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The pen and paper aspects of DV -- put it in writing!

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Old March 17th, 2002, 09:22 AM   #1
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Legal releases (part 2)

Another question regarding the need to get legal releases for a documentary: what about shooting in another country where your film will never be exhibited? Is everything and everybody fair game?
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Old March 17th, 2002, 10:46 AM   #2
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No, no, no! Depends on the local laws of that country... you may very well need to "purchase" a "license to shoot video" (i.e., bribe local officials) or run the risk of having your gear confiscated. A recent issue of DV Magazine had an article by my friend Bruce Johnson about this very experience -- will look up the issue # for you.

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Old March 17th, 2002, 10:52 PM   #3
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Listen to Chris...he knows whereof he speaks!

There are times here in Korea when I'm just shooting personal stuff, same as any schmoe with a camcorder...but the fact that I'm doing it with an XL-1 tends to get the attention of authorities. Up to now I've gotten away with it. But catch an official on a bad day....

Only once have I done any "commercial" shooting on the street here and we were very visible since we had a small crew and actors. We decided to forego permits/releases since it was such a limited project...and so we did the "run and gun" routine. That was fun, but we did get harrassed all day by officials, and I very nearly had my camera confiscated.

The only reason we didn't go through the proper channels was because everything here involves a quagmire of red tape. You wouldn't believe. I've recently had to turn over my passport to immigrations for an entire month...just to update my visa. Imagine that...for one a foreign country, with no passport. That means no bank transfers, no travel...nothing. I can imagine what would be involved for filming.

So, before you go...get an idea of what the bureaucracy is like in the country you're headed to. Might make you reconsider. know the Afghan girl that they recently tracked down whose photo was put on the cover of National Geographic? No release was obtained from her...and surprisingly there have been no lawsuits...yet. But, to show the other side of the coin, remember that famous kiss photo from Paris made in the 40s-50s. That shot was just grabbed off the street and has been in circulation ever since, printed in countless books, magazines, and is sold as a print around the world. Turns out that couple just surfaced and ARE suing.

I guess the bottom line is that we're all shooting because we want to catch some footage that is so good that it is broadcast everywhere. And imagine if one day you do shoot something spectacular. It'd be a major bummer not to be able to distribute it simply because you didn't get a release.
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Old June 17th, 2002, 08:47 PM   #4
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Location releases

I was wondering if any of you guys have experience in location releases.

I am going to shoot a dv short in NYC and I am trying to contact the mayors office for film and tv. But I have not yet heard anything from them other what I have read e.g. that you need an insurance in order to get the location release.
But it seems to me that these releases are made for big productions. How about low budget independent films, "gorilla" films or Video journalist films?

Can anyone give an estimate of the insurance amount e.g. per day, insurance company, amount for the location release?

Thanks in advance.
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Old June 18th, 2002, 03:22 PM   #5
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I can't say with certainty what the process is for NYC. Here in Chicago, however, the city has a dedicated film office that handles the issuance of permits for shooting on public grounds. Their web site outlines the process at:

I found a similar site for the City of New York Film Commissions at:

Of course if you're shooting on private property you'll need consent from the property's owner, perhaps in addition to the municipal permit.

Dispiriting, isn't it? Good luck with your project.
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Old June 21st, 2002, 06:33 PM   #6
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the price for insurance is less by the year then if you buy a policy for a month !

when i looked into buying liability insurance for a 3 week dramatic shoot they wanted 2000 for 3 weeks - i bought it for 1500 for the year ... this was based on a 150K budget ( didn't matter if budget was $1 or 250K =same price)

last year bought 1 million liability policy for around 900 a year ( documentary rate under 250k budget) ... paid 700 for 6 months of workmans comp ( nobody was paid ) we were shooting on week ends ...

as you add rental insurance, 3rd party, faulty/damaged neg/video stock/processing , 3rd party auto, workmans comp the price will go up ... most of the time it is less just to buy the whole productiuon package then to add few items to liability ?

if you are shooting on the street and a driver gets in a accident and then states he was distracted by your shooting WATCH out.

also remember if you are NOT insured all crew and talent can be subject to liability... you must have a LEGAL employer-employee realtionship for crew/talent not to be subject to liability ...also anybody working for points , you gave points , invested for points can be subject to liability $$$ protect your point persons/crew/talent either get insurance or form a LLC or limited liability partnership .......
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Old June 21st, 2002, 09:13 PM   #7
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Hi Donatello,
Thank you very much for your informative input about insurance.
It is pretty scary how costly an insurance can be. I have a couple of more questions that I hope you can and will answer.

Since I am going to finance this DV short film project out of my own pocket, I want to keep the costs as small as possible.

I think that I have to get the liability insurance though, as it will probably be next to impossible to get any location releases without one. But I will contact the Mayer's office for Film and TV on Monday and see what they can recommend.

Since I am going to produce it as a private person, I am not fully aware what that means in terms of crew, liability and equipment. I was going to have every crew member, cast, location to have a document signed to give me permission to use them in the film (release), but also have them sign a exemption of any liability arising from the production both to them selves as well as their equipment e.g. I will personally lend my Canon to the DP as well as other equipment, the DP will contribute with some lighting equipment, the sound mixer will also contribute. I want them to be responsable for their own equipment.
I will also make sure that every crew and cast member has a personal insurance if they accidently drops a prop and injure someone.

Does this sound too "cheap"? In other words, what I am trying to find out is the bare minimum of insurance. My budget is something around 2-3,000 $ which is coming from my savings.

Then you mentioned a thing about employer and employee relationship. As I mentioned I am planning to draft a contract with crew and cast. But do I need to form a limited partnership company for the production? This sounds a little overkill for such a small production. Though, I hope to sell the short film and then be able to pay my crew and cast more than the initial "token of appreciation".

What does student short films do e.g. NYU film students which shoot their final short?

When I talk to other documentarists and "gorilla DV filmmakers" it appears that they don't even bother to get location releases. That seems dangerous though and will possibly make it very difficult to sell to e.g. TV
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Old June 22nd, 2002, 03:16 PM   #8
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IN general : if you are making a short project - for fun -perhaps you will put it on the web ? then most home/renters insurance might cover liability ( check with your insurance) i have made a couple shorts (5min) and after calling my home owners policy they said that if it is NOT for profit/commercial release and that my self and frineds were just getting together to make it then my home liability policy would cover ... i asked what if after i make it somebody wants to buy it - they said it comes down to original intent

when i shoot on private property it is up to the property owner to decide if he wants to require insurance - if it just a crew of 3-4 persons they usually don't - if you are bringing in 20 person then they want to see insurance.. the property owner is the one that signs a location release/gives permission to shoot not a renter/lease person...

talent release gives you permission to use their likeness etc.

"also have them sign a exemption of any liability arising from the production both to them selves as well as their equipment"

you can have them sign anything BUT it will not release them liability - it might prevent you from suing them but NOT a 3rd party suing the whole cast/crew ... your agreement would work on equipment , they state that they are responsible for their equipment etc.. but what if a 3rd party trips on a cord and is hurt ? who is responsible ? the person that put the cord down ? NO, everybody there, & owner of property ...

check to see if renters/home policy will cover you for this "fun, hobbie " project.. sometimes they will issue a floater to cover location or up your liability amount ..

bottom line - insurance comes down to protecting project, everybody working on project and your/their ASSets ... if you don't own anything then what can they take away ? if you own nothing then they look to see who was there on date of accident to see if they have assets ! so that puts crew/talent/owner of location/investor/any person with points at risk ....

a friend of mine called and wanted me to shoot a staged car accident ! no insurnace, no permit , no medical standing by ! just a 25mph car accident with 2 old ( 1980's) auto's on the some back street in marin county..sorry NO way ( my ASSets would be on the line ) .. then he wanted to rent my camera for it - SORRY no way ... i want NO part of this !!!!

in general student films -(bottom line) the college has liability insurance ...

"I hope to sell the short film and then be able to pay my crew and cast more than the initial "token of appreciation".

there is NO market for shorts ! there is a chance you could sell it .. when you call your renters/home insurance they will ask you if you plan to make $$ with short ? , if you have made $$ selling shorts in past, are you a pro filmmaker etc .. if you answer YES to any they will NOT cover you under policy BUT might issue a floater that will cover you ?

most shorts with 2-3000 do not have insurance etc... they just shoot ... they do it for FUN ...

in SF i have found if you are shooting without permit officer will ask you to stop/leave. if later in the same day the same officer finds you shooting again he'll take the equipment or issue citation or both. i have never been stopped with GL - have been stopped with 16mm equipment. using a tripod and a boom mic draws attention .. you want to keep low profile ...

RISK vs. REWARD ?? you know some of the risk .. what is the reward ?

if you do call the film commission - you might mention that it is a short .. you are doing it as a hobby perhaps to show on your web site ?? ... your camera is a consumer video camera ( sorry XL doesn't have the consumer camera image) ...if you have crew of 20 they aren't going to buy it ??
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Old June 23rd, 2002, 07:56 PM   #9
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this is for Donatello. where did you get the insurance from?
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