Review from screenwriter and Hollywood dealmaker Bridget Tyler. Enjoy. -JO
Hollywood Dealmaking: Negotiating Talent Agreements for Film, TV and New Media, 2nd Ed. by Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits is a book written by lawyers, and you can tell. This manual on the minutiae of Hollywood deal-making is certainly thorough, but it’s not even entertaining when it’s trying to be, which isn’t often.
Authors Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits certainly have plenty of experience with their subject matter. Yankelevits is an attorney for Sony Pictures and Appleton is special counsel in the Entertainment, Media and Technology Practice Group at the law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. They both also teach UCLA extension courses and Appleton is a columnist for Backstage magazine. Despite their bona fides, they aren’t very compelling teachers.
The upside of “Hollywood Dealmaking” is that it is packed with sample agreements for just about every kind of entertainment contract. If you’re an independent producer trying to produce your own contracts, this book will be an extremely helpful tool. The end of chapter “Deal Point Summary” pages are also very useful and a great way to get a quick grasp on what you should expect in a contract.
Unfortunately, the parts of the book that aren’t sample contracts (less than half of the 303 pages) are written in the same dense legalese as the sample agreements. This isn’t the book to read if you’re looking for a layman’s understanding of how Hollywood works. It’s also not the best place to learn the fine points of the creative side of the business. For instance, Appleton and Yankelevits call executives who are responsible for creative decisions “Creative Executives.” Creative Executive is a specific title, and a rather junior one at that. The creative decisions in Hollywood are made by people in the Production and Development departments. These executives have fought long and hard for their titles, so referring to a Vice President of Development as a Creative Exec is a good way to poison a relationship.
Reading too much of “Dealmaking” at once, without a specific goal in mind like “I need to figure out how to write an option agreement” is a recipe for eye-crossing boredom. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a useful part of the bookshelf for aspiring entertainment professionals. Just don’t expect it to be particularly entertaining.