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Hello, need advice on producing TV series/ how not to get ripped off


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#1 Daryl Burd

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 12:20 AM

Hello everyone, first I'll lay out the story, this has 50% to do with acting and 50% to do with contracts, production and just what now?

I am here because I have no clue where to take this, I've never dealt with acting, actors or movie stuff before so please bear with me and help me out as much as you can please.

I am a 33 year old disabled american. I have a certain heart ailment that limits my walking ability, I cruise in a wheelchair because walking makes my blood pressure rise into the 200s over the 100s even with medication.

So for the last 4 years I have lived off of my inheritance and raised my son and daughter as a single father, their mother left when the oldest was 2. I am not rich at all mind you, sometimes we don't even live very comfortably, sometimes we do okay.

About 4 years ago I started dreaming about making a television show, a children's show since that's mostly what was on the tv. I watched them for literally hours and hours and no joke one night I dreamt a tv show. The next day I wrote down all my ideas.

4 years later I have designed the logo, the show, written 17 scripts that people at the wga say are "not needing to be worked on" and "very broadcastable scripts. I've had a disney composer make the title song for me, it's catchy, it's awesome. I've built a set and saved all the money I can to buy set props, lighting equipment and so on. This is all top of the line gear, I didn't scrimp on anything.

My original intent was to film hundreds of episodes and show them on public access and have a website where parents could come and watch the rest for free. So after getting ahold of Godaddy and getting a domain and the server I was ready to start.

At first I started reading on the internet about actresses since the star of the show will be a girl. I was looking for a young girl who would be around or look like the age she was teaching too, like maybe 10 or 11 at the oldest.

After getting thousands of kids headshots and resumes, hundreds of psycho stage moms (and dads!) I finally looked at my daughter one day and said, "Hey, do you think you can do this?" and then I had my star.

Things went well, she learns quickly, isn't afraid of the camera, sometimes says "Dad that light is in my eyes and I can't even see!"

So I started making small very amature shows, hoping (knowing) someday that they would be noticed and maybe the show would go somewhere, even if it didn't star my daughter anymore. I just want to make a show.

In the last few weeks suddenly, I have started getting real letters in the mail from production companies all over the United States.
They want to film a pilot for my show totally for free, and "shop" it around to people. I ignored all of them except for one.

The latest one is a "developer" who works with companies like A&E, Discovery Kids and such. I've called his references, they all check out, he is who he says he is. I have no idea how he got my address or even my phone number since it's unlisted. He proposes to come to my house, film on my set a pilot and then cut it into a 5 minute "teaser" film to show around the entertainment industry. He wants to give me the title of Executive Producer and he and his partner the title of producer, he says he doesn't want to change a thing about the show, all artistic interest in the show is mine is what he keeps telling me. He told me that he would shop my idea around for 3 months and if in that time no one picks it up, he will give me the master broadcast tapes, the teaser in dvd and web format and he will be on his merry way. He tells me to get an agent for when I need to travel to places for talks (He said there WILL be talks) and he said to make sure to have my attorney come along. Attorney? Agent?
I'm not an actor, I don't even have enough money to put an attorney on retainer. I just wanted to make a show!

He is currently listed as a Line Executive for a on demand cable television channel. He tells me the channel is looking for educational shows and that he has followed the developement of my show for the last few months and he likes what he sees. I never sent him a submission, he says he gets hundreds weekly.

He tells me if the show is picked up (And he then tells me, you will be doing talks with companies) that my daughter would make around $15,000 an episode with myself as a producer making maybe $5,000 and it would be a 13 show option.

They will film the pilot for FREE with a 17 man crew, they said it will take about a week to film.


Has anyone ever dealt with this before?
What kind of agent should I have?
Does this sound like some wierd con?
What would my correct title actually be?

I've had people say that the show IS a very good idea and this man might know that and see the potential. I've had others say he just wants to film your show and shop it as his or not even plan to shop it and just steal my ideas.

What wouldyou do if you were me??

I'd also like to add, I knpw everyone is going to say get an attorney, I'm working on it, but I am certainly not rich, I just want to know your GUT instincts!!! :)
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 01:57 AM

My gut instinct tells me that you need a lawyer to get involved. But it doesn't sound too unusual, in the sense that nothing that happens in Hollywood is "normal". People write screenplays on spec (for free) so it doesn't surprise me that some people make pilots on spec to shop around the networks. Just protect yourself with a contract before proceding any further. Talking to a writer's agent wouldn't be a bad idea.
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#3 Daryl Burd

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 10:43 AM

My gut instinct tells me that you need a lawyer to get involved. But it doesn't sound too unusual, in the sense that nothing that happens in Hollywood is "normal". People write screenplays on spec (for free) so it doesn't surprise me that some people make pilots on spec to shop around the networks. Just protect yourself with a contract before proceding any further. Talking to a writer's agent wouldn't be a bad idea.



I'm trying to find an attorney, even one I can send the contract too to read, he doesn't have to be present, I'm not planning on signing when I first read it. It's just hard to find one to work either for free or work on some kind of "Get payed later" deal.

One of the things I'm confused on is, executive producer or producer?
Which one actually owns the show?

He tells me I will retain all artistic ownership in the show, and even if the show sells he says I will retain all artistic expression or something of the show.

I just don't want to get screwed :unsure:
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#4 Dominic Case

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 01:49 AM

Daryl, I opened this thread because I was curious. As it turns out I don't think I can help with any answers, but I figure you just might get more responses if you put a bit of a clue into your topic heading. "People here would know" doesn't narrow it down much for people who only look at threads they might want to get involved in.

Something like " need advice on producing TV series/ how not to get ripped off" might be more inviting. I'm sure there are other people here who could throw some useful advice in.

And I wish I could advise you on how to change the topic line - or even if it's possible.

Anyway good luck with your project.
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 02:09 AM

That?s a very exciting story and I wish you and your daughter the best. I also recommend contacting a lawyer and having a contract drawn up. Perhaps you could contact a local law school and at least get yourself some free advice regarding how to proceed. You have already invested a lot in your project and you need to protect yourself.
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#6 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 14 November 2006 - 09:34 PM

Title changed.

Very interesting situation, I would agree with all you need a lawyer to help you with this, specifically an entertainment lawyer.

The producer titles carry little weight as they are often just thrown around, what matters is not so much your title, but what you are contractually getting/ obligated to do.
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