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Old October 28th, 2009, 11:39 PM   #1
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Question about location permits/releases

Summary at the bottom

Hey guys... so I'm going home this winter to shoot a no budget feature with my friends. When I say no budget, I mean.... NO budget. I can't afford insurance for this shoot. BUT I do HAVE insurance-- my school requires me to purchase a student insurance which covers all equipment and property under my control up to $25k. (and not just for school purposes, it's private insurance that covers ANY of my property... even my automobiles, for instance... or my camera equipment)
Now, I don't really want to shoot the ENTIRE movie on my back porch, so I've actually got some friends who are managers at local stores to let me shoot there after hours. I always want to shoot my characters on the street or a park. Now, as I understand it, without an official location release (for the private businesses) or permit (for the parks/streets), I'll never be able to show this movie at any festivals, and definitely can't even hope for distribution (not that I really expect it, but it'd be nice to dream).
However, I'm pretty sure my managers won't be able to get the head of the companies that own the stores to sign a location release, at least not without better insurance and a fee, and I'm pretty sure I need more insurance (for workers comp., etc.) to get a permit to shoot at parks.

SO

essentially, I'm allowed to shoot at some locations, but I don't have "permission" to shoot at these places. You know? My question is...
If I were to shoot my characters at these places, but keep the background out of focus so it's blurred and not recognizable... can I use the footage? Because, I just want my characters to be sitting at a table, you don't have to know it's starbucks. And I want them walking down a street, no reason to see what street it is.


SUMMARY
If the location is unrecognizable do I still legally need a permit or release to use footage of it?
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Old October 31st, 2009, 04:07 PM   #2
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It really depends on what the filming laws are where you live. Some places you don't need a permit, other places you do. I'm guessing New York probably requires one. The permit is your permission to film, nothing about what you do with the footage afterward.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 12:32 AM   #3
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I appreciate the advice, but I think what I'm looking for is whether or not I'd be able to use the footage without a release, provided it wasn't recognizable (because it was out of focus or something). It's my understanding here, and correct me if I'm wrong, that even though I may have permission to shoot somewhere, I'd also need a signed release so I can show the footage publicly.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 06:45 AM   #4
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I am not a lawyer.

FYI, the insurance covering your own equipment (or the school's in your case) is not what people are asking for when they ask if you have insurance before granting you permission or a permit to shoot. Site owners could care less if you trash your own gear. What they're asking you to carry is general liability insurance so if someone in your crew, one of their employees, or a bystander is accidently injured while on their property as a result of your filming there or your lights overload the electrics and burn the place down, they're covered. Your potential losses are your business but they want to make sure you have any of THEIR potential losses covered.

Permission or permits to physically enter and shoot at a certain location and releases to show images of private property are two different things, though I'm sure it could be argued that if you were given permission to shoot there was also permission to display the images implicit within it.

As for whether you need a release to show your film, my guess is that it depends on the festival or distributor that is considering showing it. Releases are to protect you from lawsuit if the owner of the property gets ticked off when you show it. AFAIK there's no law that says you MUST have one in order to show the film in public, unlike the law that says you MUST have a license to use copyrighted music, for example. So the question boils down to, do you, the festival, or the distributor want to risk it? Having a release doesn't guarantee you won't be sued but it provides a ready-made affirmative defense if you are. One festival might require it, another might not - it depends on how paranoid they are. Some may require them as a matter of policy. Some may require them in an effort to curb the abuses some "guerrila filmakers" have committed in terms of tresspass etc.
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Old November 3rd, 2009, 04:41 PM   #5
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Awesome advice, thanks a ton. From what it sounds like to me, I'd be fine as long as I get the manager's position to come out and shoot on private property, and since the cops in my town generally know me and like me and since I won't be causing any disturbances (or even shooting with other people around) I shouldn't have any problems shooting on streets back home.

Thanks again.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 03:50 AM   #6
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Yes, you would need a film permit to film there legally, permission to film there and a release, which are usually the same document.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 01:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Payne View Post
Now, as I understand it, without an official location release (for the private businesses) or permit (for the parks/streets), I'll never be able to show this movie at any festivals, and definitely can't even hope for distribution (not that I really expect it, but it'd be nice to dream).
Your statement (fortunately) is not completely correct.

Distributor (smart ones) will ask you for a release for EVERYTHING... But they won't necessarily care who signs it, or when. So if there is a future chance of you getting distribution, you can go back to the manager and get him to sign off on it, and they'll be happy.
However, what is a dealbreaker to them is whether or not you have clearance for WHAT SHOWS UP ON SCREEN.
This problem is about 8 zillion times bigger than your original problem. If you are shooting something in a convenience store and have fridge full of beer behind one of the characters, you will need a release from every brand, every logo that appears! That's the real challenge of shooting in a store. You will never get distribution without clearing these, and you'll have to clear them through the corporate office of each brand, not just getting a store manager to sign a location release.

Now the good news.
When it comes to festivals, most are much less picky. I've seen many films in large festivals who have shown stores full of goods that (based on the budget) likely weren't cleared. For smaller festivals, you'll likely be fine with almost everything. Big festivals may be more picky though.

So if the store manager likes you, get his permission, shoot it, be happy and take it to festivals. Try to show as few logos as possible (shallow DOF goes a long way) and go for it. Distribution won't likely be an option, but if it does well at festivals maybe you'll have a shot a getting more money to do it the "right" way the next time.

Good luck!

Edit: Oh yeah, read up on local city rules about where you need permits and where you don't. You may be surprised about what you can get away with if you have a very small crew. Also, your equipment insurance will not cover liability, which is what you need to get a permit. Liability is much more expensive, and you won't get a permit without it... which may or may not bother you.
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