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Old November 29th, 2005, 07:36 PM   #1
New Boot
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Pasadena, CA
Posts: 5
Question about Royalties and Rights

Hi everyone.

I've been on this board before as I am interested in filming a documentary about an environmental work my family is doing and have been investing in equipment. However, we have been recently approached by someone wanted to produce a documentary on us.

As I am a novice, we are considering letting this person do her film even if we want to make one ourselves.

Having never been apart of such an extensive documentary film such as this one, I was wondering if there were some legal terms, agreements I should be aware of before agreeing to further taping.

Also, I have a few questions I would like to get answers to before approaching the producer with my concerns:

1. Can you ask for payment for appearing? If so what are the guidelines for this?

2. If our family is the primary subject and a majority part of this documentary (documenting our day to day lives), when it becomes released publicly and commercially who do the portions of the profits go to?

Can we ask for a percentage or rights to sell the video ourselves? If so, is there some sort of document that we need to acquire?

Thanks for your help and assistance. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say regarding this matter.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 11:00 PM   #2
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 4,750
You can sell your life rights to the producers.

They will ask you to sign a video release so they can use your family without getting sued. For public figures, documentarians do not need a release (i.e. why Charles Heston appears in Bowling for Columbine). Even if they don't need to purchase your life rights, you can still sell your co-operation. It's valuable to them since they can follow you around, and you might give them a more compelling documentary.

I believe you can just ask for anything you want. You may be interested in things other than money... i.e. rights to use their footage for your own documentary, veto over the final product so you don't get the Michael Moore treatment, or Martin Bashir's treatment of Michael Jackson. It's a negotiation between you and the producers. The producer(s) will not want to give you veto because they'll be in big trouble if you exercise it. If they can trust you to be co-operative or the risk/benefit is worth it for them, then you might actually be able to get it?

It make sense to get an entertainment lawyer, especially on finer issues like music copyright if you want to use their footage. i.e. they may be able to give you permission to use their footage but not the music.

2- There's various negotiation strategies that may be able to give you more of what you want. i.e. Don't necessarily assume it's a zero sum game (that what one side wins the other loses). Maybe mentoring by some or their crew may also be good for you. You can look for win-win situations like being able to use their footage (it costs them nothing as long as your doc doesn't compete with theirs).

3- Are you competing with them? Their story might be focused more on the family dynamics than on environmental issues (not that environmental issues won't appear in the documentary).
i.e. The Constant Gardener (feature film) is foremost a love story and it does touch upon inequality between multinational corporations and Africa.
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