I was submitting a One Sheet to a production company a while ago and they asked me to sign a submission form. This is standard practice and I wasn’t too concerned as I have worked with this company in the past.
I knew my agent was swamped busy and didn’t feel like asking him to read over the agreement so I thought I would just sign it and get the ball rolling.
Then, on second thought, I decided I should give it a read through. I actually cannot believe I was thinking of signing it without anyone reading it, and it was a good thing I looked it over because right in the middle of the submission agreement was this line:
“In consideration for your examination of the submitted material, I hereby grant to you the right of first negotiation with respect to the exclusive rights to the submitted material.”
What? I give you the right of first negotiation because you were willing to look at this? No I certainly do not!
Had I signed this, my hands would have been tied if one of the other companies I had submitted this to were interested. It wouldn’t matter how much better an offer was from a competing company, I would have been locked in with these guys if they wanted it.
Now, I am not saying they were trying to pull a fast one because I don’t think they were. It’s not written in legalese and it was right out there in the open. But, this is why you NEVER sign anything you or your agent has not read.
After I spotted this line I sent it to my agent, pointed out the clause, and asked him to give it a look to see if there was anything else we should cross out. As I figured, the rest of it was fine. I drew a line through the clause I didn’t like, signed it, and sent it in.
Note: the production company is under no obligation to accept the revised contract, but, we already have a working relationship and I told them I could not possibly sign with that clause in the form as other companies had the same material I had submitted to them. They were fine with that and we moved forward from there.
This situation was a gentle reminder that it doesn’t matter how many times you have worked with a company, or what kind of relationship you have with them, you are responsible for making sure you don’t sign anything that is not in your best interest. Do not assume that the form you signed last time is the same as the one you are signing today.
Looking back, it was completely ignorant of me not to get my agent to read it. It doesn’t cost me a thing to have him do that, and it had the potential to cost me a lot if I hadn’t seen that line.
We work long and hard to get a show that is ready to pitch and is, what we believe, ready to go to air. Don’t cut corners. It could cost you.