Sunday, October 27, 2013

Entertainment Law Podcasts Review

         This podcast hosted by entertainment attorneys Gordon Firemark, Esq. and co-host Tamera Bennett is a monthly podcast where Gordon discusses the latest entertainment lawsuits including a variety of legal topics. Gordon is an attorney in the entertainment industry. In this podcast, they discuss each legal dispute and give their professional legal opinion on the case. By stating the facts in each case this podcast gives an unbiased view on court rulings from copyright infringement to trademark disputes of major entertainment brands.

         Hosts Denise Howell and Evan Brown lead this podcast on the latest issues in technology law. As an intellectual property and technology lawyer, Denise Howell leads a weekly discussion on subjects in law such as digital copyright laws and lawsuits pertaining to open Internet rules. She often brings in special guests with expertise in specific areas of law to weigh in on hot topics and to provide their own legal advise on complex issues. Denise covers a lot of internet legal issues as it is an ever changing medium.

         Joe Escalante hosts this weekly podcast on all entertainment related law issues. Joe answers questions from listeners and breaks down major legal disputes in the entertainment industry pertaining to major artists, such as Lady Gaga in his latest episode. He also explains how to go about certain legal requirements such as purchasing rights to songs and how to attain certain licenses. Joe is able to give his professional 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Film and TV Industry Liabilities

In recent film and TV legal controversies, Hollywood Reporter, Esquire has reported James Cameron in another legal battle in Avatar 2. Claims that his epic film were not original and that he ripped the idea off of Eric Ryder’s story called K.R.Z. 2068. The claim did not hold up in court, however, as the court decided that Cameron’s blockbuster series was in development prior to Ryder’s pitch. It was not copyright infringement that Ryder was filing, but he was suing for meeting with the entertainment company behind Avatar numerous times and discussing his story ideas. He was told he would be compensated had his ideas been used, but the company decided not to go with his story. In court, he had to prove that Avatar was similar enough to K.R.Z 2068, but he failed to do so and the case went in Cameron’s favor. This was one of many lawsuits filed again James Cameron so it does pose the question of how much of the Avatar story was original.

The network FXX just recently found themselves in a trademark lawsuit with a company in a completely different industry, Exxon mobile. The lawsuit came about because the new logo for the network includes the same use of interlocking double X’s as the gas giant.  Exxon claimed that the logo would cause confusion between the two brands and they actually won the battle for trademark infringement. Exxon ran an internet search engine and found that comments came about from people associating the two companies. I’m sure that the comments that came up on forums about FXX’s logo did not really think that a major gas company and TV network were teaming up together, but it obviously was enough evidence to hold up in the courts that the public could be confused by the logo.

In a copyright dispute, the original copyright of the film Raging Bull expired and major studios were receiving profits from DVD sales. The woman filing the lawsuit was an heir to the original owner of the copyright Frank Petrella, who wrote the original screenplay. Petrella died before the copyright expired and was supposed to have gone to his heirs but studios have been receiving the profits from the copyright instead. Although this lawsuit hasn’t been settled yet, the daughter of Petrella should be entitled to those earnings if she is indeed an heir. The problem is that the renewal of the copyright was not made in time but there seems to be some delay in the process that caused it to expire, which she is also using to her defense. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Working with Talent at VH1

Just a few weeks ago, I got offered the amazing opportunity to work with VH1 as a talent intern and have had the pleasure of working on their latest show, Best Week Ever. Some of my duties working in the talent department are researching new talent that may be fit for upcoming projects/ shows in addition to my main responsibility of making sure the talent coming in each day to film Best Week Ever is happy and that they are taken care of during their time at our offices.

The talent who are on Best Week Ever are comedians who have had a substantial following and buzz locally in the New York area, and for some, this is their first time on television. Just as I was nervous to be starting my first week on a shoot for a major television network, so were some of the talent I was coming in to assist. Most of the comedians who came in to film I was familiar with because I had either seen them on TV from the previous season of Best Week Ever, or I had seen perform live at comedy clubs. The idea of interacting with these comedians was very exciting, even if they aren’t considered “celebrities” just yet.

Not knowing what to expect from them, I greeted each person coming in to shoot as if I knew who they were and tried to be as personable as possible in order to make them feel comfortable in the short time they have from make-up to on set. Some of the talent had been doing this for weeks before and it was obvious they were comfortable making requests and knew their way around, but for the talent who had not filmed before it was interesting to see just how lost they really were in the whole process. None of them knew this was my first time on the shoot and that I had no idea of what was going on ether, but I made it a point to be confident in the way I interacted with them and if I had been doing this for a long time. I knew that if I didn’t seem confident that the newer talent wouldn’t feel as confident either, and that was very important to their performance. Just the simple gesture of handing them a bottle of water while they wait in the green room or make sure they have their script to go over in make-up can go a long way.

The good thing I’ve noticed about working with comedians in particular, is that they have all been very down to earth and I have not had to deal with any “egos”. As the show continues to film, I look forward to getting to know the talent much better and forming some great working relationships with them. I want to be someone they can rely on during the run of the show who helped make their experience enjoyable, and after the show, someone they remember not just as that intern.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spielberg's Jurassic World Set to Release Summer 2015

Universal Pictures 4th installment of the dinosaur action/adventure film Jurassic Park, the newly titled Jurassic World has been set to be released for June 12, 2015. This major film is being filmed in 3-D and is sure to be another epic project produced by Steven Spielberg. The first Jurassic Park film was re-released earlier this year to theaters in 3-D for its 20th anniversary and left fans anxious for another Jurassic Park installment. The cast has yet to be selected but Deadline reports that along with Spielberg, Pat Crowley and Frank Marshall will also be producers for the film. Colin Treverrow, of 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed, will be directing. An interesting choice since Treverrow's directorial credits show that this will be his first blockbuster film... it will also potentially be the film to put him on the map as a major Hollywood director since his other films have been much more under the radar.

Just from looking at the success of the previous three films, it can already be predicted that Jurassic World will easily be a summer blockbuster and major contender for the big summer films of 2015. The re-release of the original Jurassic Park alone raked in an impressive $114 Million worldwide.

Previous stars of the franchise have included Sam Neil who has played Dr. Alan Grant in all three of the films and Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in the first two Jurassic Park films. Leading ladies of the past films have included Laura Dern, Julianne Moore and Tea Leone, raising the question of who will be the lead female role for Jurassic World?

My prediction based on her role as a strong leading female in action/adventure film the Hunger Games, is Jennifer Lawrence. She has just enough roughness to have to handle dinosaur manure, if needed, and confidence to outrun a ferocious T-Rex!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Behind the Scenes of Reality TV- Reeling in the Bait

Negotiation is a major part in any business and in entertainment, the tight deadlines and shoot schedules makes it that much more of a necessity and valuable skill to take on. I spoke with field producer, John O’Connell* who is currently working one of the biggest fishing shows out on TV right now.

Here’s what he had to say about reality TV and the negotiating that takes place behind the scenes:

What are some of your main responsibilities as a field producer?

My job is a Field Producer- Basically I prepare the shoot as it goes out the door, having everything in place so that the production can be completed as efficient as possible. I do a lot of talking with talent and make sure all crew members know what's going on at all times. I work on all of the logistics for the entire production so that the Director can focus on the creative.

Is negotiation part of your job? What do you negotiate typically?

Yes, leading up to the shoot I negotiate rates for all expenses. The cost of Fishing vessels for example, the fishing gear including wet suits and anything that may need to be included on the shoot. I also negotiate the talent’s appearances. With these types of reality TV shows, we try to get the most out of people without having to pay so negotiating is constantly required.

If they bring up money, we try to reel it back in. Normally I explain that we are a small production and we don't have a lot of money to play with and we try to make a lot happen given a small budget and if they do this show they can have the possibility to participate in a national show on a major cable network. I also tell them it's a great opportunity for their business, we can put you in the credits. I work on their emotions and try to get them really excited about it, and at the same time I’m managing expectations. 

What type of negotiator do you consider yourself? A soft or hard negotiator? Has your style changed since you started your job?

I would say it depends on the negotiation but generally I'm a soft negotiator. I think that sometimes when you're dealing with people who don't respond to that you have to respond with a harder approach.  No,  I wouldn't say  my style changed, but I've gotten more confident over time and I've gotten more clear in how I express myelf.

Do you seek the outcome of mutual benefits for both parties?

Yes, we definitely want it to be mutually beneficial. It’s not always clear with reality TV. We know it'll be beneficial to us and we can try to provide mutual benefits but in the industry its not always promised.

If a negotiation isn't going in your favor, how do you handle it? Can you give an example?

I usually try to buy myself time if a negotiation isn’t going in my favor or if I know they are asking for something we can’t give by saying I'm not in a position to make that call so I'll have to get back to you. Most of my conversations are over the phone and I reassess the situation and get back to them that way.

Can you give an example of when a negotiation went sour and now looking back what you think the cause was?

There was a time I ended up paying someone way too much, and I think the cause of that happening was that I was afraid he'd pull out and if he did, it would have put the whole shooting schedule in jeopardy. 

What do you consider to be your most successful negotiation, what did it entail and what tactics did you use to come out of it successfully?

I would say my most successful was getting loads of extremely expensive fishing equipment and gear for the entire crew for free. I accomplished this by telling half truths. I told them it would be a chance for their brand to appear in the show… we gave them the credit but it didn't appear on the show. We can only give possibilities not promises unfortunately. We got it all free though and both parties were happy about it.

**John’s name has been changed for anonymity  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Spotlight on: Hollywood Game Night

Based on the game nights that executive producer/ creator Sean Hayes would host in his very own home, Glee star Jane Lynch replaces Hayes as host and brings Hollywood Game Night to viewers’ living rooms each Thursday night. Just 3 episodes in, NBC's new game show has already taken to great reviews and is rated #1 in the 10pm time slot.

The game show takes a refreshing twist on traditional TV game shows by bringing together Hollywood celebrities and comedians, throwing liquor into the mix--audience viewers and the guests are encouraged to "drink up"-- and having them play a slew of games that include putting pictures of Jennifer Aniston's hairstyles in chronological order and naming a candy bar by looking at a cross section of it. There’s no surprise that this trifecta of fun has done so well and keeps viewers coming back for more.

The hour long show consists of two “civilians” or non-celebrity contestants playing for the chance of winning some serious cash, as they are teamed together with 3 celebrities and compete in a mix of off the wall and name that celebrity type games. Some of the celebrity teammates have included former SNL cast mates Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and Martin short among many others. The upcoming episode’s line-up, which will be airing next Thursday, August 1st at 10pm, will feature celebrity teams consisting of Tom Arnold, Stacey Keibler, Rose Byrne, Patricia Heaton and Anthony Anderson and Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

According to an article on the Futon Critic, the show has not only continues to bring in some big laughs, but has consistently done well scoring high Nielson ratings and is sure to have a bright future ahead! Each week the celebrity game show has drawn in more and more viewers in key demographics, in particular, among 25- 54 year old adults. As a new reality show on network programming this summer, Hollywood Game Night has delivered the best ratings so far for reality programming on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX tied with NBC’s Get Out Alive