The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Damien Pollard
Fan

Hi Everyone,

I'm in a very similar situation to Mike above. I recently filmed a short doc about a small-time rock band in the UK, the first half of which was filmed in a rehearsal studio that they frequently use. I phoned the managers of the studio prior to filming and they said that they were happy for me to film there and take shots of their building.

However, during the first day of shooting there, they refused to sign a location release. They said that they were still very happy for me to film there and that I could film what I wanted and do what I liked with the final film. They didn't want to sign anything however, as they felt this would, potentially, leave them exposed to me later using the footage in a way that was damaging to them. I've spoken to them a couple of times since filming, as have the band, but they're sticking to this line. Apparently bands film at their studio quite frequently and this is the stance they take in all cases. I'm a stickler for crossing t's and dotting i's legally, so am not comfortable accepting verbal consent alone.

I'm planning on putting the film up on Youtube and Vimeo. I have no current plans to send it to festivals or secure broadcast distribution. Is this lack of a written location release something I should be worried about? My specific questions are:

Could the studio hypothetically take legal action simply because I have filmed on their premises, or would they need to show that I have damaged their reputation in doing so etc?

Would it be possible for me to put the video online and ask them to sign a release form just for that edit of that film (ie so that I'm covered, but they are also reassured that I can't then go and re-edit the rushes into something damaging to them).

I am in the UK and the doc was filmed here. I have signed releases for the other locations, all identifiable contributors and all the band's music.

Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated – this issue's held the film up for too long! Thanks a lot!

Damien

Jill Woodward
Pro

Personally I'd put it on the web and forget about it. Secondly, I think it's only broadcasters that require such extensive paperwork, not even festivals, generally. However, hypothetically any studio or any person could take legal action at any time for any reason whatsoever.

Doug Block
Host

If it were me, I wouldn't worry about it a bit, Damien. But if it's keeping you up at night, you might want to get something informal with them via an email, even if it's just to explain their rationale as to why they don't want to sign a formal release. At least it's something where they state it's ok for you to film. But it's very unlikely they'll now turn around and sue.

Damien Pollard
Fan

Thanks a lot Jill and Doug, I really appreciate your thoughts.

I doubt this makes a difference, but I forgot to mention that I did not include the studio's name anywhere (eg interviews, on-screen text or shots of signage). It would be recognisable only to those who are already familiar with it.

That's very useful info (and good to know) about festivals Jill, thank you.

Thanks a lot for that suggestion Doug. I'm planning to email each contributor/location individually as soon as the film is uploaded with a link and message of thanks for their help. With the studio I thought I'd add a note saying that I appreciate their desire to look after their reputation and invite them to watch the film and let me know immediately if they have any objections. If they do not have any then at least I can move forward with evidence that I've taken reasonable steps to consider and account for their interests even without a signed release.

Thanks again both!

Doug Block
Host

With the studio, I wouldn't rush to send them a link. But if you do, I'd absolutely never invite them to raise any objections.

Jill Morley
Pro

Damien, you also may want to consider an on camera release where they just tell you on camera that it is cool for you to shoot there. Not sure how that will hold up, but it's something and might make you feel better. Also, if you are worried about legal action, which seems unlikely, you could just take the video down if that happens or put it on a private site with a password. Best of luck!

Damien Pollard
Fan

Thanks Doug, I certainly take your point. The studio were friendly and helpful throughout filming, and polite in their refusal to sign, but no need to open the door to problems! Maybe just a general email if any then.

Thanks as well Jill M. Filming is complete (and they're miles away from London!) so I think the window for an on-camera release is unfortunately closed. Thanks for the suggestion – I was actually curious as to whether taking the film down if trouble ever arose would be enough to solve the problem?

Thanks very much again everyone, I appreciate this is a lot of attention to be paying to what is essentially a long Youtube vid, but I can see this being a recurring issue in the future and for others!

Matt Dubuque
Pro

Good evening,

I would like to submit my first very short film that I finally completed to my satisfaction yesterday for the comments and hopefully withering criticism of various mentors here.

I have generally found that the harsher the criticism, the more I can learn from it and because I am able to take such criticism with a minimum of disappointment, I have been able to substantially improve this film from the miserable state it was in last year.

This short is entitled "Twitter Time" and it explores possible responses to the exponential acceleration of our experience as discussed in Raymond Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near".

Here is a link to the film, best viewed in HD.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H2xjhOnZIc&feature=plcp&context=C368cc22UDOEgsToPDskLyB6JLNpVhnISV2eeWuqZv

What follows in the next post is my discussion I intend to include in the "Director's Cut" DVD of the film for submittal to film festivals.

I look forward to your comments and criticism and, again, your discussion of the worst aspects of this project are most welcome.

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