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Writing The Micro-Budget Screenplay: Post & Marketing
Jan 10th, 2017 by paul peditto

seed and spark

It’s a movie, now what?

In Part 4 in our Micro-Budget series we’ll assume the movie is shot and you’re in Post-Production or the marketing phase.

We’ve been using the movie I wrote/produced, Chat, as a case-study. Before we get to Sales Agents and Distributors, some life lessons for the writer as your flick hits the edit room. Unless you directed or financed it, it’s doubtful you’ll be in the edit room making final decisions. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Your writer-head needs to be in the right place to surrender control. The whole purpose of Micro, you thought, was keeping control. So that if the movie fails at least it’s your movie that fails.

But let’s stay positive and say you did direct or produce it and will have at least some say on Final Cut. The only thing that matters at this point is what you got in the can. The script is still important, but much more to the point is the footage you got. For instance…

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I mentioned in the previous posts how our Director, Boris Wexler, got permission to shoot in the Board Of Trade offices where he worked. It looked nothing like the sleazy XXX-chat office I’d first imagined.

INT. SYD’S OFFICE- CONTINUOUS

Falcon timidly, stranger in a strange land, stands before SYD, 48, a toad. As Syd searches the messy office for paperwork. Falcon scans the room…

Because we shot at Boris’ Board of Trade offices, this scene was moved from Syd’s office to the Conference Room. More spectacular visuals than a simple office scene, really opened things up and gave us a new take on the seedy backrooms you’d expect from an adult chat cam operation.

EXT. FALCON’S APARTMENT- LATER
Falcon emerges, holding a large wreath, staring up at the sun. He places powerful protective sunglasses over the contacts, stepping into light.

EXT. STREET- CONTINUOUS
Alien landscape, cars and people move very fast, dizzying. A crying child, a jackhammer at a construction site, the screaming of an EMT van passing with cherry lights blazing. All these exaggerated, hypersensitive for Falcon, who walks with wreath toward…

EXT. CEMETERY- LATER
Falcon bends, laying the wreath again a newly dug stone. He stands back to observe the wreath, the stone, the empty cemetery.

EXT. CHAT OFFICE BUILDING- LATER
Falcon looks up at a piece of paper with scrawled writing, then at a nondescript commercial building. He moves inside.

All were filmed as written. Nothing wrong with these scenes in and of themselves, but in front of a test audience we learned that the pacing of the movie’s open was slow. Top and bottom trims were made to each of these and some were outright cut. In the edit room it’s not about what was in the script any more. It’s about maximizing what you SHOT.

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INT. CHAT OFFICE HALLWAY- CONTINUOUS

Falcon walks the fluorescent corridor. Still wearing protective sunglasses, he drifts past door after door. Partial glimpses inside… CHAT MODELS in various states of undress, typing on keyboards or chatting into computer cameras, office cubicles made to look like bedrooms. This is an Adult Chat studio complex and business is very good indeed. Falcon’s sunglasses hide his eyes, but the fluorescence still brings pain.

We shifted this scene to after he screens the video of his daughter doing sex chat for the first time, weeping upon seeing her.

Thus, we accomplished (I hope!) the four keys to the first 5 pages: 1-PROTAGONIST established 2-TONE established 3-WORLD established 4-CONFLICT established.

gravitas

  • MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION (ONE STEP BACK, ONE FORWARD…)

Lotta micros (like ours) trying make it into A-level film fests with no name actors and limited marketing funds. Sundance had over 12,000 submissions last year– an all-time record. Might be the ex-craps dealer in me but the mathematics of making Sundance ain’t great.

But so what? You’ve got options like never before to get your film out there, maybe even make enough $$$ back to make your next film, and the next, and get noticed. That’s how Ryan Coogler goes from low-budget Fruitvale Station to Creed.

Your marketing approach should be personal and right for you. You might not want to give up control to a distribution company. You might choose to 4-wall it (where you pay to screen it, fill the house via social media, and take a piece of the door) in a handful of cities hoping to draw critical buzz. Maybe you’ll choose to keep 100% control, promote it yourself and put it out on a place like Seed & Spark. Maybe you’ll try to get into major film festival or go the B and C-level or not bother with the film fest circuit at all. Be a student of how small-budget movies emerge from the pack. Be original — like never-seen-before original– like Tangerine, a movie about transvestite prostitutes shot on an iPhone for low, low money.

tangerine

So what happened with Chat? Anything to learn from that? I believe it happened in this order…

*Showcase Entertainment signed on in late summer 2014 as Sales Agent. Yes!

*Sundance rejection. Boo!

*10 other A-level Fest rejections in 2015. Boo! But…

*Summer 2015 Gravitas Ventures agrees to distribute Chat! North American Cable and VOD. (75%-AVOD, SVOD, TVOD revenue retained indicates we’ll at least be able to start paying investors back with an outside shot of fully paying them back. The gold standard: Breaking even.) Yay!

*Armed with Gravitas deal Showcase actively sells this movie at AFM in New York, foreign markets, and DVD distributors. Nice! But…

*Trailer needs reworking—cost is 5,000$, right off the top. Boo!

*First check back in 2016 from all digital platforms indicates the obvious: Don’t quit your day job, Peditto. Rrrr….

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So what’s all this amount to for you? How should you handle distribution? It’s a personal choice, as I mentioned. It’s nice my movie is selling on a dozen online platforms. Without stars and Sundance-less, we had no illusions about making it into theaters for a theatrical run, though we did get two nights at Siskel Center-Chicago this Spring…

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The key is realistic expectations in a crowded marketplace. Lotta product out there. The decisions are many: Film fest submission or no? Name actor in a cameo to help with sales later or no? Self-distribution or give away a piece and hook on with a company like Gravitas Ventures? How much will you get up front to give away pieces of domestic, foreign and digital rights? Will you make anything without major festival cache? Imaging you’re making this micro-budget movie to make big $$$ is surely a prescription for Zoloft. Better to keep it realistic.

johnny

  • “YOU DON’T NEED PERMISSION FOR ANYTHING”- JOHN LYDON

Read Spike Lee’s journal of the making of She’s Got To Have It. He struggled to make rent, hit his mother up for money, annoyed and pissed his friends off with money requests, anything to get his first movie made.

David Lynch took years to make the sub $30,000 Eraserhead. He had a paper route and grabbed unused sound and film stock from dumpsters.

Cassavetes made other people’s movies to get the cash to make his own low-budget films.

Orson Wells made wine commercials.

Robert Rodriguez sold himself for medical experiments.

Pillars and icons of filmmaking, all. They didn’t have the technological advantages you do today. But they made it happen.

paramount

Hollywood. Home of the true 1%.

Behind this gated community are the impeccable hedge rows, million-dollar mansions, and Lamborghini excess. The Country Club of which you are most definitely not a member. You cannot apply to this club. The gatekeepers know you are not of their cloth.

They can smell you, folks. You are the Unwashed. They can smell your wanting, your desperation to join them on the inside. They have set up impenetrable motes and ramparts to stop you.

How will you scale these walls?

Write and MAKE a quality micro-budget movie.

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The church of D.I.Y. is upon us. The church of Micro-Budget, and all the digital miracles therein. In 1996, Jane Doe cost $225,000 to make in 18 days on Super 16 film.

In 2014 Chat cost $44,000 to shoot in 18 days with a Canon 5D Mark III.

This is what micro-budget has done. Enabled a freedom never before allowed. The freedom to pull all these projects out of the realm of needing millions from other people, needing bankable stars, needing to make artistic compromises, and moving it… into the realm of possibility.

Remember those 12,000+ submissions to Sundance last year? Record number. The D.I.Y. “revolution” is tied into digital technologies and easy access to those technologies. Meaning the availability of great cameras, advanced software programs available for home use.

Then add social media, crowdfunding, and digital distribution options through VOD(Video-On-Demand) platforms. Lower production budgets freeing movie makers from traditional barriers of entry.

This is a very good time to be making movies, and a very good time to be writing them.

Micro-Budget movies are not a panacea for world hunger. This is a world filled with no-name actors, microscopic production budget limitations, drama upon drama and the stress that comes from never having enough money when you make the movie.

But, the point is…. you’re making the movie!

It all starts with the script.

For so many years it was just a dream—getting your movie made.

You’ve talked and talked about it. With Digital technology, it’s there to be had. There’s no better time to write a micro-budget screenplay.

So let’s go…write the damn thing!

Chat- Distribution & Festival Update
Apr 20th, 2015 by paul peditto

Chat Poster V2

It’s been nearly two years since I first told you folks how CHAT, the micro-budget film I wrote and produced with my partner Boris Wexler, came about. It’s actually been almost three years since the first idea for a script. Then came months of outlining, another 10 months to write four drafts, then months of the Kickstarter campaign and private investment raising to get us funded.

We went into pre-production in April/May of 2012, an 18-day shoot in Chicago, all Chicago crew and actors. I wrote a series of posts about life on set which can be found on this site, the trials and tribulations that most D.I.Y. filmmakers know like old friends. We finished filming in early May with only one short day of pickup photography and well within budget.

Post-production commenced. The many months of editing, epic time-code notes, opinions from our “inner circle”, Boris looking to cut and tighten, our production house doing the ADR and foley work, color correction and score. The film was “ready” for a cast and crew screening early this summer. I swear to Christ I’m not patting myself on the back when I tell you that night when nearly 200 folks got out of their seats for a standing ovation for CHAT–it felt pretty damn good.

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So, where are we at now with CHAT?

It’s never easy for a micro-budget movie like ours, a movie without name actors, with little or no cash for promotional material, minimal cash for festival submissions, in a crowded field absolutely gutted with “product”–because, you see, now that everyone can get hold of a Canon 5D and make a micro-budget film–everyone is. 12,000+ submissions to Sundance last year.

Boris and I, along with producer Lucy Manda, then embarked on as comprehensive a strategy as we could for the cash available to us. Lucy put together a definitive monthly list of A, B, and C-level film fests. Through another generous donation by our lovely and generous investor January Stern and her investment group, we raised a few thousand to pay for festival submissions. Lucy would send out each month to the short list we picked and because we’ve only recently started I can’t give you a comprehensive scorecard so far–too early to tell. I can say the movie will screen locally in Aurora, Illinois on May 3, at 1:30 at the Illinois International Film Festival.

Also, I can tell you about though was my experience with traditional distributors. Back in the day of my first movie JANE DOE, if someone had told me I’d be making cold calls to tired-eyed distributors to sell my movie–well, let’s call it unlikely in the extreme. NO CLUE. But here I was just a month ago making cold calls to a Distributor list Boris and Lucy put together.

Now I had experience with what it’s like to try to cold call agents with a screenplay. The results were U G L Y. You’d have to be smoking some 12th generation purple indica to think that agents want to hear your cold telephone elevator pitch, let alone spend two full hours of their weekend reading your Final Draft opus. So, I fully expected the same reception with my clumsy telephone pitch of CHAT.

Guess what? Not a single distributor told me flat out no. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. We had a movie in hand. It’s a very different matter to ask someone to watch a two-minute trailer and read a logline/synopsis. About 20 of them did. About two were interested immediately.

We went with neither of them.

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Remember the four golden words: WHO DO YOU KNOW?

A friend of a friend got hold of the folks at Showcase Entertainment. The watching of the movie might have started as a favor but, in what was probably a great surprise for them, they dug the movie.

And offered us WORLDWIDE distribution!

Here’s the web page for Showcase Entertainment, and the Chat page.

CHAT is also featured in a book Boris and I have coming out called The D.I.Y. Filmmaker. It’s being pre-sold at Amazon now and is due out in late May/June.

So what’s all this mean? It means they pitched us at American Film Market. Are pitching us at various cable outlets and foreign territories. Digital will come later, hopefully connecting with Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, iTunes and the other usual suspects. This exposure, plus selling a few foreign territories, will, hopefully, move us toward paying back investors.  We shall see what transpires. I’ll keep you abreast…

So with that, Good Script Gods Readers, here’s the latest trailer for CHAT.

Wish us well, mockingbird.

Synopsis Workshop
Jun 27th, 2014 by paul peditto

synopsis3

You just wrote a 100 page movie. You want to submit it to a production company, or an agency, or a management company, or screenwriting contest.

You need to write a synopsis. No problem, it’s only a page. Wait a minute… you need to boil the whole 100 pages down into ONE page?

Yep.

If you’re going after OPM (Other People’s Money) through the traditional L.A. sources they’re going to want a logline and synopsis. Even if you’re going the micro-budget route, you’ll need that synopsis for promotional materials, for the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, for potential investors on any level of movie-making. It’s simply expected.

The reason it’s expected is that folks are busy (insert: lazy). Why the hell would they want to read the 100 page script when they can read one page to make a decision on if they’re interested? This is the logic of the query letter. It’s also the logic of Sundance Labs, which makes a synopsis one of the key pieces of information in its application.

You’re not going to be able to get around it. You’ve got to learn how to write a synopsis. What’s it take to write one of these damn things? It takes a reductive mind. You have to come to terms with what your movie is ultimately about, to learn to boil your movie down. And don’t roll your eyes… To quote Glengarry Glen Ross—“You think I’m shitting you? I am not shitting you.”phpkFYlDmAM

Here’s how the thought process went with the synopsis for my micro-budget film CHAT. Step 1 was creating a one-pager for the Kickstarter campaign, which you can check out here. This is what I started with:

“CHAT is a unique look inside a fragmented mind…the mind of Falcon. Falcon is photophobic, unable to handle light as you or I would, making his universe an alien landscape. When his daughter goes missing in the world of online adult chat, he enlists the help of a cam model, Annie, and starts a quest that will lead him to break through his isolation. As they try to pull his daughter back from the brink, events lead to a strange twist that will change their world for keeps.”

This is the 90 page script boiled down into a paragraph. It’s the two-sentence logline expanded into a paragraph. Notice how the tone sticks with STORY. As opposed to the Director’s Statement, which I wrote to be more visceral, more visual:

“CHAT is a raw, harrowing look inside a deranged mind. Seen through Falcon’s distorted point-of-view, the film plunges the viewer into a Lynchian world of dizzying florescence, 15 watt light bulbs, latex cat-suits and liposuction. Nothing is as it seems to be. Disturbing characters appear and disappear. Time and characters fold back on themselves. Falcon is photophobic. Acute light disorder has made his world an alien landscape. Searching for his daughter who has disappeared shortly after going to work in Adult Chat, this is a world of glaring light and LCD screens, of isolation and loss of human connection. Falcon, looking out with red-rimmed, hyper-sensitive eyes, must look through his pixilated filter and try to pull his daughter back from the brink. A dark, contrasted palette punctuated by flashes of light and color will evocate the aura phase that haunts Falcon. Through this prism Falcon struggles with the reality of the situation– The reality-illusion culminating in the drone of XXX webcam chatter, echoes from cyberspace and the digital divide. CHAT is a daring and disturbing cinematic experiment that takes us inside the mind of a mentally-ill father for an unrelenting 90-minute ride. An inventive aural assault that suggests the gray middle zone between reality and a broken mind’s perception of it, a unique look inside a fragmented mind…the mind of Falcon.”logo_synopsis

Understand that a synopsis isn’t a treatment. Defining our terms:
Let’s define our terms. Synopsis is not a treatment.

  • Treatment =

• 3rd person
• Present tense
• Observable behavior (nothing in the head “he thinks—decides—considers)
• Prose Paragraph format
• Limited Dialogue

Approximately 1 page of treatment per 10 pages of screenplay (this, a loose rule as evidenced by James Cameron’s 97 page Titanic treatment)
Think of a treatment as a prose paragraph beat sheet. Broad strokes, multiple pages.

  • Synopsis =

• ONE page (the reason it’s often called a “one-sheet”)
• A pitch to read/sell the story
• Zero dialogue
• Zero secondary characters or subplots
• Zero backstory
• Hold to A-Story elements of protagonist and antagonist

2Eventually, I expanded the CHAT synopsis from a single paragraph to a single page, looking like this:

“Opening his red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes is Falcon. Knocking a Xanax down with three cups of Espresso, he nervously dresses in a suit and tie, placing on powerful contact lenses and sunglasses. Stranger in a strange land, he enters a non-descript office building. Partial glimpses inside multiple rooms… Chat models in various states of undress, chatting into computer cameras, office cubicles made to look like bedrooms. This is an Adult Chat studio complex, and business is very good.

Falcon stands before Syd, a toad. Syd happens to own this adult chat complex. Falcon happens to have a daughter gone missing for a week. Her last contact– working here. Falcon wants answers but Syd, and his Ivy League partner, Geoffrey, offer precious little. Escorting him out, Falcon is told that one of the models, Annie, was a friend of his daughter, Mary Rose.

FLASHBACK. Syd and Annie welcome a new girl to the biz– Mary Rose. Annie will tutor her. Meanwhile Geoffrey pulls Syd aside. He tells Syd he’s tired of this business arrangement, that he’s carried Syd too long, he is buying him out and has the power to do so. Syd appears at the offices of Doctor Lauren, a Picasso with the liposuction needle. She bankrolled Syd’s venture into adult chat. With Syd being cut out, the money train will end for Doctor Lauren— which is unacceptable. She and her partners— some nasty types, including a goon ex-cop named Detective Csonka, demand the money flow continue. She concocts a murder plot.

BACK TO THE PRESENT, Falcon and Annie search for Mary Rose. Clues emerge. Annie discovers a book that was Mary Rose’s, and a gun… Falcon breaks into Dr. Lauren’s office and is discovered by Csonka, who tortures Falcon with a pair of Halogen mag lights. Falcon is knocked out and bloodied. Annie vows to confront Geoffrey the next day and if nothing comes of it, they will go to the police.

FLASHBACK. A woman in black latex catsuit leads Geoffrey on all fours by his silk Brooks Brothers tie down the fluorescent corridor. They enter the bathroom. Syd and Csonka move with guns from his office, taking positions outside the bathroom door. Syd about to go inside, but stops…looking to Csonka with freaked-out rat’s eyes… one more breath… and in he goes.

Opening his red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes is Falcon. Knocking a Xanax down with three cups of Espresso, he nervously dresses in a suit and tie, placing on powerful contact lenses and sunglasses. This is déjà vu. The same motions that opened the movie, Falcon with almost identical movements.

Almost.

What follows will be the sound of police sirens, sure, but also the drone of adult webcam chat, echoing from cyberspace and the digital divide. The world will hear about what happened here, and it will become legend, for a news cycle or two, then forgotten. The world will go on, but the revelations will shake Falcon, Mary Rose, and us, to the core.”

Sure, writing a synopsis is a drag. It’s also a necessary evil. Because sooner or later you’re going to have to no—in your bones—what the damn story is.

The sooner the better.

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The Writer’s Contract: What It Looks Like, What It Means…
May 30th, 2014 by paul peditto

+355-Readings4-Cartoon-ContractAs a teacher, the most valuable thing I have to offer any student is real world knowledge. In the world of screenwriting gurus it’s quite a more dangerous place than you’d imagine, insisting that the guy giving you notes has actually, you know, written a fucking movie. Lots and lots of pretenders out there with beautiful websites. They might even destroy me in this argument. They might point to Tony LaRussa and point out that the dude is one of the top baseball managers of all time, but was a lousy ballplayer. Just how good a manager? To quote Wikipedia: “As a manager, La Russa guided his teams to three World Series titles, six league championships and twelve division titles in 33 seasons. He ranks third all-time in major league wins by a manager, behind Connie Mack and John McGraw.” 

That’s pretty impressive, so maybe you don’t have to have lived it to teach it. But if I’m building a house–and this is just ME–I want the dude who has actually BUILT houses to teach me. Not the guy who has TALKED about building houses. The kids at Columbia seem to lock in when you start discussing stuff out of the book and into the world, stuff that’s actually happening now.

All this as prologue to today’s discussion on contracts.  I’ve signed quite a few of them through the years and I wanted to share a couple with you here at Script Gods. This first one was for my most recent film, CHAT. It was written up by my friend and former student, director/producer Boris Wexler. Boris is one of the best producers I’ve known and knows about 10X more on this stuff than I do, but I wanted to give you a few bullet points to check out in case, Good Reader, you find yourself in a situation where someone is handing you a contact.

And what’s the first thing you do in that case? Say it with me: Hire an Entertainment Lawyer. If he/she are any good, they steer you past most of the dangerous fine print, but you still need to know this stuff on your own. Take the business side seriously and the sharks won’t be able to take your dough, straight-up.

10lawyer_0So, here’s the contract I signed (that Boris drew up) for my Writer Services on CHAT:

Re: Letter Agreement for Production of the Film CHAT

Dear [name],

This letter agreement (“Agreement”) shall serve to memorialize the terms and conditions governing the agreement among Boris Wexler (“Wexler”) and Paul Peditto (“Peditto”) to produce a film tentatively entitled Private Session (the “Film”) based upon the story created by Peditto and Wexler and the script written by Peditto (the “Script”). Pursuant to this agreement, the parties propose to assume the following roles: Peditto as Writer/possible Producer, Wexler as Producer and Director. Define the roles right off. Boris did extensive story work at the idea stage so a story credit was earned. I ended up working as producer on everything from casting to fundraising and earned that damn credit, oh yeah!

1. Ownership. Peditto is the author of the Script and represents and warrants that he has registered the copyright in the Script with the United States Copyright Office. Peditto and Wexler, (collectively, the “Producers”) shall use their best efforts to secure financing for production of the Film with a Budget raised from third-party investors (“Investors”). Upon receipt of funds equaling at least $25,000.00, the Producers shall organize an Illinois Limited Liability Company, name t/b/d,(the “Company”) for the purposes of the owning and exploiting the rights to the Film. In the event that the final production Budget is less than $25,000, the Producers shall organize the Company upon completion of principal photography and prior to entering sale and distribution efforts. Gotta form the LLC to limit personal liability if you’re making your micro-budget. You, as writer, won’t be worrying about this one.

1.1 The Producers mutually acknowledge and agree that upon organization of the Company, the Investors shall own an amount no greater than fifty percent (50%) of the units of membership interest in the Company (“Investor Shares”) on a pro rata basis represented as a fraction, the numerator of which shall be the cash sum contribution of an individual investor and denominator of which shall be the total cash received from all investors. The final percentage allocated to Investor Shares shall be determined upon organization of the Company, depending on the total amount raised. The remaining units of membership interest in Company (“Producer Shares”) shall be allocated between the Producers and various crew members at the discretion of the Producers. Here’s a big one, easily misunderstood. The profits will be divided equally between the Producers and Investors– 50% each. Of the producer’s 50%, key producers and key crew, en lieu of upfront fees, will be given a % for their contributions. This percentage is high-guarded and truly has to be earned. If you’re doing the divvying up, give up these percentages only as a last resort. The goal, as in all things Americana, is to keep the maximum percentage for YOURSELF.

Entertainment-Lawyer

1.2 Upon organization of the Company or beginning of principal photography, whichever occurs first, Peditto shall assign all right, title and interest in and to the Script to the Company in consideration of payment of the sum of One Dollar ($1.00) to Peditto. In the event that the parties fail to execute appropriate documents memorializing the required assignment within thirty (30) days after the date of the Company’s organization or start of principal photography, Peditto hereby agrees that all of Peditto’s right, title and interest in and to the Script shall be automatically assigned to Company and that Peditto shall further assist Company, at Company’s expense, to further evidence, record and perfect such assignments, and to perfect, obtain, maintain, enforce, and defend any rights assigned. Peditto hereby irrevocably designates and appoints Company as his agent and attorney-in-fact to act for and on his behalf to execute and file any document and to do all other lawfully permitted acts to further the foregoing with the same legal force and effect as if executed by Peditto.
Another small matter often misunderstood. As the writer, you’re signing over copyright on the property (script) to the makers of the movie. Chain-of-title. You basically become a work-for-hire worker. Here, for the grand total of ONE dollar! Why would I do that? Because I wanted to see the movie made. Because I know the writer in most micro-budget productions isn’t getting a penny up front.

1.3 Reversion. In the event that the Producers are unsuccessful in producing the Film as contemplated by this Agreement within two (2) years from the date of signature of this Agreement, then on such date, all right, title and interest in and to the Script shall automatically revert back to Peditto without requirement of notice or any further action on the part of Peditto. If the movie doesn’t happen, script rights revert back to me in two years.

2. Payment Preference. Upon successful commercialization of the Film (whether through theatrical release, third-party distribution, DVD, On-Demand, pay-per-view, cable television, broadcast television, satellite or otherwise, throughout the universe), Producers shall pay to Investors from the Net Profits, on a pro rata basis, a sum equal to one hundred and twenty percent (120%) of the principal amount of an Investor’s investment, prior to any distribution to Producers. You want your investors to get paid back with profit. The sooner they’re paid back, the sooner they can invest in your next movie!39227091

2.1 For purposes of this Agreement, “Net Profits” shall mean the gross receipts from the commercial exploitation of the Film, less the direct costs of manufacturing, reproducing and distributing the Film, including without limitation, deferred crew compensation, costs of mastering, packaging (including container and printing costs), freight, postage, advertising, promotional and publicity costs, distribution fees, legal and accounting fees, taxes, and any other usual and customary costs (but not Company overhead) attributable to the manufacturing and distribution of films. Creating accounting is likely to be much more dicey on a Studio or Indie film where more money is coming in. Net profits are elusive indeed for the micro-budget filmmaker, but that’s not GOAL #1 of making the damn movie, is it? Still, it’s good to know where profits might come in, through any or all of these sources,

2.2 Once each Investor has received one hundred and twenty percent (120%) of the principal amount of its investment, all deferred compensation agreed upon by the Producers with cast and crew members shall be paid in full. After all such deferred compensation has been paid in full, Investors and Producers shall split the Net Profits proportionally to the final percentage of Investor Shares and Producer Shares. The percentage allocated to Producers (Producers’ Share) will be allocated as follows: fifteen percent (15%) of the Producers’ Share to Peditto, fifty percent (50%) of the Producers’ Share to Wexler, and thirty five percent (35%) of the Producers’ Share distributed amongst other crew members, at the discretion of the Producers. In the event that Peditto fulfills the conditions listed in section 3.2 to receive a “Produced by” credit, Peditto shall then be eligible to receive an additional percentage of the Producers’ Share equal to the percentage allocated to other individuals with same credit. Here’s the biggest paragraph for Peditto–yay! It says that after the investors are paid back to the tune of 120%, deferred compensation for crew shall be paid in full. This includes a very nice 15% of Producer Profits paid to your favorite California Golden Seal–one Paul Peditto. Boris made me jump hoops for this, wanting to give me 10%. Savage negotiator that I am, I insisted on 15%, never mind that his total of profit was, ah, 35%. All this, of course, assuming, there WOULD be some sort of profit!

3. Attribution. The parties mutually acknowledge and agree that “credits” shall be attributed as follows:

3.1 Wexler. “Directed by Boris Wexler” onscreen, single card, last head credit, and on all paid advertisements as controlled by Producers in their sole and absolute discretion. Wexler shall also receive an “Original Story by” credit shared with Peditto, and a “Produced by” credit. Credit roll, with movie responsibilities as decided in the first paragraph. These will go on IMDB so make sure these are clear as possible.

3.2 Peditto. “Written by Paul Peditto” credit, on screen, single card, second to last head credit. “Original Story by” credit shared with Wexler. Peditto may also receive a shared “Produced by” credit if he executes the tasks generally agreed to be the responsibility of a producer in the film industry throughout the production of the Film. Such tasks may include fundraising a significant portion of the final production budget or contributing actively to the operational organization of the production. Peditto shall only receive such credit upon the approval of Wexler Much as I like and respect Boris, much as I’m happy to share that Story By credit, the damn written by card will be mine and mine alone! I did earn that producer credit but it’s got to be written into your contract, Good Reader, or your efforts might get lost in the shuffle.

4. Right of First Refusal.

4.1 For a period of two (2) years from the signature of this agreement, Producers agree that Wexler shall have a right of first refusal to act as Director of the Film, and Peditto shall not accept any financing offer or written and binding commitment to purchase the script or produce the film without consent from Wexler. Wexler shall provide notice of his exercise of such right within sixty (60) days of the date of his receipt of notice of the commitment, or such right shall be waived and forfeit. This repeats the fact that I’m giving up rights to the screenplay to Boris and the LLC for a period of two years. Boris has right of first refusal should another producer come in and want to make the movie himself. He has a 60-day consent period.

4.2 Producers agree that Peditto shall have a right of first refusal to perform any rewrites or changes to the script, even after the assignment referred to in section 1.2 takes place. However in the event that Wexler deems a rewrite or changes necessary during pre production or principal photography and Peditto is unable to make himself available for such rewrite or changes in a timely manner, Peditto shall waive his right of first refusal and allow Wexler to hire another writer of his choice. Oh yeah, this one! I demanded full creative control at Script Level. Boris said OK, but once we get into pre-production and actual production, if changes need to be made, HE then has control and can make me do the rewrites, or find another writer to do so. This one would be dicey for the writer if the guy he was signing the contract with WASN’T his partner of six years. I knew, ultimately, that Boris as director would have creative control. By signing this contract I agreed to that. If I didn’t agree to that, Boris would have no motivation to bring in the money he did, nor even call himself director. It simply a given the writer cedes power at some point. I actually considered this a victory, to not have to write something false to me, at least at script stage. It turned out to be a complete non-issue. The script was outlined and worked so hard at script stage that very few production-level changes needed to be made.

5. Use of Name & Likeness. Each party to this Agreement hereby consents and agrees that the Producers and Company shall have the right, but not the obligation, to use the name, voice, and/or likeness of Peditto and Wexler in connection with any use, advertising or other exploitation of the Film. We both agree to promote this movie in any way possible. This paragraph doesn’t even begin to hint at the man hours THAT aspect– distribution– will take.

6. Assignment. No party may assign any portion of this Agreement, voluntarily or involuntarily, including without limitation by operation of law or by merger in which such party does not survive. Any attempt to do so shall be null and void. No person or entity not a party hereto shall have any interest herein or be deemed a third party beneficiary hereof, and nothing contained herein shall be construed to create any rights enforceable by any other person or third party. I have no clue what this paragraph means! C’mon, would a guru tell you that?! Just seeing if you’re still awake. And, following, a bunch of other stuff I don’t see my name in….

7. Binding Agreement. This Agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of, and is enforceable by, the Parties and their respective legatees, distributees, legal representatives, successors and permitted assigns.

8. Severability. Any provision of this Agreement held or determined by a court (or other legal authority) of competent jurisdiction to be illegal, invalid, or unenforceable in any jurisdiction shall be deemed separate, distinct and independent, and shall be ineffective to the extent of such holding or determination without (i) invalidating the remaining provisions of this Agreement in that jurisdiction or (ii) affecting the legality, validity or enforceability of such provision in any other jurisdiction.

9. Notices. Any notice required or permitted to be given hereunder shall be (a) in writing, (b) effective on the first business day following the date of receipt, and (c) delivered by one of the following means: (i) by personal delivery; (ii) by prepaid, overnight package delivery or courier service; or (iii) by the United States Postal Service, first class, certified mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid. All notices given under this Agreement shall be addressed to the addresses stated at the end of this Agreement, or to new or additional addresses as the parties may be advised in writing.

10. Governing Law. This Agreement, its validity, its interpretation, and performance shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the State of Illinois, as if this Agreement was both wholly executed and wholly to be performed in said State of Illinois, without reference to the principles of conflicts or choice of laws. All claims or controversies arising out of this Agreement that may be litigated shall be litigated in Illinois. Litigation to resolve any such claim or controversy must be commenced and pursued only in a court of competent jurisdiction located in the State of Illinois, and each of the Parties hereby consents to the personal jurisdiction over it by such court, submits to such court’s jurisdiction, and consents to venue therein. Further, if the claim or controversy satisfies the requirements for federal jurisdiction, any such litigation must be commenced in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 11. Entire Agreement. The parties agree that this Agreement sets forth the entire agreement and understanding between them on the subject matter hereof, merges all prior discussions between them, and neither party shall be bound by any conditions, definitions, warranties, waivers, releases or representations (either express or implied) with respect to the subject matter of this Agreement, other than as expressly provided for herein.

Please indicate your acceptance of the obligations contained in this letter by signing and dating your signature in the appropriate space below and retuning a fully-executed copy of this letter to me. I look forward to your prompt and favorable response.

Very truly yours,

 

____________________________
[name]
[title]

When it gets to this stage for you, Good Reader, bite your lip, pay the $, and hire the damn lawyer. It will save you $ in the back end. Meanwhile, hope this helps.

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