AN AUSTRALIAN musical, The Merchants of Bollywood, was helped onto the world stage by Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers.
The firm negotiated the worldwide rights for music, stage and film as the production gained momentum, attracting interest in Asia, Europe and the US. The deal included all music licensing out of India, deals with Live Aid producer Harvey Goldsmith’s companies, and employment agreements for above the line crew and merchandising in all territories.
“It’s an Australian production, with an Indian theme,” said Anny Slater. “It traces the story of a real-life female choreographer, who is the great-granddaughter of the Merchant family, who have all traditionally been in the Bollywood films as producers and/or choreographers.”
Slater was familiar to the producers from work on previous projects, when she was a partner at another firm. She said it was uncommon for an Australian production to attract such large-scale international interest.
“Not only is it a big deal, but also an unusual thing for an Australian theatre production,” Slater said. “With the exception of potentially Priscilla [Queen of the Desert], that might go overseas, it’s not usual for an Australian production to go international.”
The potential for overseas expansion meant the contract had to be flexible enough to cater for almost anything.
“It involved balancing the potential for a stage show to go large, but also drafting and minimising time in case it didn’t go large,” Slater said. “So I had to tread a line that had a balance for the client, and yet left as many options open as possible for them to have control over the future.”
Such a future may involve conversion to a film and consequent merchandising, along with other ancillary rights.
“When something goes quite big, then it takes on a different level. For example, a lot of London shows will have the ancillary and merchandising rights built into their contracts. And quite often, if it’s thought to be a classic stage production, then they’ll sell the rights at different merchandising conferences and at merchandising auctions, where people will take a particular product.”
Slater’s previous work with The Muppets creator Jim Henson’s company also helped in preparing her for The Merchant of Bollywood experience.