TeleCourse Raw Notes
Negotiating Author Agreements
Feb. 10, 1998
These "Raw Notes" taken by Tara Greenway
Thank you Tara!
Agreements must meet:
*Producerís needs: including enough time to raise money, some security for his investment of time, flexibility to explore different avenues, need to make money
*Authorís needs: including desire to know where producer is headed with their work, which theyíve invested much time and effort in
*Producer has rights for option period and while play is running
- it may be in contract that producers can produce play a 2nd time
- subsidiary right should also be addressed in control
- e.g., if thereís a film deal
- also producer should get future prominent billing credit
*itís like a bundle of rights, or a bundle of twigs, you could divide up or (more typically) keep together
* in theater (as opposed to film or TV), author owns copyright and is "renting" it to producer for a certain period of time, then author gets the rights back
* the copyright is a monopoly: author monopolizes rights for performances, making copies, distribution, turning it into other media
- usually thereís a "pinnacle production," Broadway or off-Broadway, then stock, then amateur
- initial producer gets exclusive rights at the time of production
* making changes in script:
- usually no one has the right to make changes in script but author
- but this doesnít mean author has the right to say "this is perfect; I wonít change anything"
- once the piece has been optioned, if there are then extensive changes made, producer has the right to say "this isnít the play I optioned"
- author doesnít have unilateral rights during time period producer is producing
Option payment - an advance paid to author against future royalties - typically not a lot of money in theater (film and TV are different)
* most authors are members of Dramatistí Guild and are working under minimum payments an other rules
* LORT theaters like Seattle Rep, Goodman, Mark Taper Forum, usually will option around $1,000-2,000
- LORT (League of Resident Theaters) theaters are non-profit rather than commercial; i.e., they get their money from contributions from foundations, corporations, individuals, as well as ticket sales
- off-Broadway and Broadway will pay options slightly higher
this advance is nonrefundable but recoupable - i.e., author pays back producer once royalties come in but not if they donít
- Royalties: author usually gets 5% of gross ticket sales minus cost of credit card charge or group sales commission
- Recoupment: when up-front debt for theater rental, set, props, costumes, etc., is paid, youíve recouped
* theater producers only get profits, after investors are all paid back
* author usually gets 6-7% after recoupment or sometimes (in regional or >non-profit off-Broadway) may get flat $ amount
Producer is responsible for negotiating contracts with investors, playwrights, every
* everyone wants to see a profit
* producer takes great risk
- minimum 3 months to recoup, usually more like 6-9 months, 1 year, or never
* producer usually takes a small weekly royalty for himself and to cover office expenses, but really would like to see percentage of net profits
License agreement is a much shorter agreement, like if show has already been produced.
Most shows are limited partnerships: investors can only lose whatever money they put up.
* once an investor participates in management decisions they lose limited partnership status
* being a producers is a combination of being an artist and a businessperson
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