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Old May 30th, 2004, 12:15 PM   #1
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Help! Location/release paranoia mounting...

Hi all. I asked this elsewhere but no one responded. Thing is, I'm coming down to the wire here, with less than two weeks to production, and I've recently come across some release agreement info that has me scratching my head. Any clarification, that any of you more experienced sages have to offer, would be very much appreciated. I've read books on contracts, releases, etc., but I've yet to find answers to the following:

1) While I spent a great deal of time hammering out the Depiction Release form I will be using (had to tailor some things, of course), I saw something which said that if you shoot an interview with "art" behind the person that isn't with a shallow enough DOF (often tricky in tight spaces with DV), you need a release from the "artist," even if it's something like a poster which you got in your shot. (Evidently someone sued, and won, when a poster which was of her handmade quilt - she'd given permission for a museum to make into a poster of it and sell it - appeared in the hapless filmmaker's shot, onscreen for a minute (give or take), without the quiltmaker's "permission." So does this mean I either fully blur the background of go bare walls with a cookie? Anybody familiar with how this plays out when doing a documentary, as opposed to a fiction piece?

(Reading the above then got me thinking, or should I say paranoid...)

2) If the depiction release is for the individual, do I need to then have the individual sign a seperate "location agreement" to film them in their living room, in other words, to show their "property"? And what if they don't own the property? If it's a rental, do I have to contact the owner? A doctor's leased office? A government official's office when interviewing them in their place of work? They've agreed. The boss has agreed. But how far do I have to take it, and must that agreement to film there be in writing, as opposed to permission to "depict" them?

(I realize none of you are lawyers, and that to be safe I really need to consult an entertainment attorney with these, as opposed to just my personal friend/lawyer who has been doing my contracts and such, but as I said, any thoughts from those of you who've been down this path...)

3) Lastly, what about tooling down the highway shooting the crumbling barn in the distance and/or the highway sign declaring the mileage or the exit to to where I'm headed? Is a public highway ok? A river not "owned" by anyone but the state?

Man, just when I thought it was safe to get my head out of "producer" mode and put on my director's hat exclusively.

Thoughts?

Marcia
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Old May 30th, 2004, 12:40 PM   #2
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I cant really answer for the first 2, but on the 3rd one I dont think its a problem at all.
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Old May 31st, 2004, 02:08 PM   #3
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In reference to 1, thats what photoshop is really greatfor. If you find you didn't get a release, you could paint it out or replace it with something original.
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Old May 31st, 2004, 10:00 PM   #4
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1 is always an issue. You can purchase backdrops that have art on them if you don't want to paint with light. But that's why so many docs have simple backgrounds in the interiors. Sometimes you can get written permission to use a poster in the background.

2 is not normally a problem for a private residence. Public maybe (see # 3 below. A business location can be a real hassle. Malls, for example, almost never allow photography and even frown on amateurs with a camera. You can get tagged for trespassing if you ignore the permission process in a mall.

Interestingly enough, number 3 can be an issue if you are doing any kind of 'production.'

Student films, incidental photography or videography is normally no issue but it's not a bad idea to ask.

But if you impede the flow of foot or vehicular traffic in any way or cause a big enough distraction, you may be asked to show your filming permit.

The Feds, most states and a lot of cities and towns have requirements regarding film permits.

Whenever I am taping something outside in the town or county, I call the local Film Commission office and check with them. Unless I'm going to cost the city or county money, they tell me not to worry. Fortunately, in the State of California, working on state lands is now free. Unless one requires state assistance or you want to modify the landscape in some manner. You may still need the permit but it is supposed to be free.

Were I to want to use an government building interior, I'd certainly need permission if not an actual permit.

I'm told that in Europe, one requires permission to photograph the exterior of buildings because those facades are protected under copyright laws.
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Old June 1st, 2004, 09:44 AM   #5
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Thanks for taking the time to respond, guys. It's stunning to me how complex all this has become for the indie filmmaker. (sigh) Hits us little guys particularly hard as we don't have teams of lawyers to advise us and keep us (unwittingly) out of trouble. And I'm kinda fond of my house. ;-) Don't want to lose it in some stupid law suit!

At least I ran across all this BEFORE I'd shot all my interview segments. With regard to indoor shots, I can take a picture off the wall, move a plant in next to them instead, whatever. Previously, I'd planned on having stuff like that in the shot on purpose, to be "scenic." But the whole "filming down the highway" question is another matter. There won't be any traffic disruptions as I'll just be shooting out the van windows/doors from various angles as we drive along to give the sense of where we're headed, down the highway, into the mountains. But the whole depiction thing made me wonder if, for ex., "Joe's Flea Market" whizzes past, since it's built right up against the freeway, means I have to go back to "Joe" and get written permission for that two second clip.

Man, what a hassle. I knew I didn't want to be both producer and director on this... there just wasn't any other way.
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Old June 1st, 2004, 10:27 AM   #6
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I don't believe you will have to go back and get Joe's permission as you are filming from a public location and his sign/shop is clearly visible from that public location. As long as Joe isn't visible.

People and places that are clearly visible (and audible) from a public location have no reasonable right to expect they cannot/will not be photographed. What you cannot do is climb a tree, use a ladder to peer into someone's otherwise private yard. Even if they stand in a window that is visible from a public location, you can take their picture.

While places have no protection from reproduction, people do. So while it is legal (as in para 2) to photograph people, you may violate their rights in how you use the photograph and that's where you need to be careful.

Understand that I'm not a lawyer, just a sometimes student of these issues. Whatever I write should be considered the opinions of an amateur.

Depending on how conservative/comfortable you wish to be, you may want to research these issues on your own or hire an appropriate attorney to assist you.
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Old June 1st, 2004, 01:56 PM   #7
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<<<-- It's stunning to me how complex all this has become for the indie filmmaker. (sigh) Hits us little guys particularly hard as we don't have teams of lawyers to advise us and keep us (unwittingly) out of trouble. -->>>

I have the same "feeling". But I'm also what would happen if
those rules where more relaxed for us indie filmmakers and we
suddenly hit a jackpot?

So what if there was a indie film "law" that allowed us to film a
painting for example. Then a hollywood producer likes your movie
and wants to buy it. What happens then?

Things are never easy in real-life it seems! <g>
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Old April 14th, 2010, 12:59 AM   #8
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So 6 years later....

So permits to shoot in California are free?

I am looking into this for a film I am shooting later in the year and just getting started into checking about this

Please advise
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Old April 15th, 2010, 07:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Lohman View Post
<<<-- It's stunning to me how complex all this has become for the indie filmmaker. (sigh) Hits us little guys particularly hard as we don't have teams of lawyers to advise us and keep us (unwittingly) out of trouble. -->>>

I have the same "feeling". But I'm also what would happen if
those rules where more relaxed for us indie filmmakers and we
suddenly hit a jackpot?

So what if there was a indie film "law" that allowed us to film a
painting for example. Then a hollywood producer likes your movie
and wants to buy it. What happens then?

Things are never easy in real-life it seems! <g>
That's the Law of Unforseen Consequences in action. Changes in technology where $5000 cameras within the reach of almost anyone do the job that required a $100,000 camera and the resources of a multimillion dollar studio to do 15 years ago also means that the sole-operator indy on a shoestring budget now faces the same legal issues that only the Studioss did back in the day. If you expect your films to be seen in the same circles as those of the major studios, you also have to expect to operate in the same ballpark as the major league players and play by the same rules.
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Old April 15th, 2010, 11:50 AM   #10
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Yeah, its looking like you have to have a permit (which is free or $100-$200 typically in my area) plus a million dollar insurance.
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