May 2007 - Channel Crossing: Production

Producers and Lawyers…Can’t we all just get along?

By Drew Plotkin

I’d like to officially go on record with the following. Ready? Lawyers do not kill infomercials! I know-an odd statement from a producer. But let me explain.

At the end of the day, investors, clients and product inventors look to us for one purpose and one purpose only: to make a show work! And while there are many factors that help make the phones ring, some of the most critical are testimonials, claims and product demonstrations. And this is where our good friends-the dreaded, show-killing, creative-smothering lawyers-come into play. (I joke, of course.)

I’m a firm believer that smart producers and smart lawyers always should make an effort to work together toward the common goals of protecting product developers, marketing companies and production companies, while ensuring consumers are making purchases based on accurate and honest DRTV programming. Oftentimes though, this is easier said than done. But why?

Part of the problem is miscommunication, and it happens on both sides of the fence. Talk to any producer in this industry and the number-one frustration they have with lawyers is that they just say no, but give no options or alternatives. As producers, we love when legal notes come back with suggested revised language. It expedites the legal review process tremendously.

It’s also important for producers and lawyers to respect each other’s time and deadlines. Producers should not dump a detailed script in a lawyer’s in-box a day before a huge shoot and expect immediate script approval. But on the other hand, while nobody should be on call 24/7, if an attorney is not on the set for a specific shoot, it’s important that he or she be available for emergency calls from the set with scene or script changes. The best moments in infomercials often happen organically. Even when a script or creative is locked in place and approved by legal, the process always is evolving and can change at the last minute.

We love lawyers who possess a genuine passion for seeing a show succeed. In fact, an attorney who recently reviewed one of our shows not only gave legal comments and notes, but also shared some additional feedback on the show itself. I felt like the lawyer really enjoyed the process and was rooting for the show to be a winner (which, consequently, makes it much easier for me to accept suggested changes and revisions he wants in the show).

So at the end of the day, lawyers, even with all of their disclaimers and redline changes to our otherwise beautifully crafted works of art, simply do not kill shows. Bad products kill shows. Lousy creative kills shows. Poor directing, under-funded budgets and hosts who can’t read a prompter definitely can kill a show. And without a doubt, bad communication between producers and lawyers can hurt, if not kill a show. So I say again, can’t we all just get along?

Drew Plotkin is creative director and partner at Launch DRTV, a full service direct response production and marketing company in Marina Del Rey, Calif. He can be reached at (866) 623-DRTV, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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