Tag Archives: talent

What is a first-look deal?

Let’s say you just directed a film that won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, or you’re an actor attached to a film that did gangbusters in the box office, or you’re the creator of a nationally syndicated TV show. You are what we call a PROVEN TALENT. The studios and TV networks need people like you to create content for them and hedge their risk in this volatile business. To do this, they will offer you a first-look deal.

This is an agreement that’s made between an above-the-line talent and a movie studio, network, TV studio or production company (for simplicity sake, let’s call this “the company”). Most A-list actors, directors, producers and writers have an overall deal. This agreement basically states that the talent must allow the company right of first refusal to produce, finance and/or distribute any of their projects. In other words, the company gets first dibs on anything the talent develops. If the company passes on the project, the talent is free to shop that project elsewhere. In return for this arrangement, the company will pay the talent and annual fee and cover all their overhead expenses to run their company. If it’s a movie studio, the company will provide office space and other amenities on the lot. Another benefit for the talent that the company will funnel all their property to them. So if the company acquires a huge property, they’ll approach their talent with overall deals first. For example, Disney owns THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and since Jerry Bruckheimer has an overall deal with them, they will go to him first to produce the film. Or when Paramount acquired Transformers, the first person up for the job was Michael Bay since he had a first look deal with the studio.

NOTE: This is different from an overall deal where anything the producer develops must stay within the studio and can’t be taken elsewhere even if they pass.

If you want a quick reference on where the latest overall movie studio deals are, search Variety for their latest “Facts On Pacts”.

Here are some overall deals you should know:

Disney
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Boxing Cat Films (Tim Allen)
POW! Entertainment (Stan Lee)
Mark Gordon Company

Warner Bros
Appian Way (Leonardo DiCaprio)
Carousel Productions (Steve Carell)
Green Hat Films (Todd Phillips)
MalPaso (Clint Eastwood)
Life’s Too Short (Chuck Lorre)
Lin Pictures (Dan Lin)
Ninjas Runnin’ Wild (Zac Efron)
Pearl Street (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon)
Revelations (Morgan Freeman)
22nd & Indiana (Bradley Cooper)

Universal
Aggregate (Jason Bateman)
Apatow Productions (Judd Apatow)
Blumouse Productions (Jason Blum)
ImageMovers (Robert Zemeckis)
Imagine Entertainment (Brian Grazer, Ron Howard)
K/O Paper Products (Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci)
One Race Films (Vin Diesel)
Wild Wild West  Picture Show (Vince Vaughn)

Sony
Happy Madison (Adam Sandler)
Overbrook Entertainment (Will Smith)
Scott Rudin Productions
Smoke House (George Clooney)
Syco (Simon Cowell)
Trigger Street (Kevin Spacey)
Hey Eddie (Kevin James)
Laurence Mark Productions
Original Film (Neal Moritz)

20th Century Fox
Bad Hat Harry Productions (Bryan Singer)
Film Rites (Steve Zaillian)
Lightstorm (James Cameron)
Peter Chernin Film
Red Hour Films (Ben Stiller)
Scott Free (Ridley Scott)

Paramount
Plan B (Brad Pitt)
Bad Robot ( JJ Abrams)
Di Bonaventura Pictures
Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay)
Sikelia Productions (Martin Scorsese)
Four By Two Films (Sacha Baron Cohen)

Lionsgate
Tyler Perry Productions

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What are the different types of agents within a talent agency?

Within a talent agency, you typically have different types of agents…not all of them are referred to as “talent agents”.

Literary agents work with writers and directors. Motion picture lit agents represent writers/directors who work in feature film and TV lit agents represent writers/directors who work in…you guessed it…TV.

Talent agents represent with actors & actresses.

Book agents represent authors.

Public appearance agents represent comedians and public speakers

Commercial agents represent actors and actresses but are only concerned with booking them jobs in TV commercials and other forms of advertising.

Voice-over agents represent voice-over actors.

A lot of the time, client will have agents from all divisions as a part of their team. For example most TV writers also work in the feature film work and vice versa.

Testing, Testing, and more Testing.

TESTING is one of the most over-looked, but under rated tasks that is executed by a director or producer. Testing is done in pre-production and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The purpose is to gather your creative team with your talent and test how the different visual creative elements look on camera. This includes costumes, make-up, hair, production design and even rehearsal. This process is absolutely essential and beneficial for a number of reasons.

1. Gives your creative team an opportunity to make sure their vision looks the way they want it to look on camera. Often times creative problems will arise and you don’t want to be sorting out these sort of issues during production. This is fairly obvious.

2. Allows your actor(s) to interact with the artists and build a good rapport with them before production. This is extremely important as you do not unseen personality clashes to occur during production.

3. Allows your director to make sure his creative team is on the same page as him/her.

3. Be sure to take pictures of hair, make-up and costumes especially after the actor and director has approved of them. As a producer, this protects you if creative disputes arise during production. For example, if you’re on set ready to shoot, and the director is happy with an actor’s make-up but the actor is not, you can use the previously taken photo, which was approved by the unhappy actor, to help you deal with the actor.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time – at least one month – before shooting starts in order to allow your creative team to test with the talent.

Casting Before Financing???

The biggest obstacle that any independent film producer faces when producing a movie always comes down to financing. How do you get money? Even if your project is amazing, you still need to reach out to the people  with money. How do you accomplish this…especially if you are not an established film producer? I asked a former film producer-turned agent, and he offered me some interesting advice. If you are not established and have not built relationships with financiers, agents or managers,  one of the best things you can do is HIRE A CASTING DIRECTOR. ……..Huh? Yes, the first person to spend your money on is a casting director. A casting director has first degree relationships with all the agencies. If she likes the script, she’s going to work her hardest to get the best talent attached to the project. To do this, the first line of attack are the agents. In addition to a plethora of actors, they also have access to financiers, and if they believe the project is good, it’s in their best interest to help you get it financed. In other words, casting directors is a way to “pay” to get access to agents and, in essence, get access to financing. The agents will also help get great talent attached to your project, which again, will attract financing.

What is an Executive Producer for film?

An executive producer (EP) for film is very different from an executive producer for TV. For film, an EP is a very abstract title. It can mean a number of things. To put it simply, and executive producer is some one who provides an important contribution to the project. This could include financing, or commitment from A-List actor or director. Their involvement with the film could stop at that, or they can be involved in the everyday workings of the project. It depends on the project and the EP. A lot of times managers of A-List actors will get an EP credit on a film even they had nothing to do with the production of that film.  strike an actor deal with the studio and their client.

What is a “Back-End Payment”?

Also commonly referred to as “participation” or “contingency”, a back-end payment is a type of compensation usually given to an above-the-line talent on a film. This means that the talent will receive a percentage of the revenue generated after the film is completed and is typically given to the talent in addition to his or her fixed upfront fee. This could include box office sales, foreign sales, VOD sales, DVD sales, and sales from other ancillary markets. How the back-end payment is defined varies from project to project, and depends solely  on the negotiating abilities of the talent. The talent may negotiate for “gross-participation” in which the talent receives a percentage of the revenue before certain expenses have been deducted. This is often referred to as “First-Dollar-Gross”, which is every talent’s objective to attain in a back-end negotiation. In other words, as soon as the first-dollar of revenue has been generated, the talent starts receiving a percentage of that revenue. The talent may negotiate for a percentage of “distributor’s adjusted gross” which means that the talent will receive a percentage of the revenue after a defined break-even point has been reached. The talent may also negotiate for a percentage of “net-profit”, however, this is type of deal is rarely done as a film, according to standard accounting principles, rarely reaches net profit.

What is “Talent”?

In film terms, this refers to primary actors, writers, directors, and producers. As a producer, one of the best ways to bring attention or financing to your project is by attaching talent to it. This could mean getting a commitment for an actor to star in your lead role, and having a director to agree on directing your film once financing is set in place.