Cam and I spent the end of 2012 watching West of Her in our minds. I considered the films that had influenced my script, and watched other films to see how they could influence us going forward. We looked at frames from other films, we looked at photos of the places we’d be going, and we batted around actors we dreamed of offering the parts to. But as 2013 began, our thoughts turned to the nitty gritty details required in getting ourselves to Chicago with cast, crew, and equipment in six months. Though we’d decided not to seek help from big-time producers, it did seem like the right time to grow the team. And so, in those first few weeks of the new year, we added two key players to the West of Her family.
I’d known Dave since college—he’d been Brad in our production of Rocky Horror, and I’d been a terribly out-of-breath Eddie—and in the years since graduating, he’d been working as a producer in New York, recently collaborating on a short film that was making the rounds and racking up awards at festivals. I reached out to Dave, asking if there was any way for us to make movie magic together. After reading the script, he was onboard, and we had another producer.
Dave, Cam, and I started talking on Skype once a week—I typically had a lengthy list of talking points, but even when I couldn’t think of anything, we made sure to sign on anyway. We always quickly thought of something essential that had slipped my mind. And early on, Dave pointed out a big one: we needed a lawyer.
It hadn’t occurred to me yet, but an entertainment lawyer is an essential piece to get in place early. Dave had worked with Gray Krauss Stratford Sandler DesRochers LLP, a firm with an office in New York, and he put me in touch with Josh, who became the fourth member of our team. Entertainment law is a very specific set of skills and services that—in the event of some worst-case scenario—can make or break your production. A good lawyer was an expense, but it let me sleep a whole lot better at night.
Josh ended up advising us on many issues over the next few years. The primary service he and his firm provided was in drawing up agreements and contracts. If I could think of a few points a contract needed to cover, Josh had a few dozen others, and helped us put together thick documents that remained totally transparent, in addition to allowing for some bizarre theoretical circumstances—if anyone working on the film were to claim to have become handicapped, I was within my rights to hire investigators to ensure s/he wasn’t fleecing me, an eventuality I’ve happily been able to avoid so far. Similarly, the death of any crewmember does, in fact, nullify his or her contract—being legally bound to ghosts and the undead is best avoided.
In addition to helping us contract crew members, Josh would go on to aid in establishing chain of title and copyright, as well as clearance and insurance and other confusing busywork that would take up time further down the line, and which I’ll detail in later entries. But with legal protection in place, it was time for the producers to turn to scheduling and budgeting, and figure out whether production of this movie was even feasible. Though the existence of this website may be a spoiler, check back next week to find out how we went about it…