View Full Version : legally binding contracts

04-12-2005, 08:41 AM
hi guys

question - i can't afford a solicitor to prepare legal contracts for those who allow me permission to shoot on premise, and for those i seek to employ in developing my doc. if i nab existing production house contracts and alter them to reflect my requirements will this suffice?


04-12-2005, 09:49 AM
This is done all the time. Then again, so is smoking dope and driving drunk, so that doesn't mean it's a good idea, 'cause it isn't.

Basically, if you take an existing contract prepared for someone else, and use it for your own purposes, it means that you (and the other party) will be signing an agreement that neither of you understand. If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is. There are very good reasons that lawyers are so prevalent, and so expensive. And if you think a lawyer is expensive now, try getting sued...

With that said, and knowing that you (and almost everyone else reading this) is going to do it anyway, you should probably look at something like Contracts for the Film & TV Industry, a book by Mark Litwak, an entertainment attorney who also works as a producer's rep for indie producers. His contracts will be aimed towards independent producers, since that is his market. Might be written properly enough, and explained in the book enough, that someone could use it and not get in over their head.

David Jimerson
04-12-2005, 10:03 AM
I think the title of this thread says a lot. There are certain requirements to making a contract legally binding and enforceable. If you don’t know what they are, then you shouldn’t be altering anything. You could get more – or much less – than you bargained for – and I use “bargain” quite intentionally.

You may think “oh, this little thing doesn’t matter,” but can you be sure? Different types of transactions carry different requirements, and you may run afoul of them (like, say, the statute of frauds) without knowing it.

Never sign a piece of paper you don’t fully understand. That’s just plain good sense. I’d hope you’d never drive a car if you installed the brakes yourself, knowing nothing about brakes (just an example; maybe you DO know brakes); running on a contract you’re not sure of is a recipe for disaster.

04-12-2005, 10:05 AM
You used to be able to get Litwak's contracts on a cd. I got mine from a friend, because he's her attorney or solicitor.

04-12-2005, 05:09 PM
this site is incredible. thanks guys - if i use a basic contract that i and the signee understands, does this give me some contractual founding?

04-12-2005, 05:54 PM
I would like to expand a bit on what Barry said. In working with many lawyers over the years, I can tell you that most of them will simply sell you a boilerplate template prepared by a paralegal. It may or may not be customized to suit your specific needs. This doesn't mean you shouldn't hire an attorney, just that you should be careful about who you hire. If all you wind up with is a boiler-plate form, then you would have been better off getting the aforementioned book and saving the money. Also, entertainment law is a specialty and there aren't that many true practitioners of it. I don't know where you're located, but since you used the term solicitor, I assume you are not here in the States. I would be very, VERY leery of of using contracts from a book written by an attorney in the States, laws simply are not that trasnferable - not for a contract.

If this were me, I would examine the subject of my doc and find out what public interest group would have an interest in seeing it produced. For example, if I were doing a doc on animal rights, I would approach a prominent animal rights group and tell them what I was doing. They certainly have a lawyer (even if not an entertainment lawyer) that would be willing to offer some simple assistance. Perhaps they would refer you to a member who specializes in entertainment law. In addition, you would be gaining an important ally in producing your doc.

Just my $0.02


04-13-2005, 03:19 AM
Get the book, read the book, write your contract, and then pay a lawyer in your area to review it. Having them write one can get expensive and absurd, but having them review a document you have already prepared is usually pretty cheap. I use PrePaid legal and they will review (but not write) any contract I have as part of their $17 monthly fee. BUt usually you can get a document reviewed for $100 or so from most attorneys, depending on how long it is and what you want them to be looking for. BUt if you are not in the US, the book may not have much value beyond giving you ideas of things to be covered. Even more important to have an attorney review anything you create.

04-13-2005, 04:37 AM
Excellent. Thanks