comment: “This year we recognize a beautiful character study that explores violent natures, redemption, and what it takes to tame the self. A perfect balance of simplicity and mystery, this American story examines humanity, and how it can unwittingly destroy not just landscapes but livelihoods.” 
    • Special Jury Mention
      • Erik Shirai for The Birth of Saké(U.S.A).

Short Films Competition 

The 2015 Best Narrative Short Competition jurors were Hank Azaria, Mamie Gummer, André Holland, Arian Moayed, Sheila Nevins, and Dan Silver.

The 2015 Best Documentary and Student Visionary Award jurors were Steve Buscemi, Debi Mazar, Katherine Oliver, Theo Rossi, and Vanessa Williams.

  • Best Narrative Short 
    • Listen, directed by Hamy Ramezan and Rungano Nyoni (Finland, Denmark). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Paul Hastings, LLP, and the art award “Caw (42)” by Robert Bordo. The award was given by Sharon Badal, Director of Short Film Programming and Initiatives Tribeca Enterprises, and Luke P. Iovine, III, Partner at Paul Hastings, LLP. 
    • Jury Comments: “This year’s winner for Best Narrative Short was emotionally compelling and by far the most affecting of the pieces we screened, with the filmmakers displaying a clear emotional connection with the narrative. To say that we had a healthy debate is an understatement.” 
  • Special Jury Mention
    • Statistical Analysis of Your Failing Relationship directed by Miles Jay (U.S.A, Canada).
  • Best Documentary Short 
    • Body Team 12 directed by David Darg (Liberia). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by AKA, complimentary time in a.cinema, AKA's private screening room, and the art award “Black #19” by Jean Pagliuso. The award was given by Steve Buscemi, Debi Mazar, Theo Rossi and Larry Korman, President and CEO of AKA. 
    • Jury Comments: “The winning film is a spiritual and inspiring story of personal courage and commitment. The filmmaking team takes us on a fearless journey that restores our faith in humanity and inspires viewers to be optimistic despite facing the most extreme challenges.”
  • Special Jury Mention 
    • We Live This directed by James Burns (U.S.A).
  • Student Visionary Award
    • Catwalk directed by Ninja Thyberg (Sweden). Winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Creative Future. The award was given by Steve Buscemi, Debi Mazar, Theo Rossi, and Brett Williams, director, Creative Community and Youth Outreach, CreativeFuture. Jury Comments: “An effective look at peer influence not peer pressure. A creative explanation of what young people are experiencing as a result of social media threads and trends. Beautifully shot, and cast with a profound message that promotes individuality and vulnerability amongst the girls and parents, this year’s Student Visionary Award goes to Ninja Thyberg for her film Catwalk.” 
  • Special Jury Mention
    • Kingdom of Garbage, directed by Yasir Kareem (Iraq, U.K.).

Bombay Sapphire Storyscapes Projects in Competition

The 2015 BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® Storyscapes Award, which recognizes groundbreaking approaches in storytelling and technology, jurors were Andrew Golis, Shari Frilot, and Charlie Phillips. 

  • BOMBAY SAPPHIRE ® Storyscapes Award
    • Door Into the Dark created by Amy Rose and May Abdalla at Anagram (U.K.). Winner receives $10,000, presented by BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® Gin. The award was given by Andrew Golis, Shari Frilot, and Maria Dao, Brand Manager of House of Bombay Gin. 
    • Jury Comments: “In an overwhelming media environment in which we struggle for control, we recognize a work that viscerally reconnects us with the value of letting go. It offers a meticulously crafted storyworld that allows us to cerebrally, emotionally, and quite literally leave our baggage behind and step into the void. In that void we become disoriented, take risks, make choices and find ourselves again, changed. Ambitious, simple, and profound, this work marks a fresh and promising direction for the field of immersive theater. It evoked a euphoria that stayed with us long after we left it.”

Nora Ephron Prize (Awarded to a female director or screenwriter)

The 2015 Nora Ephron Prize jurors were Rachael Harris, Kevin Corrigan, Katja Blichfeld, Christine Lahti and Talya Lavie. 

  • The Nora Ephron Prize
    • Sworn Virgin, directed by Laura Bispuri and written by Francesca Manieri and Bispuri (Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Switzerland). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by Coach. The award was given by Rachael Harris, Kevin Corrigan, Katja Blichfeld, Christine Lahti, Talya Lavie, and Iana dos Reis Nunes, vice president of public relations for Coach. 
    • Jury Comments: “We are awarding a film that is exquisite in its broadness and its intimacy, with a truly original story that touches on oppression in a way that members of this jury have rarely seen before. The film constantly surprised us and made us question our own positions through a confident, passionate, and beautifully nuanced vision that showed a real respect for the audience.” 
  • Special Jury Mention
    • Being 14 directed and written by Hélène Zimmer (France).