Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Agent Q&A: Hollywood Part 1

Join us today as Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency gives us the low down on movie and tv rights. Feel free to post questions for clarification at the end. Today's lesson is a listing of the key players involved. Next week will be more details about how things work.

The movie industry is much different than the literary marketplace. In publishing, literary agents are very open and receptive to working with new authors and helping them to develop their careers. And, it’s pretty cut and dry – you work with a literary agent who then will attempt to sell your manuscript and its subsidiary rights. In the movie industry, however, authors usually will find themselves working with three key people – a manager, an agent and an entertainment attorney.

Management Companies:
A management company is similar to a literary agency. Like an agent, most managers are hands-on people. They work closely with their authors to help nurture and develop their careers. They offer guidance and support as well as constructive criticism to help perfect a project before it goes out the door. Often if the management company is working with a previously published book, they will secure a writer who will commit to rework the novel into a script. Also, unlike their counterparts, managers are not afraid to work with fresh talent.

California has tight laws in place to protect authors and to control the entertainment industry. For instance, a manager is not allowed to negotiate a deal – they can only facilitate it. Therefore, a manager will work closely with an agent when a deal is offered. Most management companies charge on average 15% of the author’s share from the deal. The commission a management company receives is not regulated by California law.

Hollywood agents play an integral part in a movie deal. Normally, they will not work with new talent. They are more interested in jumping in when a deal is ready to be negotiated. As I mentioned, managers are not allowed to negotiate legally, so they call in an agent to do the negotiating on their behalf. And, agents in Hollywood are regulated by state law and cannot receive a commission more than 10% for their efforts.

Entertainment Attorneys:
Often times an author will hire on an entertainment attorney before they sign-off on a deal. The attorney will in turn read though the contract and will work with the agent to negotiate the best terms they can on behalf of the author. An attorney normally charges 5% of the deal.

The Bottom Line
Therefore, if you are an author entering into a deal without a literary agent, you could expect to pay about 30% of your share to a management company, an agency and an attorney.


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