QUESTION FOR FILMTVLAW.COM:
Thanks for the amazing articles Brandon! Hey, I want to get out there with my series but I’m nervous about the big production halt. Is it a good time to try to set up a series?
ANSWER BY BRANDON BLAKE, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER:
Thanks for the positive words! Our firm has never slowed down with development and pitching work, so I’ve got some great news about development right now for television and also feature projects. When you have a moment, take a look at the rest of my entertainment law articles available all in one place at https://filmtvlaw.com/entertainment-lawyer-qa.
So, unlike some of the big agencies like WME and CAA, our firm has not slowed down or stopped shopping projects to networks, production companies, or agencies. The results for the projects we are currently representing have been great. In fact, I have been getting stronger responses on many projects over the past three weeks than average for this time of year. There are a couple of different reasons for that which I am happy to share.
I will start with a word about cast first. Right now, every major television series has halted production, and the feature film world is just the same. Of course, nobody wants to put cast or crew in harms way, and beyond that, there are some legal issues about whether or not general liability insurance and workers’ comp insurance will cover the producers if someone catches COVID-19 on set. Chances are that the insurance companies will not cover the costs under the pandemic or “Acts of God” provisions in standard insurance policies.
To add further production confusion, it is also possible that cast contracts with a “force majeure” clause in them can now be activated, which often allow either party to breach the contract should a particular event, like a pandemic, occur during production.
While that all seems very troubling, the upside is that there are now a lot of great cast that are sitting at home and open to reading the next great series pilot or feature film. Moreover, because a number of major agencies have given up packaging right now, there is also not very much competition, so there really has never been a better opportunity to get amazing cast to read and fall in love with a new project.
NETWORKS AND PLATFORMS
As I mentioned earlier, although the front desk of many Networks might have a general recording playing, all development executives are working from their cell phones and emails, and are busy stocking up on new scripts and new projects, in anticipation of the inevitable end to this situation.
In fact, management at some networks is encouraging both development executives and idled production executives to put all their efforts into development, even asking execs to focus on passion projects and new materials. Again, this is an awesome opportunity for new producers and producers looking to get into scripted or looking to move up to bigger networks.
PRODUCTION COMPANIES AND STUDIOS
It’s the same story here, with the exception that executives on the distribution or production side might begin to get paired down in the next few weeks. Disney already announced some aggressive staff reductions, although from my contacts it appears to be limited to distribution executives right now (those that deal with theatrical releases).
So, it’s a great time to bring new materials in development to production companies and studios. Just be ready to get a tentative greenlight, because nothing can go into physical production until the Stay At Home orders are lifted. As long as producers are realistic on this point, there are a lot of opportunities for feature projects.
Although no one can say how long the production holds might last, the fact is that a lot of producers are using this time to line up their next project. In an industry with such a huge amount of competition for top cast and network and studio attention, serious producers are using this as an opportunity to move to the front of the development queue.
Our firm can get your project to major networks, platforms, film studios and production companies. Feel free to contact our firm about film or television development representation. As with all complex entertainment matters, please seek experienced entertainment legal counsel before making legal and financial decisions. This article is for informational purposes only and does not represent legal, accounting or tax advice. Do not act on this article without hiring legal representation.
- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer