Copyright, Accountants, Lawyers & Mickey Spillane

Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash
Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

Hello and Welcome to Spring!!

In Florida, it’s hard to tell because we only have two seasons…Brown and Green. Just one is slightly hotter than the other. And people wonder why I play Satan with such ease…

You’ve had some time to think about getting started in film from the last time we blogged, and so I’m sure you have the next big thing sitting on the edge of your skulls. Down here, that would be one of our massive mosquitos, but if you’re anywhere but FLA it should be the idea for a film.

So, let’s talk about setting up the film shoot.

Before you even hire or sucker…Er…talk anyone of your friends into helping you, there’s three things you must do! And, I am gonna be serious for once.

First thing, you have to copyright that script.

A REAL copyright not any BS you read on the web or from personal injury attorney your cousin knows but says law is law. Yeah and truth is not truth. Capisce?

Simply go to this link first. This will tell you all you need before you file.

Next, go here to get an idea of what to do before filing a screenplay online.

Now that you’re all full of info, go to YouTube. This video by an entertainment attorney will guide you through the process.

NOTE: Use Firefox to register. Google Chrome and other web browsers may not work, or you can just snail mail file it using the first PDF I listed.

Cripes, I need a beer now. All that ‘seriousity’ harshed my blog buzz.

The next step is to get a good accountant.

Why? Because, lawyers are not the best choice for incorporation papers if you plan to go commercial or even if not, then they are lousy at figuring out where your money goes, who will get paid, how they get paid and how the hell to pay.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a commercial or just for fun film.  If you plan to enter it in festivals or try and get distribution, you need a CPA. I learned this lesson the hard way. You want good accounting and a real CPA. Not an MBA or a bookkeeper. If you are going to do this right, then do it right the first time.

Now on to my favorite part. Lawyers.

No, I despise most and telling you what to watch out for is my favorite part. One thing first…You must find a true entertainment attorney. Not just copyright or trademark lawyer (I’ll get into that at the end), but someone who knows how the film industry. Otherwise, you need a contract attorney to write non-disclosure agreements, work for hire stuff, non-indemnification so some actor or production member or location owner does not sue you black and blue ‘cause they are humans and most humans can dangerous. This is why I prefer animals and werewolves. You know they are capable of biting you and so you respect that.

So, now you’re thinking:  “Dang, Mitch! Why are you being a buzz kill about happy glowy movie time? Smile, Cowboy!  Here. Have a Snickers…”

I write this because when I taught college, I promised to not give anything but the truth when teaching. I wish most politicians thought this way. But, if you want something sugar coated and not the truth, go get a doughnut.

You have to know what I learned about film from working with Oscar-winner, Maximilian Schell on a film years back.

He told me “Making a movie is not about fun; it’s about war. You are moving people and equipment. You have to feed and supply them. You must ensure their safety and not put them in harm’s way unless you have no choice and make sure they understand that. And you must work together to win.”

BTW, we talked about this over coffee and a doughnut. What it means is that feed them, watch them and care about them. They will care for you in return. My actors and makeup crew were the greatest in this respect. So, for example, no leaving them out freezing or broiling and no putting dangerous objects or stunts or contact lenses that don’t fit right or covering them in Karo syrup-based blood that will attract every insect on the planet.

Years ago, I became friendly with the original actor who played “Cousin It” in the old Addams Family TV show, but he also was in Star Wars and Batman movies. He was left to freeze in a penguin suit in one and launched in a hang glider into a pond in another. He also wound up on fire when a fellow actor placed a cigar on his head for a laugh and the hairy material, he was in caught fire and he was finally put out by being rolled around on the floor by Lurch. True stories of old school Hollywood, folks.

Now that I’ve scared you back into just watching cat videos and thinking a career in hauling around defunct rocket gear for NASA’s trash contractors (which I have done and THAT is a story for another blog) might be better options, please don’t. I always tell the ‘no-no’ list first, because if you don’t do this stuff and find the people and things I listed above the scary stuff, you will be fine. The don’t list is short and then everything else is right and easier to do. OK, think that is enough for now. Next time, we will get you ready to film!

But now, a “No shit, there I was minding my own business” tale…

Back in the 1990s when I was just getting started, a company named Tekno Comix was getting going and had some serious celebrity writers and concept people on board.  Neil Gaiman, Leonard Nimoy and one guy who became my pulp writing idol and gave me the best advice I ever got besides what my Dad and Mom told me in my life. He was one of the last of the hard-boiled pulp fiction writers. Mickey Spillane.

Mickey was like his creation “Mike Hammer P.I” of the famous ‘50s novel, I, the Jury. He wore a trench coat, wore an old school fedora, and loved good scotch. He also knew how to throw a serious punch. Mickey was on tour promoting his comic, Mike Danger a kind of updated, Mike Hammer. Mickey had been writing comics since the ‘40s including Captain America and others. Even his Mike Hammer character was supposed to be a comic in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but due to the business being as screwy as today, he went the novel route. I weirdly wound up doing the same with Vinnie and Mook. Maybe it’s a crime drama thing. Comics have never been a great place for those. Here is a link to a great interview with Mickey Spillane done by Roy Thomas.

Mickey was in Florida with other Tekno luminaries promoting the line of books. I ran into him at one of the Florida promotions. I told him I was just getting started and had my first story published only two months earlier. I was nervous and so made my usual batch of snide jokes about how weird the business was hoping I wasn’t coming off like a jerk. He looked at me with those steely eyes and then he laughed. He liked the way I told a story. He asked me if I drank like a proper writer and I said, of course. But only good single malt scotch, and he grinned. He had me sit down and since it was quiet at the place, we talked. He told me my style was pulp fiction married with comic bullshit. Yep. He also told me that a writer “writes,” an “author” is like Margaret Mitchell and like her novel promotes only one thing at a time and later is “Gone with the Wind.” He said learn to use and repair typewriters because unlike computers, you don’t have to worry about plugging it in. (Obviously no IBM Selectric models for Mickey) I have a couple of old typewriters from the ‘30s and ‘40s and know how to keep them going because they are cool and will help write wherever I am when the muse hits me. During a hurricane, I was able to finish a Bubba script that was on a critical deadline.

So, go find one and learn how to use it. You can always scan those pages when the lights come back on. And keep one in a garbage bag just in case of flooding. Serious.

Mickey and I spoke about boxing, which I have been doing since I was a kid and just life in general. He gave me a method to land a nasty hook to the jaw in bar and I walked away with a headful of ideas and focus. Now knew what I wanted to do with my work and headed off into the sunrise of creativity. As a tribute to Mickey, I wear a fedora, drink my single malt scotch neat (no ice) and drive around in old classic cars because it’s fun and it’s the way a true pulp fiction person should be.

And ladies, this isn’t just testosterone stuff, you can do the same and with even cooler clothes, hats, style and attitude. Because, writing and the brain have no true gender if you do it right. Everyone can tell a story and live a fantasy in the real world if you work at it.

So, there we are folks. Another massive missive from me and hopefully enjoyed by you. My video newsletter has more stuff to tell you and I got a bit creative because, I make film and so, that kind of news was better suited and will be in the future. Come here to learn and go to my vlogs to be amused.

Catch up soon and remember to get in on the “Lucky 13” contest and get a limited as hell Bubba comic!

Yours unruly,