Category: Legalities

Key to the City

Posted by – September 11, 2009

So we went back and forth a lot with insurance, whether we should get it or not. In the end, we ponied up the $750 to Unionville Insurance and got $2M in liability and $500k in equipment. That means that all the equipment we’re using is covered for damages, and the city will give us permits to legally shoot in public places.

As you can see from the above permit, they can be pretty broad — this one allows us to shoot anywhere except the downtown core for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Film and Television Office, they’ve been pretty patient with me and the turnaround is quick.

The nicest thing happened on my shoot on Wednesday — a Parks and Rec truck pulled up, and both Anthony and I assumed they were there to check up on our permit. But no, they were there because they saw we were shooting and wanted to know if we needed the gate unlocked for our vehicles. It was a moot point because we’d all come by transit, but it was a nice thing that instead of checking on us they were there to help us out.

Insurance Research

Posted by – July 23, 2009

I talked to an insurance broker yesterday and learned a couple of interesting (OK, that’s an exaggeration — useful, then) things pertaining to the movie:

The minimum cost to getting the $2M insurance required by the city to obtain a permit is $1300. So, we won’t be getting any permits for our shoots on public laneways. However, when I talked to the lady at the city about shooting guerrilla-style, she said that although it is possible we could be fined we will probably just be moved along.

E&O insurance will require releases for the mention of any brand name or slogan. I thought we might be able to get away with it if we didn’t show the logos, but apparently not without paying much higher premiums. We might be defended by an argument of satire in the court, but the insurance company will charge us for the risk. Since it’s mostly in Tate’s spammer section, Tate and I discussed it and decided to shoot a real brand version and a fake brand version (ie. TimBucks instead of Starbucks) of the affected scenes just to give us some options.

E&O insurance will require releases even for exterior shot of distinctive buildings. I had previously assumed we could shoot the outsides of buildings with impunity, but apparently not. But if it’s enough of a background element — similar to a big enough crowd of people, for instance — it’s not a problem.

Inside Out City

Posted by – June 30, 2009

Sanford and I scouted some possible locations for establishing 2040s Toronto. Based on conversations with people and previous exploring, we’ve hit upon the idea of using alleys that have front doors leading onto them — there’s something inherently strange and inverted about them to begin with, and the narrower scale and ramshackle construction gives the feel of a third world country.

On revisiting them I realized a lucky thing — that the laneways with front doors were also public laneways with street names, as opposed to the majority of the private laneways. The private laneways require releases from the owners to clear E&O, while the public laneways do not.

The permits are free but you need to be a production company insured for $2M to get them. I talked with Patti at the city today and she said that while hypothetically you can be fined for shooting without a permit, it’s more an issue with liability — if someone trips over a cable, you can be sued. The day we visited was really quiet, however, no cars or people in sight.

Time-Logging & Profit-Sharing Contractual Agreement

Posted by – March 25, 2009

Whereas it is unlikely that Ghosts With Shit Jobs will make a profit by being sold to broadcasters and/or distributors given that it is a no-budget production,

I nonetheless desire to work on this film project either out of an interest in science fiction, the aesthetics of film-making, the principle of autonomous creation, the development of professional skills, the comradery of teamwork, or some combination thereof,

So long as any hypothetical compensation should be as equitable as possible according to my efforts, and the process itself should be as fair, transparent and accountable as possible,

Therefore, I hereby agree to the following contract:

1) I will log the hours I spend working on this project, with the understanding that my percentage of the profit will be equal to percentage of the total hours, irregardless of role, after having worked ten hours (eg. If there is a $100 profit and I have worked 10 hours on a project that took 100 hours, I will receive $10).

2) I will log hours for, but not limited to, the following activities: organizing or taking part in the preparatory film workshops, contributing to the project blog, research, securing locations, working transport, securing actors, acting, working sound or lights, constructing props, shooting video, assisting in catering or craft services, working in makeup or wardrobe, creating special effects, editing sound and/or video, or promoting the screening of the film.

3) I will record my hours as diligently and honestly as possible as soon as it is practical to do so after taking part in activities related to the film project, given that padding hours amounts to taking hypothetical money away from other project participants who are being accurate in their logging, while under-reporting hours ultimately amounts to ripping myself off.

4) I will be asked via the website email notifications to submit my hours at three points i) after pre-production is completed; ii) after production is completed, and iii) after post-production is completed. I will have two weeks to do so, failing which my hours will not be counted.

5) I understand that my payment, should I receive one, will be deferred until incurred film costs have been covered, and as such I will attempt to reduce incurred costs by posting any expenses over $100.00 to the project blog so that other project participants can be aware of the expense, suggest cheaper or free alternatives, or contest the expense.

Name: ________________________________________________________________________

Signature: ____________________________________________________________________

Date: _________________________________________________________________________

No to ACTRA, Yes to Releases, Maybe to Cyberhats

Posted by – January 9, 2009

Dave has been talking to the ACTRA actor’s union about our situation, and while there are some lower rates for indie low-budget productions if you qualify, they didn’t go for our model of deferred, hypothetical money.

My unnamed source who had used ACTRA actors, then was able to clear it once he had a broadcast offer, was a bit of a special case. He started his movie as a workshop/improv kind of thing with a few people who were ACTRA. After the movie was made, he went to ACTRA and explained that he didn’t know he was going to actually make a movie — they watched it, believed him based on the style of movie, and allowed him to pay the actors TIP rates retroactively.

So it looks like we should go non-ACTRA & non-union in general: unions are one of those good things, like organic food, that I continue to feel ambivalent about. On a more practical tack, does this mean I should lean towards script ideas have have lots of smaller acting parts (Play’n) rather than ones with leads that will dominate the screen (Alleyologist)? Input welcome.

Dave was also able to track down some templates for all the releases we need at the Canadian Independent Film & Video Fund (CIFVF). He did it so quickly I suspect he might have Internet access via his frontal lobe. Or at least a hat like the guy at the top of the post.

Errors and Omissions Insurance and Broadcast Sales

Posted by – January 6, 2009

I’ve just talked to a director who’s sold a movie for broadcast and gotten a theatrical release, and he gave me the off-the-record skinny on some of his experiences and cleared up some other legal things we were discussing here.

Superchannel was interested in purchasing the broadcast rights to his movie, but required them to have Errors and Omissions Insurance. An E&O insurance company protects the broadcaster against getting sued for stuff: say you have a brand name in the shot, a store, or a person in the background. If they see themselves in a movie they don’t like they call up Superchannel or whoever, but Superchannel shuffles them off to the E&O insurance company. They have to settle with the person, or deal with it somehow.

So in this director’s case, they had to submit the movie to the E&O company and they assessed the potential risk and charged them accordingly. There was a brand of a local beer who’s appearance they were able to clear with the beer company since it wasn’t presented in a unpleasant way, which reduced how much they were charged. So every location/extra/music/actor/crew release you have signed is one less risk the E&O company has to take, and thus charge the moviemaker for. He thought companies and individuals were much more likely to be perceived as a risk than public spaces — he’d never heard of people having to produce permits from the city for on-the-fly shots. He imagined the insurance would cost $5-$10,000 but wouldn’t have to be paid until there was a broadcaster offer.

The rights to his movie, which he thought was pretty average or standard, sold for about $50,000 to Superchannel. So, overall, I think it’s worth it to do the paperwork as we go, as it amounts to location/extra/music/actor/crew releases drawn up and signed.

He said that broadcasters sometimes do presales based on a script, but they expect it to trigger other much bigger investor money (ie. Telefilm, who would be impressed you have a broadcaster); that they often have content input, and while this is not control, one is behooved to take it seriously if one wants to continue the relationship with other projects — a “too many cooks” situation. He threw out $15,000 as a hypothetical presale number, but it’d be based on a small percentage of the budget. Doesn’t sound worth it for the amount of shopping-around effort and potential interference.

Crossing our Is and dotting our Ts

Posted by – December 3, 2008

Update: You can see what we’ve decided to do in No to ACTRA, Yes to Releases, Maybe to Cyberhats but I’ll leave this here for archival purposes.

I’m thinking about doing stuff legally with this movie, where it doesn’t cramp our style. It’d keep our options open for a broadcast sales, and doing paperwork at the beginning of the process is easier than at the end when I’ll be wanting to promote the movie and get it out there and move on to the next project. Some issues I have to look into are:

  • If we use ACTRA union actors, we have to clear it with the union before hand — I have heard differing reports on how difficult this is;
  • Locations permission forms, rather than just a blind eye turned — I’m thinking alleys might be public space, or at least quasi public space, and may not require locations permissions;
  • We need to get actors and extras to sign release forms — I’d like to have them read it before the shoot rather than just thrusting it into their hands.

I’m planning to meet with a couple of experienced movie makers and I expect to have many more bullets to add after consulting with them, but any input is appreciated.