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A Contract's Not Enough

April 24, 1993

Re Terry Pristin and James Bates' "The Climbing Game" (Section A, March 29): As an entertainment attorney who represents many independent filmmakers, I often find myself in the position of trying to get unscrupulous distributors to live up to their contracts. I am constantly amazed at how many distributors simply refuse to abide by their agreements.

I am not talking here about the major studios. While they engage in creative accounting by interpreting ambiguous clauses in their favor, they usually feel obliged to comply with the clear terms of their contracts. I am talking about the many small, independent distributors who flagrantly breach contracts and take unconscionable advantage of inexperienced filmmakers.

There are a hundred ways that distributors can and do cheat filmmakers. They know all the tricks of the trade, while the filmmaker usually knows little about distribution and how to protect himself.

It is very sad to see young filmmakers financially ruined and emotionally crushed by these distributors. Most of these filmmakers have put all their resources and begged and borrowed heavily from friends and relatives to make their films. When they are unable to recoup their investment, they are often forced to leave the industry and give up their filmmaking careers. Industry young are being eaten alive by these companies.

MARK LITWAK

Santa Monica

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