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The Long and Winding Road to Production: Keeping Your Path Forward Clear

The time between when a film or television project is conceived and written to the day production starts in earnest often spans many months, if not years. Along the way, writers, creators, directors and others shepherding the project along the road toward success encounter many people – some good, some bad – who seem interested in bringing the project to fruition.

The reasons why someone may wish to become involved with a film project are as numerous and varied as there are people. Some may have a genuine interest in the subject matter; some may be related to the writer; some may have a desire to be known in their community as having made a movie or TV series; some may be looking to invest in something new and exciting; and yet others may seek to take advantage of good people who are excited and eager to have a great creative work seen by audiences across the world.

Affiliations and arrangements made with people one meets along the road to production can end up becoming roadblocks to getting the film or series made and distributed. For example, derivative or other creative rights given away or promises for financial participation may impede or kill later deals that are necessary to get the project into production with a legitimate shot at distribution. Sometimes these arrangements are reduced to ill-advised contracts that must be significantly renegotiated or voided before a key actor can be signed, fundraising can be closed or production begun.

While traveling the road to production avoid building roadblocks by asking these questions when presented with an opportunity to affiliate with someone:

  • Why does the person want to become involved in the project? What is his or her goal?
  • What tangible, concrete value or real benefit does the project realize from its affiliation with the person? When will this benefit or value actually be realized by the project?
  • What specific resources does the person bring to the project, including his or her past record of success? Are these resources necessary for success, particularly at this point in the life of the project? Can these resources be obtained from another party?
  • How does affiliating with the person fit into the overall plan and schedule for the project?

Think carefully when making any commitment or promise, particularly if it is to be made in writing. Seek out objective and trusted advisors and ask for their input about any relationships that may be established with respect to the project.

In season 4, episode 5 of the Showtime series, “Episodes”, Sean and Beverly, the husband and wife writers of a television series, were confronted by a long-lost soul claiming creative ownership of the series. As expected, he resurfaced late in time, only after a network deal was in the works. Sean and Beverly dealt with this roadblock by cutting him in the deal.

Avoid the fate of Sean and Beverly with careful consideration of the arrangements and affiliations that inevitably present themselves along the long and winding road to production. And best of luck.

— Michael W. Sheridan

Michael Sheridan