For Independent Filmmakers
Welcome to our Independent Filmmaker pages. Our goal is to provide an overview of the most important legal and business matters facing low-budget independent filmmakers. We do not intend this to be an exhaustive treatment of the issues every filmmaker might face. Instead, we simply offer practical answers to the questions we hear most often from Missouri- and Illinois-based filmmakers.
Lawyers and Accountants
Also, we make available for download some basic agreements — Collaboration, Work-Made-For-Hire, Permission, Personal Release, Cast Deal Memo, Crew Member Deal Memo and Location — that can be used to anticipate and avoid certain legal problems. They are brief, easy-to-understand and evenhanded. We provide these forms with some reluctance because using forms found online is by no means an adequate substitute for the advice of an entertainment attorney. But we also believe that with access to plain-English information, some legal legwork is within the capability of filmmakers willing to spend the requisite time and energy.
Deliverables and Chain of Title
Because our focus is on low-budget films, we do not address distribution deals. If you think you might want to seek a distribution deal, your paper trail of documentation will be part of the collection of finished products or "deliverables" required before your film can be released. Deliverables fall into three categories: Print materials — actual film in the form of negatives and/or video transfers; publicity materials, such as still images, press releases, a synopses and profiles of leading actors; and legal documentation — the paperwork required to prove that you have secured all of the rights necessary to make and distribute the film. This documentation includes release forms and contracts for cast and crew, location agreements, product clearances, music licenses and your “chain of title.”
These pages were conceived, researched and written by student volunteers attending St. Louis University School of Law and Washington University School of Law under the leadership of Brian Flavin with guidance from filmmakers and our volunteers. Their work was edited by VLAA Executive Director Sue Greenberg and filmmaker/writer Jim Klenn.