IFH 119: Ask Alex – E&O Insurance, Music Rights and Copyright Oh My!

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So after last week’s huge success of the “Ask Alex” segment, I decided to bring it back this week. The IFH Tribe filled my inbox with tons of amazing questions, which I’ll try to cover in future episodes.

If you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future episode of the podcast just email them to [email protected] and I’ll do my best to answer them. This week we have a bunch of questions from tribe member Jake from Australia.

Here are the questions I answered in this week’s podcast:

  • What happens if I’m shooting guerrilla-style and accidentally catch a sign in the background or someone is wearing a brand logo in a shot? 
  • What is E&O Insurance (Errors and Ommissions) exactly?
  • How does E&O Insurance work?
  • Where are the best deals for E&O Insurance? 
  • What do you do if you want to use Licensed Music?
  • What things might arise if using a track (or tracks)? 
  • What can copyrighting your film cost you? 

Alex Ferrari 2:20
So guys, you know I guess the Ask Alex segment is very popular because I got inundated with questions from the tribe and a guess you guys want me to answer some questions for you. So we'll start doing these ask Alex's every once in a while when I don't have another topic to talk about. You guys are definitely inspiring me to create more content and answer more of your questions, but I'm here to help guys so let's get into the first question and these questions are from Jake in Australia. Now I'm not going to do a horrible Crocodile Dundee impression here. So let's just move on. First question is what happens if I'm shooting guerilla style which is the only way I like to shoot and accidentally catch a sign in the background or someone's wearing a branded logo on the shot? This is a very common question I get this asked a lot and a lot of people are still confused about what the legalities of things are. This is my feeling on this guy's and I've gone through this I'm going through this right now with Meg you know i i'm very conscious you know of shooting when we're shooting to make sure we kind of block out logos or we like to call it geeking out when you geek out a logo or a license plate or something like that. That you don't need to be in the shot. You could do it if you could do it practically on set great I have VFX guys that are going to be able to clean things up for me so if I know I can't do anything about it or something snuck in I'll do it it's it's a really kind of a dance the subject because look you know there was a guy who made a movie kind of like guerilla style in Disney World which was a completely depraved movie about Disney World guy losing his mind in Disney World and he obviously did not have any rights to Mickey to Donald to all the copyright infringement running around there they were on private property was it like it was it was a nightmare. But that movie got released how they got released I really don't know and I would not advise something like that but with that said general rule of thought and again I'm not this is not legal advice please search out a an attorney and ask a proper attorney for legal advice. This is just my opinion, from my experience but when in doubt don't show it don't put a poster up on the wall. Don't put you know don't catch you know if you catch a logo on the street. If you're outside on the street and you see a logo on the on you know on the seat, you know on the on the store or something like that. If it's a brand name, big store, you know, got it's it's it's a weird thing. I've seen movies that leave it in no problems. And they pass no insurance, which, that's the next question I'll get into. And then sometimes they need to get cleaned out, it's fairly inexpensive to get that stuff painted out, depending on the shot, obviously painted out in visual effects. But when it was said and done, guys, always, always side on this shot on the side of cautious, being cautious, and do not shoot it, if you can help it. So if you catch and you happen to catch a shot or something like that of a logo, if it's in the background, and your movies costing 10, grand, no one's gonna care, no one's gonna come after you for that, you know, now, if you're pissing on a Mickey Mouse in your scene, or created a bomb out of an old Donald Duck, doll, not so much. But if it's something in the background look, you got to look at a movie like clerks was shot in a convenience store, with logos from movies all over the place that got released, you know, so you have to really go after you've really got to talk to an attorney. And be very specific about it. I talked to another friend of mine, today actually about this. And she made a movie and all the chat tons of logos all over the movie. And the distributor told her as long as you're not doing anything specific with it, is in the background. It's okay. Um, I'm not from that school of thought, I always like to just like, make things as clean as possible. So right now we're actually going through the VFX process of cleaning up logos, on shirts, and in background things that I knew were there that we just could not get rid of some stuff that we didn't know that was there. And we're fixing it in post. So but I have that capability. It's very affordable for me to do so. But I would just lean on the side of just don't do it. Okay, second, what is in Oh, insurance? Exactly. How does it work? And where are the best deals? Well, Jake, um, you know, insurance stands for errors and omissions insurance, you will not get a distribution deal. Or from from a real distributor without an without, you know, insurance in today's world. You know, insurance is basically just that, you. Let's say that you, you happen to piss on a monkey in the middle of the movie, for whatever reason you're picking on Mickey, I love Mickey, I'm just using him as an example, because he's a corporate logo that we all know. And it's copyright trademark. So you're pissing on Mickey in the scene. And nobody notices that you picked on Mickey, it just they thought it was some sort of rag doll. Well, let's say you get that thing distributed. And let's say Warner Brothers picks it up. And Warner Brothers releases theatrically around the world. And all of a sudden, someone from from The Walt Disney Company says, Hey, you are pissing all over Mickey, what the hell we're suing? Well, because you didn't and then they use let's say you did not have no insurance, you would never Warner Brothers would never get a movie without no insurance. But I'm just using it as an example. If If you release a movie without you know, insurance, and someone wants to sue you for something, whether that be a logo in the movie, whether that be you infringed on some sort of trademark, something along those lines. Without no insurance, you are screwed. That means they're going to take everything you've got, as far as the company that you've opened up for the movie, and they're gonna sue you. If you have no insurance, you know, insurance will take care of that. But you know, insurance, the Getty and all insurance, you best believe that they will be going up the butt of your movie and making sure there is no issues. Because it's on it's on their ass if something does happen, so they're going to make sure that everything is clean, and kosher, and we're good. So sometimes it does slip through E and O insurance. But generally speaking, you don't have to worry about if you get in on clearance, but you will need DNO insurance, where you could get the best deals. here in the States. I've seen it go up to $10,000. I've seen them as cheap as 20 $500 for an you know, you know, policy for a feature film. So that's generally the range you're going to be going for. I've even heard some people like 1600, but you're going to be in around 2000 range 2000 or $4,000 range. For you know insurance, do not purchase that insurance until you have a deal until you have a distribution deal. Do not do that unless you're going to be distributing it or making money with your movie. But do not spend that money until you have to get it next The question is, what do you do if you want to use licensed music in your feature film?

Now this is one of the biggest mistakes a lot of filmmakers make in regards to music and not having the proper clearances and contracts and agreements in place for music. I know a lot of people like to put whatever what type of music they want in the movie. They'll go to iTunes, download their favorite song, put it in the movie and send it out to festivals and you know maybe it'll go into festivals, no oral care. the realities of this is that if you use copyrighted music that is not yours and you do not have a release for it, or an agreement for it, you are in trouble and they can sue you. And in this lovely world of lawsuits left and right, they can sue you. So you need if you're going to use any sort of licensed music, you need to have an agreement in place first, do not and I repeat, do not just get festival rights, please. That's one of the biggest mistakes people do a lot of filmmakers will just go, Oh, I'm gonna get this really big song. And I'm just gonna get festival rights for I'm just gonna pay for festival rights. Well guess what, guys, if you pay for festival rights, and let's say you use a Bruce Springsteen song or a lady gaga song, and for whatever reason, Gaga loved your movie, and she's going to give you festival rights for the movie. Well, great, that's wonderful. And let's say now you get a distribution deal. Well, your rights only are for festivals. So now you want to go worldwide distribution. Well guess what that's going to cost an arm and a leg, it could cost 100 200 $500,000. A million dollars, it all depends on the kind of song you're using. So if you only have festival rights, that pretty much will kill your deal with the distributor, it's dead. Let's even let's even go lower. And it's not something as big as Gaga. But let's say you pay $10,000 or $15,000 for festival rights, and someone goes to you get a theatrical run. And the musician or the copyright owner of that song will say well, if you want, you know worldwide rights in that they just break the rights down to theatrical rights, VOD rights, DVD rights, international rights, all that they'll just break it all down. So let's say Oh, if you want worldwide rights for the movie, then you will have to spend $100,000. And that's not how that's not crazy number. I mean, it is crazy for an independent filmmaker. But that's the kind of numbers you will get with these bigger songs are licensed music. So you got to be very careful. So one big tip, if you're going to use licensed music, use it but make sure you pay for rights all the way through before you ever get into a festival. My idea is this guy's there's my suggestion. I mean, is this. There are many, many, many composers out there who are very willing to work with, with independent filmmakers to get their movie music on feature films. Same thing goes for bands, singers, all these people want to get their music out there. So there's a lot of times you will get really great music for free, you don't even have to pay them. Because they want the exposure depending on the level of your movie, they might just want to like, Hey, I just want to have my song on there, you know, give me 50 bucks, give me 100 bucks, and you got the rights to it, and so on and so forth. And that does work, guys. And I've done that on many projects of mine in the past. So we can work with composers for and make sure you get the rights and you know, you get paid for it. You pay them for original music, work with bands work with singers work with artists directly, and make sure you get all the rights that you need, all the way through. And the last question is about copyright, how to how to copyright your your material, your script, your movie, and what you need to do to do that. Well, first things first guys, and I'm only talking about the states here in the US because that's all I know. But you can use this equivalent in whichever country you are in. Generally speaking, once you have a movie done, you should have the movie copyrighted. First of all, if you have a script, you got to copyright the script. Now I know a lot of people here say oh, you gotta send it to the W ga and get it registered w GA, that doesn't mean anything. The w ga is very nice. It's very cute. It's very cool, you thrown away 25 bucks or 50 bucks wherever they charge nowadays, the only one that really matters is the one in Washington. So it's I think 35 bucks to get yourself copyrighted, you could do it on the website. It's very, very simple. You get your stuff copyrighted right through there, you got your script copyrighted, now you can you can use a company to have the copyright or you could do it for yourself. But eventually you will have to go to an LLC, that will be running your your movie. I'll talk about the LLC in a second because I think a lot of you might not know what I'm talking about. But so you copyright your your script. And then when the movie is done, you copyright the movie, because that's the only way you can protect your movie. And if you don't do that you leave yourself open to all sorts of things if you do not copyright your movie. Now what are the chances of someone stealing your movie after the movie has been made?

It's rare, but it does happen. I mean, the movie called It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, which is a Christmas classic was out of copyright. They forgot the copyright and everybody because it fell in the public domain and everybody and their mother could just copy it and sell it however they want. Same thing would happen with neither living dead. George Romero's classic about zombies No one copyrighted it. So right now if I want to, I can get a copy of Jordan Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and release it myself and call it the indie film, hustle, really any film, hustle presents, neither living dead. And I can sell blu rays, DVDs, sell it wherever the heck I want to, unfortunately, so is everybody else. But that is a problem that that was what happened with that movie. So make sure you copyright your stuff. And finally, this is a bonus question that James is not asking, but it kind of leans into it LLC, you need to have an LLC or a company, a limited liability company. For your movie, every movie that you create, you should, you should do a company because if you do it personally, you're you're completely exposing yourself to any issues that that movie might incur any problems, any lawsuits, any attacks, anything like that will come after you any liens will come after you personally you do not want to do that. So let's say you have your own personal company, production company or so on. Well, you can't, you should not use your personal company for that project or for many projects because again, if something happens with that project legally or financially or something happens, someone slips and falls on the set, they're going to sue that company, the company that they've the company is associated with that movie, and then you can lose your company you can have problems with your company that's why you have to open up a specific company per project. I would not say that for short films, but for feature films Absolutely. And you have to make it a limited liability company very something very simple that you can do throughout whichever state you live in, in the in the in the US if you're overseas somewhere you should have some sort of company if it's not, I'm sure limited liability companies are not everywhere. So depending on what country you live in, you have to have a company something that can protect you a barrier between you and for the project between you and the project. So if something happens it stops at the company something very simple to do and a lot of filmmakers don't do it and that is a huge mistake. So that is my advice on that guys. Thank you for these great questions. Jake I really appreciate it I've got I've got weeks of questions lined up coming up in the coming months ahead so I'm not gonna try i'm not i'm gonna try not to do this every week unless you guys want me to and I will be more than happy to do so. But I'll be doing other other episodes as well so obviously my interviews got some really cool interviews coming up really got some cool stuff about Sundance coming up. We didn't get in i know i know i was gonna I forgot I was gonna tell you guys this this is Mike did not get it did not get it. It's okay you know I submitted it like everybody else did. And you know, you just take a shot in the dark Sundance is one of those things that you always you always submit just to give it a shot you never know what happens. You know, I've like I've told you before I've been involved the projects that did get in and they were a complete shot in the dark. So it happens I'm not worried about it. I've got many other festivals lined up and hopefully we'll get into some other festivals but you know, I didn't get bummed out so I was kind of expecting not to get in by so we did not officially get into Sundance guys, it's okay we will survive. But we do have a bunch of other cool stuff coming up that we will be at Sundance and again if you guys are going to be at Sundance, I'm going to be there too and we got to get something together and see if we could all hang out at a bar or something and network and do all sorts of cool stuff. And we're going to be doing some events there as well i'm going to be doing a panel there just kind of getting everything finalized but I will be doing a panel at slam dance actually this year and we will be talking more about that in the weeks in the next few weeks as soon as I get something locked locked in dates and times I will let you know guys very very excited about it. But we do have a lot of cool interviews coming up in the in the coming weeks and again guys thank you so much for doing everything you guys do man you guys inspire me I get so many emails from you guys every week, every day actually telling me your stories and I really with all my heart I really appreciate all of the well wishes about Meg and what and the thanks that you guys continuously give me for what I'm doing here with the podcast and with indie film hustle but I do it for you guys man you gotta lead with giving you got to lead with a sense of abundance you can't live in a mentality of of I don't have enough you know that's why I want to give as much as I can to you guys I want to give as much free information as I can. And I want to just give and help as much as I can you guys and you guys are so cool. And so thing I'm so thankful to have you guys all as part of the indie film hustle tribe and thank you So much again and I do have more news coming up and I'll wait till probably towards the end of the year about what I'm doing next year and it's gonna be one hell of a year. If 2016 was amazing for indie film hustle and for myself shooting my first feature film, indie film hustle kind of blowing up the podcast growing levels that I was not expecting it to. 2017 is gonna make 2016 look like it was 1987 Anyway, guys, don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm that is filmmaking podcast.com and leaving a good review, please, I really would appreciate it. It helps the show out a lot, and helps me get it out to more and more filmmakers. And please spread the word guys spread the word, email people share my stuff, when we put it out there share this stuff that the posts and things like that, you know, get the word out there with as many of your friends and filmmakers as you can because I really want to help as much as many filmmakers as I can. I really want to see all you guys succeed and give you the real skinny on what the hell is going on in this business, which is changing on a daily daily basis. So also if you want the show notes, head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash 119 that's indie film hustle, calm forward slash 119 to check out the download the episode and check out the show notes. So as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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