It’s a fiction based in fact: Yes, in Los Angeles, many waiters, taxi drivers, physicians, lawyers and others are wannabe authors of screenplays. The phones ring off the hook with daily calls from aspiring script writers trying to run down leads from every reporter in town who digs up, writes and gets published in some kind of fashion a decent human interest yarn. And the local court files are filled with true stories of disputes launched when an unknown slips her unsolicited manuscript in a weird setting to a Tinsletown mogul.
The law can be a jungle to navigate and Entertainment Law is its own gnarly beast. And too often writers and Hollywood creatives can find themselves on the wrong side of a cease-and-desist letter or a more serious legal claim, which entertainment lawyers must ride in to the rescue with tedious or expensive work to try to resolve.
So how can Hollywood hopefuls stay one step ahead of a real legal or courtroom calamity? How about through some online advice from Mark Litwak, a seasoned, Beverly Hills Entertainment Lawyer who has provided legal services or represented producers on more than 100 feature films. On his blog Entertainment Law Resources, Litwak has laid out useful tips to help artists avoid infringing on the rights of others. He touches on portraying fictional characters, using care about people who can be identified, defamation, invasion of privacy and their defenses.
A nifty, sample tip from him about portraying fictional characters: “Give characters unusual names that no living individual would have. Check the phone book to see if any people with your character’s name reside at the location portrayed in your story. If there is a person in that community with the same name or a similar one, consider changing the locale or setting the story in a fictional locale. Add a disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.”