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S.F. LAWYER GETS IN ON FILM FESTIVAL’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY Who says you need to be in L.A. to do entertainment law? San Francisco lawyer Richard Idell first dipped his toes into the field more than 20 years ago by representing companies importing films from Hong Kong and the Philippines. Today, at six-lawyer Idell & Seitel, he works with independent production companies, producers, developers, sound engineers and mixers, among others. The firm, where partners charge between $350 and $450 per hour, handles all sorts of work for its entertainment and other clients, from IP to civil litigation, real estate and claims from fans injured at concerts. In the mid-1990s, with the practice humming along, Idell decided to offer pro bono services to Mark Fishkin, founder of the Mill Valley Film Festival, which is celebrating its 30th year this month. Fishkin’s response was something in the spirit of “be careful what you wish for,” Idell recalled recently. And sure enough, Idell got more than he bargained for. Turns out, even a film festival serves up complicated issues. Conflicts over ownership are not uncommon, Idell said, especially when the rules aren’t clearly laid out at the onset. “One producer says, ‘I own the film,’ and the other says, ‘I control the film,’ and one wants it to be in the festival and the other doesn’t,” Idell said. A joint work can then easily be exploited by one of several authors, he added. On Oct. 7, “ I’m Not There,” a Bob Dylan biopic, was screened at the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley. An evening of music followed, featuring musical greats on the order of Bob Weir, Dan Hicks and Rob Wasserman. The film distributor, The Weinstein Co., at one point decided it would film the evening and use the material for promotional purposes. “What fell on my shoulders was making sure we could get the rights to do that,” Idell said. That would entail collecting the rights from the owners of the songs, from the performers and the record companies, and a filmmaker who would agree to a work-for-hire contract, under which the festival would retain rights to the work. Weinstein ultimately pulled the plug on the project, citing prohibitive cost, Idell said. But the lawyer was only a little disappointed. “Had we gone forward on it, it would have been something on the order of 25 separate agreements,” Idell said. “I would’ve spent a lot of time writing contracts.”

Petra Pasternak

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