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Is it ok to offer screen credit? – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered




Blake is wondering about whether he can promise a producer credit to someone in exchange for bringing in some talent to a project.

Hi, I'm entertainment lawyer Gordon Firemark. This is asked and answered where I help you learn what you need to know to take your career in the business to the next level.


So, Can Blake agree to give credit?
Here’s what he says…

“I am in a bit of confusion, I've created a television series (came up with the idea in great detail) and I am co-writing it with one of my writers and a friend of mine.

A professional/celebrity photographer who is trying to get into producing, is friends with someone who I envisioned as the lead. He's spoken to her about the project and she is definitely interested, but to go further he wants an agreement between from me possibly stating that he will get a producing credit (whether Co-Producer, Associate Producer, whatever) and I don't know if I am allowed to do that, what if a network picks the series up, but doesn't want him to have a credit? Would a credit be given without possibility of payment? I need help and insight on what I should do? ”

Well, Blake, you can agree to give this guy credit, if he is bringing enough value, but you're right to wonder what could happen if a network feels it's unwarranted.

You don't want to have too many hangers-on attached to the property too early in the game, because as you've correctly surmised, that can encumber the project and make it less attractive to producing partners and networks.

But if the actor you're looking at adds enough value, it may be worth the risk. But you also need to consider whether this photographer brings anything else to the party… And consider whether you want to expend your capital this way. If so, fine…

But you really aren't in a position to guarantee the credit. The best you can really do is promise to TRY to get him a credit. You can agree to give the credit “subject to network and third party financier approval”.

And, you should limit the credit to the pilot episode if you can. And, it should only be accorded IF the actress is actually in the pilot. The point is, you want to restrict and limit things as much as possible.

But now let's talk a little bit about bargaining power… Based on what's described here, you're in a pretty strong positions in ethics actress is already interested, you may not really need this guy. You could try to contact her directly, or through her agent or manager. Hide is what you'd have done anyway…. Right?

This photographer could try to stir up trouble if you do, but he'd have a hard time convincing anyone that his mentioning your project to her really amounted to a major contribution. And, that's a bridge you could just cross later when you come to it.

So ultimately, any way you look at this there's a gamble involved. Do you attach this guy by making some promises about credit and maybe a little money, but risk turning off potential network partners? Do you just go ahead without making him any promises, and risk him threatening or even actually suing you?

In the end, I'd, probably recommend offering to try to get him a credit of some kind, but I'd certainly hedge things by making everything subject to network approvals.

Oh, and if you're going this route, stay clear of any language that says “best efforts”. That's a common bit of wording that gets misused a lot. It has more legal “teeth” than you want in this scenario, so don't fall into that trap.

So, that’s it for this session.

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