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Producer Credit in Lieu of Compensation: Trouble in the making?

It's quite frequent in my practice.  My clients are asked to accept less than their usual fee or “quote” for work.  What's offered in exchange for this important concession?  You guessed it, Producer credit.

Well, this is often very attractive to the client, as it helps them climb the showbiz food chain.  In fact, many folks in the entertainment industry view credit as more important than compensation, in the short run.  By taking a ‘higher' credit, they're establishing precedent, so their next job can be at the same, improved credit and they can earn a more appropriate fee.

But accepting a producing credit is not without its perils.  In preparing to teach my Theater Law course, I was reminded of a case in which a party who bargained for “producer credit” and got much more than he bargained for… a lawsuit.

In Redgrave v Stuart Thomson Productions (NY, 1999, unpublished) ,  Actor Corin Redgrave was  injured when exiting the stage in the dark.  He sued the producers and the  ‘General Manager' of the  of the show for damages.

(The General Manager is the producer’s front-line operative in the production of the show.  Responsible for the day-to-day administration  of the production, the GM will, in consultation with the Producer(s),  of course,  supervise  the preparation of a budget for the show, along with the activities of the accountants, press agent, Company Manager, box-office,  advertising, marketing, promotions, contract negotiations, staffing and personnel matters, and any other business matters that may arise.)

You see, Thomson had, in addition to his fees for General Management services, received a co-producer credit for the play as well.     So, in ruling on Thomson's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court refused to dismiss the case because there was  an issue of fact as to whether  Thomson's credit made him a partner in the production, and therefore liable for Redrgrave's injuries.

So, in evaluating an offer that includes a producer credit in lieu of some or all of the compensation a party would otherwise seek, it's important to consider not just the career benefit, but also the risk involved with being credited as a producer.

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