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16.3.05 Jon & Michael meet top Manchester lawyer, Terry Osborn

Posted by Jon Williams, 29 August 2007 · 680 views

One of the very many good reasons to be members of NWPD is that you can get a limited amount of access to one of the top intellectual property rights lawyers in the country, Terry Osborn of Nexus Solicitors. And as Bad Lad has blazed a trail for the principle of making 'no-budget' films on a profit share basis, we're having to work out the details as we go along as there ain't no-one out there with any templates. But fortunately there are people like Terry Osborn.

But it started out as such a day. We set off with plenty of time to spare, but then we're just starting to drive into Manchester from the motorway and suddenly all the traffic's backed up because the main road's closed for repairs (no warning signs, no diversion signs, nothing). So, after trying to find our way to the city centre through backstreets and council estates, we finally arrive more than half-an-hour late.

Nexus solicitors is on Albert Square - same square as Manchester Town Hall. We go up in the lift, press the buzzer and the door clicks open. Wow! Inside it looks like a set from a John Grisham scripted movie. The receptions an oval office with doors panelled in a wood too exotic for me to have a clue what it is, but you wouldn't be surprised if Tom Cruise or Al Pacino came walking through one of them. Fortunately Terry's in jeans and an open neck shirt, and he takes us into the conference room where we must have spent at least an hour-and-a-half of his time.

Terry has really clarified how we need to approach this. Firstly there's acquisitions which, in this case a my script and Simon's music - for which he will need to cut deals and obtain releases from any performers who have been involved. When that's done the company will own these relevant rights.

But, as with regards to everything else, these rights will be acquired on a profit-share basis - it's the deal we made verbally with everyone and Terry says even though there's nothing in writing we couldn't back out (not that we'd want to, heaven forbid) as everyone would back everyone else up.

We then have to first make as fair a division as possible between pre-production, production, post-production, and sales and marketing (presently the on-going work). Then it's a case of estimating in percentage terms what each cast and crew member put into the production.

Obviously if someone did half-a-days camera because Paul wasn't available then their percentage would be minute, possibly less than 0.05%. Provided that the film is sold it should have the legs to do business for many years to come so 0.05% could be worth a bit after ten years, but that's a long time to wait and it's a lot of admin keeping in touch so as to be able to send someone a cheque for twenty quid here and thirty quid there. So Terry suggested that we could offer those on the very very small percentages the option of a buy out at, for example, union rates + 100% once the film has generated sufficient revenues.

Ultimately this will end up with very simple contracts saying, in effect, I grant the rights to the commercial exploitation of my work on the film in return for x% of the net returns to the company. And we can't say fairer than that.

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What’s wrong with the British Film Industry – not just a blog, also a series of articles and polemics by Jonathan Williams, one-time media academic and the writer/producer of “Diary of a Bad Lad”

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