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Ownership of a creative product


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#1 JD Hartman

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 09:48 AM

Not certain how to describe this issue clearly. I need some advice, even non-professional advice is appreciated. It's probably a question for an entertainment industry lawyer.
The scenario: person has a concept for a new episodic "show"; concept document written; some interest is shown by cable networks; script created; cast/crew assembled; shooting locations acquired. The location for the main set is to be built on the premises of a local cable access station. Their only requirement is that the finished show be aired by them. No cost to use their facility. Pilot episode completed and shopped around.
The question is, if the show is broadcast on a public TV station, even a local one, what is the likelyhood of another company (Turner, Discovery, etc.) having any interest in acquiring the concept, pilot and subsequent episodes, since it has already been seen by the public? Who owns the pilot?

Edited by JD Hartman, 12 August 2010 - 09:51 AM.

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#2 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 12:16 PM

Not certain how to describe this issue clearly. I need some advice, even non-professional advice is appreciated. It's probably a question for an entertainment industry lawyer.
The scenario: person has a concept for a new episodic "show"; concept document written; some interest is shown by cable networks; script created; cast/crew assembled; shooting locations acquired. The location for the main set is to be built on the premises of a local cable access station. Their only requirement is that the finished show be aired by them. No cost to use their facility. Pilot episode completed and shopped around.
The question is, if the show is broadcast on a public TV station, even a local one, what is the likelyhood of another company (Turner, Discovery, etc.) having any interest in acquiring the concept, pilot and subsequent episodes, since it has already been seen by the public? Who owns the pilot?


Those are all questions that have to be negotiated in the contract and yes an entertainment lawyer would be a advisable. Intellectual properties in the most general terms are owned by the copyright holder, what you would do is negotiate the times it would be aired and whether or not it is exclusive. It sounds like you're essentially making this thing on speck with at least part of the cost on their dime so I personally, would negotiate the pilot as a separate entity with an option for them to pick up the show should it be successful AND I would negotiate for a reasonable compensation if they like the finished product and want to air it. If they don't, all rights revert back to you, no harm, no foul, and you look for other buyers.

IF you have no track record, you're in a weaker bargaining position than someone with a proven record like say Ken Burns so be reasonable. You goal is to get in the door. As for cable showing an interest, I wouldn't worry about it. Negotiate a non exclusive contract with a limited run, say even a single airing and quietly shop the property around, but the cable networks are gonna be tougher to crack than PBS and PBS is tough enough. If NOTHING else, once you have the pilot done, you have something to show the bigger players should you have something you want to pitch. It will give them something to show you are a professional and worth their time. Just my 2 cents. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 August 2010 - 12:18 PM.

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#3 Thomas James

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 12:31 PM

I think that I have to get beyound this concept of ownership and intellectual property. I for one am an emerging film maker. Therefore I have nothing to negotiate in any capitalistic model of distribution. If someone steals my creative ideas then so be it and it doesn't really matter because it becomes part of the commons and it increases my exposure.
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#4 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 01:40 PM

The way I have seen a couple of my editing clients use cable access is...they take a class before they are "certified" to make a program. They book time. They shoot the show. The time they get for "free" is very limited. I think they get around two hours for a 30 minute show. It's basically, "you sit here, you sit here, the host, sit here, now do your show, and if you make a mistake, keep going as there may be no editing later on".

Sometimes, producers may get a three hour slot instead of a two hour slot with the idea being they will actually create two 30 minute shows within that time slot. Also, and this is very important to remember, since this is boilermaker production, you can't change anything on the set very much because there will be no time to change it back when you leave and the next "producer" shows up.

I helped a client out and once and was shocked to see how slouchy everyone was in their chairs and the people in the control booth just did not care. I went to my car and pulled out some cushions I had so they could prop them up behind their backs and not look like slobs. That and a video roll in that the producer provided were the big production value add ons that were attempted that day.

The more stuff you pre-produce and can roll into your show, the higher production value you may achieve, assuming you can correctly coordinate the roll-ins with the control room and still fit into an exact 28 or 29 minute time frame.

If you are planning to do a sit com or something like that at a cable access station, good luck. The time it would take to shoot one episode probably cannot be justifed by the cable station and the bean counters that basically demand a show be create every 2-3 hours that the studio is in production.
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#5 JD Hartman

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 02:12 PM

It sounds like you're essentially making this thing on speck with at least part of the cost on their dime so I personally, would negotiate the pilot as a separate entity with an option for them to pick up the show should it be successful AND I would negotiate for a reasonable compensation if they like the finished product and want to air it. If they don't, all rights revert back to you, no harm, no foul, and you look for other buyers.


You more or less nailed it. We are shooting in their studio with their equipment and possibly doing the editing there. Location work will not involve them at all.
Clarification, its not my show. A number of us involved have concerns that once shot in their facility and aired by them, even once, the pilot will lose some if not all of its appeal and market value. Yes, its a longshot, but none of us want to find out that we had a winning formula, only to lose out because someone forgot to, "dot all the i's and cross all the t's."
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 04:59 PM

WHICH is why you want an entertainment lawyer and a signed contract. Listen, IF this thing is good, a small test preview in a limited market can probably only help you create buzz ESPECIALLY if you have no track record, it's done with small films all the time. It's called a tiered release, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released like that. IF you get good reviews, other regional PBS stations or even cable channels may want to pick it up and if it's a success in one market, you're in a much better bargaining position. GOOD shows always have value, HOW LONG has I Love Lucy been playing? B)
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#7 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 05:11 PM

I think that I have to get beyond this concept of ownership and intellectual property. I for one am an emerging film maker. Therefore I have nothing to negotiate in any capitalistic model of distribution. If someone steals my creative ideas then so be it and it doesn't really matter because it becomes part of the commons and it increases my exposure.


GREAT!!!! Give me your best creative ideas, I'll copyright the ones that I know will sell and I'll keep all the money...and, of course, take all the credit, then when you start claiming they're your ideas, I'll slap a cease and desist order on your ass and sue you for everything you'll ever own. Your idealism is inspirational....or at least financially rewarding for me. :rolleyes:
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