Friday, January 9, 2015

How to "Package" a Project

Entertainment Lawyer Question and Answer Forum:

Welcome to this week's Entertainment Lawyer Q&A, published by The Film & Television Law Quarterly and the entertainment law firm of BLAKE & WANG P.A. Each week an entertainment lawyer will respond to reader questions and publish the best discussions.

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What does it mean to “package” a project? Do big studios only look at packaged projects?

Answer by Brandon Blake - Entertainment Lawyer:

Most simply put a packaged project is a feature film project or a television series in development that has one or more well-known performs attached to the project and possibly also a famous director. A packaged project is in between the script stage and the pre-production stage. As an entertainment lawyer I have been helping filmmakers and producers package projects for many years.

While many screenwriters feel that a really great script will sell itself to a production company or studio, the truth is that the vast majority of projects that a studio or major production company will look at are already packaged projects. This is done for multiple reasons on the studio side, some of which actually make a lot of business sense.

Studios and television networks realize that getting a-list performers attached to a project takes time. Actors and actresses are looking for different things in projects. In general a-list performers want to play heroic parts, or at least parts that the audience will empathize with in the story. They usually want to be portrayed as attractive and they want a good story. If there is little money in the role, such as with an independent film, the actor or actress will want to be associated with a film that has potential for good reviews and a strong festival run. Then there are idiosyncratic traits. I once submitted a project to an actor that had recently decided he only wanted to star in a western. The agent loved our project but there was no convincing the actor otherwise.

Studios and television networks also often want to see that somebody “important” likes the script or concept before they get involved. A studio development executive might be nervous about bringing a script to his or her boss, because maybe the studio president will not like the idea. So if an a-list actor or major director is attached nobody can be blamed if the project fails.

The documentation of the attachment will vary depending on whether you are producing a feature film or television series. When it comes to television development, especially reality television, the attachment of the performer or celebrity host is even more important and is often the most important single factor. Therefore a contract may need to be signed with the host to protect the producer’s place in the television development process before going to the network.

While agents and managers are often blamed for getting in the way of the development of scripts and television series, I have found in my own practice that the opposite is true. Often agents and managers are quite excited about a variety of projects, and it is actually the talent who really makes the decisions.

When approaching agencies and management companies, most will require that the producer be represented by an agent or an entertainment lawyer, and our firm has represented many producers who have successfully packaged film and television projects.

As with any legal matter, please do not make a decision about complex matters without consulting an experienced entertainment attorney first. I have been representing feature film projects and television series for more than 14 years. Please feel free to contact my office about a quote.

- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer

About the Editor:

Brandon A. Blake is an entertainment lawyer and producer who works with Academy Award winning actors, directors and filmmakers. A complete biography is available online.

About the Entertainment Lawyer Q&A: The Entertainment Lawyer Q&A does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is the information treated as confidential. Responses to selected questions will be made public and shared with our subscribers. All entertainment law information is informational in nature and is not intended to be acted on without entertainment lawyer counsel.

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