We sat down with Mark Litwak to discuss ways filmmakers can protect themselves, and what checks and balances the Indie Film Ecosystem might need.
Welcome to the Cinema of Change podcast with Tobias Deml and Robert Rippberger. Cinema of Change is a magazine and community that challenges the conventions of film and its ability to effect change in the world. This episode is an interview with entertainment attorney Mark Litwak called, “Filmmaking Pitfalls in Deal-Making and Distribution.”
Mark Litwak is a veteran entertainment attorney. As a Producer’s Representative, he assists filmmakers in arranging financing, marketing and distribution of their films. Litwak has packaged movie projects and served as executive producer on such feature films as “The Proposal,” “Out Of Line,” “Pressure,” and “Diamond Dog.” He has provided legal services or worked as a producer rep on more than 200 feature films.
Litwak’s significance can be see in Disney’s Wreck it Ralph – where the filmmakers decided to name the owner of the arcade which encapsulates the entire plot, “Mr. Litwak”.
Content of this Episode:
- 0:22 – Introduction
- 1:33 – After learning filmmaking, what business pitfalls are common for young filmmakers?
- 5:15 – How is the Film Industry like the Wild West – creatively and in dealmaking?
- 9:11 – How can first-time filmmakers survive the Sharks in Sales and Distribution?
- 12:10 – Reporting the Bad Players: What was your Litwak Filmmakers’ Clearinghouse?
- 15:53 – CAM (Collection Account Management) – how do they help with accountability and fairness for the filmmaker?
- 19:52 – What happened to the Filmmaker’s Clearinghouse?
- 20:40 – Even Ethical Distributors will be out for their own best interest – is that true?
- 22:20 – What criteria do you base your client selection on? What homework should a filmmaker bring to a lawyer?
- 26:44 – How is New Media influencing the market and distribution?
- 34:38 – Can Indie Distribution even compete anymore with vertically integrated SVOD platforms like Hulu and Netflix?
- 39:03 – What progress can be made in the Filmmaker > Sales Agent > Distributor workflow?
- 42:44 – How can a producer put their best foot forward towards a lawyer?
- 45:50 – How can a filmmaker prepare for working with an Entertainment Lawyer?
- 46:46 – What resources exist in the film industry that even the playing field of sales and distribution a bit in favor of the independent filmmaker?
Litwak is also the author of six books: Reel Power, The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood (William Morrow, 1986), Courtroom Crusaders (William Morrow, 1989), Dealmaking in the Film & Television Industry (Silman-James Press, 1994) (winner of the 1996 Kraszna-Krausz award for best book in the world on the film business), Contracts for the Film & Television Industry (Silman-James Press, 3rd Ed. 2012), Litwak’s Multimedia Producer’s Handbook (Silman-James Press, 1998), and Risky Business: Financing and Distributing Independent Film (Silman-James Press, 2004).
He is an adjunct professor at the U.S.C. Gould School of Law where he teaches entertainment law.
Litwak has a B.A. and M.A. degrees from Queens College of the City University of New York. He received his J.D. degree from the University of San Diego in 1977.
We hope you find this conversation interesting and insightful. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss an episode. Until next time, be the change that you want to see in the world. Then turn it into cinema.