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Cheating people shouldn’t be the way you succeed.

As you know, I am sometimes led to rant a bit about the state of the entertainment business, or more particularly, the mental state(s) of some of the people IN the industry.

Rant of the month

In recent weeks, I've been asked to negotiate deals for a handful of relatively new artists, and I've been disheartened by what seems to have become the norm for deals with these kinds of folks.

They're getting screwed, and everybody knows it.

It's one thing to get a low-ball offer from an independent producer. This isn't news. It's been happening for decades. In my representation of indies, I've drafted enough of these offers to know. But usually, the low-ball front-end of the deal was offset by fair and reasonable terms later in the development and production cycle, and of course on the back-end. So, where a first-time screenwriter might have given a producer a free option for a year or two, the renewal payments and purchase price would, generally, be fair, and if the writer were expected to prepare rewrites, there'd be some reasonable compensation for that work at some point in the deal.

The up-and-coming talent was being asked to share some of the risk that the project would fail to receive funding, or founder for some other reason, but they'd get to share in the up-side if the project got made. Fair? Reasonable? Probably.

Well, apparently those days are gone.

Just because you can take advantage doesn't mean you should.

It seems that some producers and financiers have decided that, simply because they can get away with offering lousy deal terms from beginning to end, they should.

“Business is Business”, they say.

“Bull!” I say.

Taking advantage of people is not good business. Ultimately, in fact, it is the opposite, since it sets up the project on a foundation of intimidation and distrust. And that is bad for the quality of the work.

Moreover, paying creatives too little leads them to deliver poor-quality work. It's a fact. They want to do great work; make great art, but if a writer can't pay his rent on the option money, he's got to go to a day-job to make ends meet. That leaves his “off-hours” for the writing. When a writer is tired, frustrated, and burnt-out from a day (or night) at work waiting tables, tending bar, driving a cab, or whatever, do you really think the written material he creates is going to be his best?

The same is true across all of the entertainment trades. Directors, Editors, Composers, Actors all need to earn a decent, living wage from the work they do, so they can remain focused on that work. Isn't that focus an essential ingredient in producing good material?

Appropriate Pay is good for the business.

Paying people a fair and reasonable price for their property, or fee for their services, on the other hand, sets everything up to go forward in a way that satisfies both the artistic and the business needs of the project. Happy people do better work.

Besides, if you can't afford the raw materials, the labor, etc., isn't that a sign that you're either not serious about the project in the first place, or you don't have the funds needed to do it right?

It's time for us all to draw the line. No more bottom feeders. Who's with me?


3 Responses to Cheating people shouldn’t be the way you succeed.

  1. This is great stuff. Thanks so much for this. I work on the licensing end for music (on tv), and we do material gratis. So yah…I’ve seen the same type of situations come up. Great article…and I agree 100%. Thanks again for this!

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