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The Legalities

Did you know that the order in which you credit someone in the opening and closing of your project matters? Did you know that you might actually be able to get away without asking permission for a location on specific productions? Did you know that there are mountains of paperwork that you have to get through to make sure your legal ducks are in a row? Well, you probably knew that one...but here's a bunch of other stuff you might want to consider as well.



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You probably thought that embarking on a creative path meant avoiding paperwork and red tape. Unfortunately – or fortunately, if you think that progress and technology are good – pretty much everything operates under some kind of legal framework, including the agreements you implicitly signed when you logged on to this website. So before you assemble all the individuals necessary to work on your project, and definitely before you start paying them actual moneys, you will need to make sure that your project has all the basic legal elements in place.

Topics Covered in Legal Considerations in Development:

  • KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS
  • CREDITS
  • LIABILITY

Yes, you’ll probably need to put in a call to your friendly neighborhood production lawyer as well. The best case scenario is to have a media lawyer with producing experience. Novice producers can forget about things like the chain of title, which will make your project dead on arrival if anything here is out of place. You should ask your lawyer to draft a Development Services Agreement for everyone involved.

Topics Covered In Legal Considerations in Financing:

  • CHAIN OF TITLE
  • LLC | Limited Liability Company
  • CAM | Collection Account Management

The lawyers will definitely be involved with the financing… after all, it’s money and they’re lawyers. But really the toughest legal obstacle in pre-production is dealing with agents and lawyers in contract negotiations. After all, whatever your production is offering will never be enough for the reasonable and even-tempered representatives of cast members you’re probably settling for in the first place. Thankfully, everything else is relatively cut and dry.

Topics Covered In Legal Considerations in Pre-Production:

  • PRODUCTION LEGAL
  • CLEARANCES
  • BONDS
  • ANIMALS & KIDS

Ideally, most of the legal issues during production will be about looking ahead to the next stages. It’s actually not too early to be thinking about deals for post-production and even distribution. Of course, if you have any bad apples on set – including actual bad apples on the craft service table – you’ll probably need to give your lawyer a call.

Topics Covered In Legal Considerations in Production:

  • ONBOARDING REPLACEMENTS
  • POST-PRODUCTION DEALS

If the first thing you did after production was to get rid of your lawyer, it’s time for an apologetic phone call. All those editors, mixers, and technicians working in post need contracts too. If you think your post crew and their unions will be totally fine with a “special thanks” in the credits, then get ready to cross some angry picket lines. And speaking of other legal obstacles that can harm your project, are you certain that you’ve secured all the necessary licensing rights for your soundtrack?

Topics Covered in Legal Considerations in Post-Production:

  • A BIT ABOUT TITLES AND CREDITS
  • E&O INSURANCE | CLEARANCE

Like financing, distribution is almost all business. Now that you’re this close, it’s not the time to forget about this side of the project. Thankfully, most of this work involves stuff you’ve already done, so basically you’re making sure there are no loose ends. Of course, if there are, or you haven’t done this… well, hopefully you have a business-minded partner who can help.

Topics Covered in Legal Considerations in Distribution:

  • COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION
  • LICENSING
  • INSURANCE
  • TALENT AND CREW AGREEMENTS
  • HEALTHY REMINDER AGAIN ABOUT TITLES & CREDITS

Resources

Article

Legal Issues in Film Production

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Rights, Camera, Action

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Five Legal issues Every Documentary Filmmaker Should Keep in Mind

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Five Legal Issues All Writers Need to be Aware of

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Book

The Biz: The Basic Business, Legal and Financial Aspects of the Film Industry, 4th Ed.

Buy now $18

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Contracts for the Film & Television Industry, 3rd Edition

Buy now $36

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Media Law for Producers

Buy now $48

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The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers

Buy now $27

Book

Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film: A Panic-Free Guide

Buy now $27

Article

Entertainment Law Resources by Mark Litwak

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