Don't wait until things go wrong before you contact an entertainment attorney. I do a lot of low budget indie films, tv, docs, webisodes and other projects, and represent up-and-coming producers, writers, actors, etc. This is advice they'd give to you if they were on @list *Not intended as legal advice
  1. Before you sign anything.
    You think this would go without saying, but too many people sign contracts and get stuck in disadvantageous situations. You should always know what you're signing and what the risks are. Even if you don't have the negotiating power to change the deal terms in the contract, you should understand what the contact says and how it could impact you in the future. This way, you can make an informed decision before you sign. This goes for all contracts, not just entertainment related bizness.
  2. Before you use a sample contract you found online.
    You can find most production agreements online, but contracts are not one size fits all. Each project has unique considerations. Also, industry standards change, and it's difficult to know if the online contract is up to date with current language. Lastly, online docs frequently have missing language you'll need for an attorney to sign off on your E&O application, so you may have to hire an attorney to fix chain of title issues and do it all over again. Better to get it right the first time.
  3. To help you get E&O insurance.
    All roads lead to getting your E&O insurance. Errors and Omissions is necessary for you to get distribution, and there's a long list of documents you have to deliver in order to get insured. An attorney can advise you through this process and help you get the documents you need.
  4. To keep your relationships creative.
    Our job is to get you the best deal we can. Pushing for more money, better credits and such can be uncomfortable, so that's why lawyers handle that part. Then the creatives can focus solely on the creatives elements and not get into the fight for better deal terms.
  5. To get you a better deal.
    We're trained to push for, and get, the best deal possible. If you don't know what the industry standards are, you won't know if you should be asking for more (or less if you're hiring).
  6. Even if you think you can't afford an attorney.
    Attorneys make deals to help up and coming filmmakers and artists. Flat fees, percentage deals, reduced hourly rates...attorneys will work with a new client for the possibility to a fruitful long term relationship. Also, many entertainment attorneys have a passion for film and the arts, so they're happy to help if they can.
  7. There are pro bono attorneys that can help you.
    Contact California Lawyers for the Arts, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (New York), Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts (Nashville) or one near your home. They can help you with your entertainment project for low or no cost.