This is a true story of a studio attempting to do wrong to an artist, and how that artist protected himself from it. The facts are all true, only the names have been changed or left out.

I have written this so that others can learn from my experience and legal events that I had to go through to make things right.

The first phone conversation

September 25, 2009

Today, after a brief exchange of emails, the head of production from a studio, Epilogue, calls me to discuss details on the feature they are working on. We talk and negotiate over the phone and make an agreement verbally. I then say that I am going to send over a booking agreement with the details in writing and ask if they can confirm it for me.

The Booking Agreement

September 25, 2009

The idea of sending a deal memo was given to me by a very experienced freelance producer that I have worked with at several studios. Their advice has always been useful to me over the years, and this time it was no exception. The purpose of the deal memo is to just make sure that both parties understand the agreement fully before going into a booking. In some cases, it can be used to protect yourself legally, which is why you need to choose your words properly.


Getting Confirmed

September 28, 2009

After sending the deal memo, I said that I would not accept the booking until they confirmed the deal memo. In this case, all that is needed is for them to reply to the original email with the booking details laid out with the word: confirmed. Other words would probably work, but that's what they put.

This took 3 days and 5 emails for them to actually do. This is what started my suspicion that something just might not be right.

The booking is confirmed now. And I start work with Epilogue on October 15.

The Project Begins

October 15, 2009

I start my work at Epilogue today. The team is very skilled and creative. I really like working with the director and the team fits well together. This studio has some very creative people, but something just doesn't seem right to me about the production.

This was the first time I had a time card and was forced to check in and out every time I left the building. It reminds me of the good old retail days in college.

I have a computer that does not work correctly, and a network that always goes down throughout the day. A couple days later, I work my first weekend with them.

Finally on a working workstation

October 22, 2009

After a week of 20+ crashes per day, and the production constantly trying to blame me for said crashes, the cause of the workstation issues is discovered. The network setup they have couldn't work properly with Windows since Epilogue is primarily a OSX studio. My PC is exchanged for a Mac Pro and the crashes stopped and I could continue work on the feature.

Booking Extension

October 29, 2009

Epilogue seems to be pleased with the work that we have created together so far, so that when their hold was challenged, they extended the booking longer. Another deal memo was sent out with the details outlined again:

Delayed Confirmation

November 3, 2009

Again, the deal memo takes several days and reminder emails to be confirmed. The head of production confirms it, but will not agree to the kill fee after originally agreeing to it the first time around. After a conversation, it wasn't worth the argument anymore unless I wanted to leave that day.

The First Confrontation

November 9, 2009

Today, Invoice Guy asks me about my invoices and says he doesn't understand the overtime. On days where there was not enough work to keep me there for 10 hours, they said they did not want to pay me for a full day. I send him the original confirmation outlining my billing process, and decline his offer for me to make less money.

The First Check

November 13, 2009

Today, I receive my first check with my rate and overtime paid properly. This makes me feel that everything is going as planned and I continue working on the project.

The Second Confrontation and Walk Out

November 20, 2009

My check is given to me intentionally on the way out today. This looks sketchy to me already, so I open it. My suspicion is confirmed when the check was short and not paying the fully invoiced amount.

First, I approach Invoice Guy. He is ready with the Head of Production to talk to me about it, as if it was planned. The 3 of us go into an office and discuss the issue. The owner of the company chooses to do all of his dirty work through these 2 people.

After reminding them of our written agreement, the head of production says that he is not going to honor the terms and thus breaching our original agreement. I was given a choice of either accepting their terms, not including my agreed upon rate, or leaving.

Out of respect for the director and other artists, I tell them personally what happened before I leave and wish them luck with the rest of the project. Then I leave the studio for good, writing a letter the next day to the owner to officially withdraw myself from the project.

The Demand Letter

December 14, 2009

Today I receive my final check, with no overtime paid. I review my legal actions that I can take. Since I bill from my Limited Liability Company, I cannot take up any legal action with employment law, which would have big penalties against Epilogue. I have to take the studio to small claims court.

The first step is to send the defendant a demand letter. In Los Angeles county, the small claims website has a demand letter generator which you answer some questions, and it words everything properly for you. I send the demand letter with 2 week deadline.

The Counter Offer

December 28, 2009

The CPA that represents Epilogue emails me a counter offer stating that they will agree to a lesser amount to keep from going to court. The owner of the company cannot seem to do any communicating for himself, and again, has someone do his dirty work for him.

I decline, and state that they have 24 hours to pay, or I will file suit.

Suit Filed

January 4, 2010

Today, I file suit in Los Angeles county small claims court. All of this can be done online and cost $60.


January 13, 2010

In order to serve a company, you need to serve their agent for process service. For Epilogue, that person is their CPA, who is in NY but has an office registered in Hollywood. You can find out the agent for service by looking it up on a California website.
The address Epilogue had listed, was an incorrect address, so after tracking them down, the office of their CPA was served by a friend of mine since you cannot serve the papers yourself.

The Final Showdown

February 18, 2010

Today is the big day in court. I am at a studio that had no problem with me coming into work late in order to make this right. In small claims court, you cannot be represented by an attorney, so I went to represent myself. Small claims court has some funny characters, and we got to watch some interesting cases before ours was called.

Epilogue was represented by Invoice Guy. When both of our stories were told, the judge started leaning towards the direction of my side winning the case. The original agreement we made held up legally in court. It was in writing and both parties had agreed upon it, making it legally binding. The only evidence they had to show were the time sheets from their time clock which matched all of my records.

Since there were no other agreements in writing, this is the final agreement. The judge awarded a judgment in my favor to pay the entire amount that they owed me, plus court fees.


I hope that maybe you might have learned something from my experiences here. I don't write this to intentionally bash the company, but more to make other artists aware of what their legal rights are and what you can do when a company attempts to do you wrong.

Hopefully you can take something from this and save yourself from a company with bad intentions. I think the biggest part is to get your details of the booking documented and agreed upon in writing by both parties. You also need to be ready to go the entire distance if you want to make it right. I did not think this would actually go to court, but I was prepared for it when it did.

I have to thank the freelance producer that gave me this deal memo idea over a year ago, as it was the one thing that saved me in this case. I also need to thank some other artists, producers, and studio owners that have given me great advice on this situation and since I got into this industry.

I have the utmost respect for all of the artists, and especially the director that I was working with there. This whole thing is the fault of faulty production and management, and has nothing to do with any of the artists. They are all very skilled and creative and I would enjoy working with all of them again.


March 23, 2010

Today, I finally get my check, and the whole situation is over.