The Film Business and the Law. It’s in the contract. Or is it?
L.A. Attorney Gordon Firemark
My guest for episode 24 is Los Angeles based entertainment attorney Gordon Firemark. Gordon represents clients in theater, film, television and new media.
I spoke with Gordon on September 20, 2012 and we discussed a host of topics that can impact actors and filmmakers, their projects and their careers.
I first encountered Gordon Firemark while listening to Daniel J. Lewis’s The Audacity To Podcast where he was discussing legal issues pertinent to podcasters and new media producers.
In addition to being an attorney, Gordon Firemark is a self-described audio geek. who produces and co-hosts with attorney, Tamera Bennett, the entertaining and informative Entertainment Law Update Podcast.
He is the author of The Podcast, Blog and New Media Producers Legal Survival Guide. Indie filmmakers can get information at this link about Gordon’s upcoming Film Finance Bootcamp.
You can also find Gordon Firemark at his ENTERTAINMENT LAW ANSWERS YouTube Channel. There you’ll find a number of videos in which Gordon responds to real show business related legal questions. The video below is an example:
Episode 24 – Included In The Discussion
So you’re an actor or you want to be an actor, screenwriter, film director or producer. What do you know about your rights and responsibilities concerning rights of privacy,
work for hire, copyright and trademark issues.
What does any of this legal stuff matter if all you want is to be an actor, to get a job in TV, to have a film career?
Actors, you’ve ripped your scenes from the DVDs of films in which you appear. Is that a copyright infringement or a fair use?
What about auditions? Can they be distributed to YouTube or another public video sharing site without the actor’s permission?
Chain Of Title
FILMMAKERS, are you certain you have a clear CHAIN OF TITLE to your project?
The phrase “chain of title” within the context of the film industry refers to a series of documents or agreements that establish proprietary (ownership) rights in a motion picture and all its parts. It is a collection of all of the documents that relate to the creation of and transfers of title to any property used in the making of the film.
Why is it imperative to have CHAIN OF TITLE issues resolved before you seek a distribution deal?
How do these issues impact a documentary filmmaker?
Actors, can you copyright a performance on stage or in a film or video?
Producers, can your actors hold a copyright claim against your film? What about your director, DP, editor or a crew member?
That’s seems like an almost bizarre notion but it’s one that is currently being litigated in Hollywood as part of the infamous INNOCENTS OF MUSLIMS video case in which the Prophet Mohammed is reportedly shown in a unflattering light. According to The Hollywood Reporter and other news outlets, actress Cindy Lee Garcia is asserting copyright claims against the project’s producer as well as against YouTube and even individuals who reposted the video on YouTube.
What, if any, are the implications for other actors and filmmakers?
Copy right Laws
How do you get a copyright on a work you’ve created? How does a copyright differ from a Trademark?
Is it necessary to have a registered copyright? A registered trademark?
Indie producer-filmmaker, your budget is so low you can’t afford to hire a lawyer to draft contracts so you’re working solely on handshake deals. Or maybe you’ve done what you can by using forms from a web site or a book.
But is your project safe from claims by an associate, an actor, an editor or other crew person that THEY have certain rights to the project? Rights you didn’t intend or don’t believe you’ve granted?
Did you have everyone working on the film sign a contract or a deal memo? Is the documentation you have sufficient to protect your interests in your project?
Are Your Actors and Crew Employees or Independent Contractors – Why You Need To Get It Right
Are you treating those working on your projects as employees or as independent contractors? How can an improper designation in this area affect your bottom line in case of injury on the set?
Are you soliciting donations or investments for your project?
What is the JOBS Act and how have provisions of that legislation changed the CROWDFUNDING landscape? Gordon and I discuss this recent development and how it will impact the way producers are allowed to publicly solicit investment funds. Gordon also covered this topic in a recent blog post, Crowdfunding: How To Do It Right.
I hope you found the discussion with Gordon Firemark interesting and informative. I had a great time talking with him about these and other issues that had to be eliminated from this episode because of time constraints. I hope we will get to those in a future episode.
Please leave comments below. You can also leave a question for Gordon in the comment section or leave me a voice mail by clicking the FEEDBACK PLEASE tab, by calling 877-518-2530 or by leaving me an email.
Also, don’t forget to become a subscriber to Actors Talk. You’ll receive automatic notification each time a new episode is published.
Be sure to check back in two weeks for Episode 25 when my guest will be actor Kevin Sizemore. We’ll discuss his personal journey that’s taken him from West Virginia to Hollywood and we’ll get the inside scoop on his new award winning film, RED LINE.
Gordon P. Firemark Bio as copied from his web site:
Gordon Firemark is an attorney whose practice is devoted to the representation of artists, writers, producers and directors in the fields of theater, film, television,and music. He is also the publisher of Entertainment Law Update., a newsletter for artists and professionals in the entertainment industries. His practice also covers intellectual property, cyberspace, new media and business/corporate matters for clients in the entertainment industry
Mr. Firemark serves on the Boards of Governors of The Los Angeles Stage Alliance , (the organization responsible for the annual Ovation Awards for excellence in Theater) and The Academy for New Musical Theatre. In the past he has served on the Board of Governors of the Beverly Hills Bar Association , where he served as liason to the Association’s Entertainment Law Section (of which he is a former chairman).
Mr. Firemark holds a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Oregon, and earned his law degree at Southwestern University School of Law. Before opening The Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark, Mr. Firemark was a partner with the Business Affairs Group, a boutique entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. He has also worked in the legal and business affairs departments at Hanna Barbera Productions and the MGM/UA Worldwide Television Group, and started his legal career as an associate at Neville L. Johnson & Associates, a West L.A.firm specializing in entertainment litigation.
Gordon is an alumnus of the Commercial Theatre Institute, and is also an accomplished producer of stage plays and musicals. He serves as CEO of Fierce Theatricals , which produces small cast musicals, cabaret shows and regional tours. He has been involved with the entertainment industry in one way or another since his youth as a sound, lighting, and special effects technician in the theatre. Prior to becoming an attorney, he worked in the television industry, producing and directing live sports telecasts, public affairs programming commercial announcements, documentaries, and industrial videos.
Mr. Firemark teaches Business Law at Loyola Marymount University, and has offered courses in Theater Law at Cypress College, and Entrepreneurial Studies at California Institute of the Arts. Mr. Firemark has served as a moderator and featured panelist at seminars sponsored by the Beverly Hills Bar Association, California Lawyers for the Arts,Theatre LA, and the Oregon Artist’s Rights Coalition. Hehas also been a guest lecturer at Southwestern University School of Law, Loyola Law School, California Western School of law, UC Irvine, and California State University, Northridge.