Television, and Hollywood for that matter, is run by accountants and lawyers. Oh some of them go by other names…agents, business managers, etc., but when all is said and done, big entertainment works like the contract you sign when you rent a car. You see the shiny red mustang convertible at Hertz. You plunk down your credit card. They ask you to sign the contract. You sign, eyes on the road ahead, mind on the hair blowing and the sun shining. You throw the contract in the glove compartment. Next time you think of that little piece of paper, if nothing of note happens while you drive, is when you turn the car back in.
If something does happen, like spilling ink on the seat, or cracking the window, or wrecking the transmission, or a slight fender bender. THEN! You’ve entered a new realm.
Pull out that contract NOW! First thing you notice is the quint-fold-out form. (yes five panels unfold from what looked like a simple flyer) This petite paper is actually a 20 page contract were it on regular legal paper. This simple car rental envelope, turns out to be an origamied contractual masterwork, distilled by 90 years of legal and actuarial minds from the best universities in the world. The entire case history of every car incident is assumed, right there in your finger tips. Incomprehensible legalese flows off the page like a heaving, beating, throbbing thesaurus with teeth. The smallness of the print, 3 point at most, strikes you as being too small for hope.
You get a sinking feeling which turns into a panicked urge to yelp, “someone should have explained this to me”! But you quell the yelp. You realize the utter impracticality of having had a lawyer come down to Hertz to apprise you of all possible scenarios the contract subsumes. You realize who is your daddy. Lawyers and accountants. You are simply inventory.
Hence the comparison to TV. Only instead of wrecked cars triggering legal action, in television it is “green-lit” shows. Every contract is written as if a show goes on to become American Idol. This makes sense. But you in fact do have to have an attorney come down and look at the Hertz contract the television channel unfolds. They want to drive your show. They want to OWN your show. They want the right to claim it is their show! And if they want, they’d like to warehouse your show. It costs ten thousand dollars to have a lawyer spell this out.
My partner and I have two green-lit shows. My partner, it turns out, doesn’t have 10k. This hertz.
He might be sleeping in the convertible mustang…