Minicomic -> Short film -> ?
September 7, 2011 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I self-published a minicomic that someone now wants to adapt into a short film. Awesome! What issues should I be aware of?

I am not out to make a bunch of money right off the bat, nor do I expect to. And who knows if anything will actually come of this? But I also don't want to get screwed if something amazing happens down the line (say it gets optioned for a feature). I would be happy to get: a few bucks now, the opportunity to approve/consult on the project, my name on the film somewhere, and SOME kind of compensation should this somehow make any real money.

Also potentially important (?): In the comic's indicia, instead of a copyright notice I included a Creative Commons (Non-commercial/Attribution/Share-alike) notice. How applicable is that here and how much power does it have?

Should I get a lawyer? I don't have tons of money. Is there a standard contract available somewhere that I can use?

Any advice or pointers to relevant resources much appreciated.
posted by mumblingmynah to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hire a lawyer. I had a short story optioned, and it only cost me $250 bucks to have the contract reviewed. Make sure there's a time limit on the rights. 12 or 18 months or so. Make sure you don't sign the rights away forever. These things often tend to fall through, and you don't want to give the rights away permanently.
posted by dortmunder at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2011

IMO, for a short film, don't worry a whole bunch about money, but make sure you don't sign away more rights than the absolutely minimum you need to sign away to get the film made, which a lawyer can handle for you.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2011

In the comic's indicia, instead of a copyright notice I included a Creative Commons (Non-commercial/Attribution/Share-alike) notice. How applicable is that here and how much power does it have?

It basically means they can make the film without signing a contract as long as they don't intend to make any money from it and offer their film with the same license.
posted by empath at 12:01 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Let them option your comic for a period of time for this project only and that in the event that someone sees and likes their film and wants to remake it or expand it-that person has to negotiate with you for the rights to your comic, which is the basis for the short.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:13 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: All good answers! Thank you for the suggestions, everybody.
posted by mumblingmynah at 5:35 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: Ex-film guy and current law student here. This is not legal advice, of course.

First, check out the Writer's Guild West. There's also a Writer's Guild East, but they're more focused on theater and TV. WGAW are the go-to people on movies. Check out their Contracts page. This is way more than you need, now, but could save your life later if the project goes anywhere.

As far as your agreement with the short filmmakers goes, consult a lawyer and keep it as simple as possible. Ask your local bar association to refer you to an entertainment lawyer, who will be familiar with the issues. You want a non-exclusive limited arrangement with the filmmakers (so that they can't stop you licensing your work to Big Studio), you want a prominent credit that mentions you and your work ('Based on Awesome Comic by Mumbling Mynah'). 'Prominent' means you get your own title card with font size and style that are the same size as the Producer/Director/Writer credit. This is free for the filmmakers, who'll be glad to do it.

Get some cash from them - it'll only be a token amount, but the point is that you want the production team to think of your work as something valuable that they bought a right to, not something they found for free and can treat as disposable. You would be astonished at how big a difference this makes over the lifetime of a project; in the former case your work is a text to be realized as fully as possible, in the latter case it's downgraded to 'inspiration' and the production team will take mental ownership of it.

As for the negotiable elements, talk to your lawyer and go with your vibe. You want the filmmakers to be invested enough to promote the hell out of the thing and part of that means giving them an economic incentive. On the other hand you absolutely don't want to give them more than a limited license, or they'll just sell you out cheap like every other writer is sold out by movie people. As mentioned above, a limited (12-18 months) option is the industry standard. Do not license or even option ancillaries, which is a code-word for spin-offs and merchandise. If your comic has any kind of mass-market appeal and the film gods smile on the project, this is the revenue stream from which you are most likely to see money.

Be patient, film is a 'hurry up and wait' type industry. That's one reason you put a ticking clock element by using a time-limited option. Otherwise projects would sit in inboxes firever.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:51 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Smart car smart or not so smart?   |   Looking for the horror movie that gave me... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.