It was August and I had created dozens of now-signed contracts with crew and cast. I had been so very busy with 18-hour work days that I’d had no time to worry again about whether I had got them right. Then I had a conversation with my attorney in LA, the one who was doing the script clearance. She suggested that she review at least one of the contract to make sure it was complete. I quickly sent her an example, regretting that I’d waited so long. I would not like to have to re-do all those contracts.
My attorney called me with some bad news. She said that I had neglected to include three key elements, one of which was a remedies clause. This clause says that even if a cast or crew member seeks legal remedy to a problem, they can’t enjoin or restrain the exhibition, advertisement, distribution, or other use of the motion picture as relief. In other words, someone could sue me, but they couldn’t kill the project in the process. This clause, she said, was so important that no distribution company would touch the film without it. I had to re-do all the contracts. Then I had to explain to everyone the reason they needed to sign all over again.
Now let’s jump ahead 10 months in time so I can tell you why I was so glad that I got the legal advice and acted on it. The movie had been through post-production and had premiered to cast and crew in early June 2017. I was now fully engaged in doing preparations for marketing, including a poster, for which I had hired a professional trailer house, Wheelhouse Creative in New York. I posted the draft poster on the private Facebook page I shared with interested cast and crew.
Shortly after posting the draft, I got a call from one of the lesser-role actors who informed me that I had promised him that his name would be on any movie poster for the film and demanded that I follow through. I told him that I had no recollection of such a promise and that I didn’t think it would be appropriate for such, given the level of his role. He persisted, saying that I would soon hear from his lawyer.
Indeed, shortly thereafter I got an email from his lawyer threatening that if I did not put the actor’s name on all posters, he would seek to enjoin any distribution of the movie. He cited the first contract signed by that actor, which didn’t have the remedies clause.
Rather than interact with the actor’s attorney myself, I asked my attorney to address the problem and sent her a copy of the contract signed by the actor. She did so and the case was closed. But I shudder to think what would have happened had I not followed legal advice about the contracts.