17 Rules Of Battle For Survival In The Entertainment Industry
By Steven T. Lowe
After handling numerous cases for writers and creators in the entertainment industry, Mr. Lowe has distilled from his experience a list of client “do”s and “don't”s:
1. Recording Submissions (including scripts, music, etc.)
Keep records of all submissions:
- Email (do your best to receive confirmation of receipt).
- Overnight mail (and keep digital copy of proof);
- Hand delivery by reputable courier (too easy for actual messenger to leave town, or you can lose receipt); or
- Certified mail (only good if someone signs for it – if so, just as good as overnight).
2. Don't Mess With #1!
If possible, don't use any other means of delivery besides those in Rule #1.
3. Confirm Physical Receipt For In Person Submissions
If you do hand a submission to someone yourself, you should:
- Get their card, and;
- Have them sign a receipt or send them a confirming letter/e-mail.
4. Confirm Electronic Receipt
When keeping records through emails, make sure you're getting responses. If you don't get a response, the recipient can dispute receipt of the communication.
5. Save and Store Voicemails
Save all telephone voice mail and answering machine messages which may be relevant to an entertainment project – DO NOT let messages “fall off” your voicemail after a couple of months – play them onto a device if necessary.
6. Register Your IP
Register all intellectual property which may be valuable with the United States Copyright office first; then, if applicable, the Writers Guild of America. DO NOT just register with the WGA.
7. Play It Safe
Get a good entertainment attorney early on in the process; he or she will save you problems (e.g., money) down the line.
8. Professional Drafting
Don't draft your own contracts; at least pay minimal fees for an attorney to do a “deal memo.”
9. Deal Memos
Don't do any work on any projects whatsoever without at least having a deal memo in place.
10. Before You Sign
Never sign a contract, no matter how short, without having an entertainment attorney review it first.
11. WGA Upkeep
If you've registered your work with the WGA, don't let your WGA Registration expire in 5 years. However, we highly recommend registering with the United States Copyright Office, rather than the WGA.
12. Keep Your Cool
No matter how frustrated you get, don't slander anybody or get violent or abusive (especially on social media); hold your temper and don't make false (read: unprovable/deniable) statements.
13. Using/Dealing With NDAs
Use a simple non-disclosure agreement when submitting ideas, etc.; or if the submittee won't sign, send a confirming letter. Do not under any circumstances sign a submission (or non-disclosure) agreement provided to you by an entertainment company without consulting an entertainment attorney first.
14. Back-Up Copies
Whenever sending any document (e.g., letter), make copies of the document with your signature and date.
15. Submission Cover Letters
Whenever submitting ideas, etc., make sure you have a cover letter which specifically states that you are submitting the project with the expectation that if they are interested in exploiting all or any portion of the project they will negotiate with you in good faith the deal points of compensation and credit.
16. Register Television Titles With The Trademark Office
If your title is for a television series, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") accepts and registers titles for television series.
17. Start With The Assumption People Will Steal
Keep ALL proof. Keep copies of everything you submit to anyone (e.g., notes, parking receipts, cards, etc.).