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What happens if I get a new agent but then an old project gets produced?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: I have been with my agent for two years now and in that time he managed to sell one of my scripts. Nothing has happened with this project and I am looking for a new agent. My question is, what happens down the line if I have a new agent but the old project gets produced? Who gets the commission?

The fact that your agent sold one of your scripts within the initial term of your agreement with the agent is usually a good sign. That being said, you would have to review your agreement with your agent to determine if and how such issues as contract termination and the effects on properties which your agent submitted during the agreement’s term would be addressed. An issue usually arises if your former agent submitted your project to XYZ Studio and then the agreement with your agent has been terminated.

Depending on the terms of your agreement with your former agent, your former agent may be entitled to receive a commission even after the agreement’s termination since the former agent initially brought the project to XYZ Studio. Hopefully, this sort of non-circumvention provision in your former agent’s agreement with you is for a limited period of time and not in perpetuity.

In another and more troublesome scenario, your former agent may have made a deal with XYZ Studio during the agreement’s term such as XYZ Studio having optioned your project and then XYZ Studio decides to exercise its right to purchase the rights in and to the project after your agreement with your former agent terminates. Depending on what is stated in your agreement with your former agent, your former agent could be entitled to receive his or her entire commission even if the option is exercised after your agreement with your former agent has terminated but before the exercise of the option by XYZ Studio.

After all, your former agent made the deal. Right?

Your new agent may understand that that your former agent may be entitled to receive a commission if a deal had been made regarding your project during the term of the former agent’s agreement in which the deal addressed the option and its exercise as well as the payment of the purchase price for your project. However, if your former agent submitted your project to XYZ Studio but the actual deal was made with XYZ Studio after your agreement with your former agent had ended and now the new agent negotiates the deal on your behalf with XYZ Studio, your new agent would not be too pleased having the commission paid to your former agent.

Therefore, first check your agreement with your agent now and see if these scenarios are addressed in the agreement or could be addressed (especially the second scenario) in any revised settlement agreement with your soon to be former agent. If such renegotiation does not occur and your former agent would be entitled to the commission, then you may be able to get your former agent and your new agent agree to split the commission on that project.

You should have an entertainment attorney review your current agreement in light of these and other issues.

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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