The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers / Edition 2

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $19.64
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 52%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (11) from $19.64   
  • New (7) from $24.36   
  • Used (4) from $19.64   


Get fast legal answers written in plain English with no law degree required. It is designed to reduce your legal costs by providing the vital information you need to make informed decisions on the legal aspects of your film, video, and TV productions. The format is carefully designed for quick reference, so you get the answers you need, and quickly. Learn what you need to if want to safeguard your intellectual property, clear the rights to a song or soundtrack, or you are faced with a complicated contractual clause. Big-budget producers have lawyers on retainer, but you are left legally exposed. This book arms you with the practical advice of a TV-producer-turned-entertainment-lawyer.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Crowell, entertainment and intellectual property rights lawyer, presents this pocket guide providing vital and useful legal information for independent filmmakers. With this well organized reference, producers can navigate the murky legal waters associated with the filmmaking process. Crowell covers everything from protecting intellectual property to dealing with Hollywood actors' agents and even benefitting financially from state film taxes and product placement. Presented in accessible language, without all the obfuscation of legal jargon, this guide provides adequate legal counsel for those embarking on producing an independent film."—Book News, Reference & Research
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240813189
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 1/25/2011
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 472
  • Sales rank: 382,971
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers

A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers
By Thomas A. Crowell

Focal Press

Copyright © 2011 Thomas A. Crowell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-81319-6

Chapter One



Since the first edition of this book was written a scant three years ago, several developments have played increasingly important roles in the way independent filmmakers raise money for their films, choose the kinds of projects to shoot, and determine how to get their movies to the right audience. In this second edition I have tried to respond to these needs by including completely new sections on tax credit and film production incentive financing, production services agreements, and do-it-yourself film distribution. I have also included lots of new case law, graphics, and a host of other updates, all aimed at making this guide topical and easy to use. There was so much I wanted to cram in between these covers that it simply wouldn't fit (not unless you wanted to carry around a guide bigger than the Manhattan phone book). Don't worry, we didn't save that material for the third edition; no, we decided to post it on the new Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers website at!


This book is intended to provide you with a grasp of many of the key legal issues you will face during the course of making your independent films. The material in this book can help you understand and negotiate crucial production contracts, steer you through the choppy waters of handling actors and their agents, and navigate your production past the perils of copyright infringement and other lawsuits. Most important, it can help you protect that most valuable of properties: the rights to your film.

When I was first approached to write this book, I wanted to create something filmmakers would use on a daily basis—something that I would have used when I was a producer. Before sitting down to write, I surveyed the market and found that books on film law generally fell into two broad categories: contract form books and textbook-style legal treatises. What was missing was a pocket guide that could help the first-time filmmaker spot critical legal issues right away, without having to first sort through a lot of legal theory or read through a stack of contracts. Filmmakers needed a quick reference to reach for when they were on the phone with an actor's agent or waiting to go into a pitch meeting. I wanted to write a book that would sit in the producer's bag just as The American Cinematographers Manual is carried by every camera operator.


This book is aimed at the independent filmmaker who wants to make money by selling his or her film. You, the reader, may be an industry professional, a recent film school graduate, or an amateur who wants to break into "the biz." Regardless of who you are, if you want a chance at selling your film you must have artistic passion and you must be prepared to treat your film project as a business!

The book's premise is simple: You can't sell something you don't own, and unless you take care of the legal aspects of filmmaking, you could wind up not owning or not being able to sell your movie.

Furthermore, paying careful attention to a film's legal housekeeping will go a long way toward convincing a distributor that the filmmaker is a professional whose project is worth considering. The opposite is especially true: A filmmaker who ignores the legal aspects of her film will almost certainly scare a distributor away from picking up an otherwise marketable film! Even if you decide to self-distribute your film, you need to safeguard against lawsuits, cost overruns, and the failure to properly protect your rights.


A quick thumb through this book will show you that there are few contract forms within these pages. This is intentional.

I was an independent producer for many years before I became an attorney. Like many producers, I was very hands-on: I was much more comfortable wrapping cable than reading contracts. When it came time to negotiate a contract, I would pull a contract form book from the shelf and fill in the blanks. After all, I figured, a lawyer wrote the form book, so the contracts it contained had to be good.

What I didn't realize was that these form contracts are only good for a particular deal ... and no two deals are exactly the same. Contractual language that works for one situation may leave you woefully unprotected in another; contracts are not one size fits all.

That's where this book comes in handy. Rather than giving you form contracts, I have taken key contracts and broken them down into their important deal points. This allows you, the filmmaker, to concentrate on negotiating the deal without having to read and understand a lot of legal language.

It is also the way the pros do it. The distributor who negotiates a distribution agreement with the filmmaker is almost never the same person who drafts the contract. It is easier to come to an agreement when you are concentrating on what the deal is rather than on how to draft the agreement. (That being said, of course crafting the contract matters. "The devil is in the drafting," as they say, and the wording of a defined term or a net profit clause may make all the difference.)

Don't get me wrong: Both contract form books and textbooks are good and valuable resources in their own right. In fact, it is my sincere belief that the filmmaker is best protected by using this book in conjunction with a contract form book when negotiating contracts and by using a textbook when trying to figure out why the law is the way it is.

A list of useful books that contain examples of film contracts may be found at the back of this book. Books by Mark Litwak, John W. Cones, and Philip H. Miller may be particularly helpful. (See "Bibliography and Resources," p. 419.)


This book is organized roughly chronologically, according to the life cycle of a film. Nevertheless, it is also intended to be a flexible resource, allowing the filmmaker to access information in a variety of ways:

• The book is designed for easy access for the filmmaker who needs to jump right in and find an answer without having to first read the book cover to cover. To help these nonlinear readers, I have repeated some key information from section to section, particularly in the sections covering contracts' deal points.

• The book may also be read straight through like any traditional book. In fact, readers may get the greatest benefit from starting at the beginning and continuing until the end. Not only will such a reader know what to anticipate, but he will have a greater understanding of how all the legal puzzle pieces fit together.

• Extensive cross-references have been included in the text. These references provide the section and page number where a related topic may be located. (See "Setting Up the Production Company," p. 35.)

• A section featuring frequently asked questions (FAQs) may help you zero in on particularly pressing issues. (See "Filmmaker FAQs," p. 9.)

• Several appendices are included at the end of the book, forming a portable law library. These sections will provide you with separate, handy guides to intellectual property, contract, labor, and employment law. Also included is a quick reference to understanding common contract clauses and a state-by-state directory of film commission offices.

– Appendix A: "A Filmmaker's Guide to Intellectual Property Law," p. 327

– Appendix B: "A Filmmaker's Guide to Contract Law," p. 367

– Appendix C: "The Clause Companion," p. 375

– Appendix D: "A Filmmaker's Guide to Labor and Employment Law," p. 393

– Appendix E: "State Film Commission Offices," p. 407

IMPORTANT TIP: regardless of how you use this book, you should first read the section entitled "Legal Building Blocks." this section is critical to understanding the rest of the guide. (see "Legal Building Blocks: contract and Intellectual Property," p. 21.)


Ten years ago there were two camps: videographers and filmmakers. Today, thanks to excellent inexpensive video cameras and computer editing programs, the distinction between film and video has largely been eliminated. Many independent producers shoot on high-definition (hi-def) video and transfer to film for theatrical distribution, and every project shot on film is transferred to video at some stage of its distribution. More and more theaters have facilities for projecting DVD, Blu-ray, smartcards, and other video media, and virtually every film has its own online trailer. Because producers tend to refer to their projects as "films" regardless of the medium in which they are shot, I have adopted that convention here. From a legal perspective, the choice of label is largely irrelevant. I have used the term filmmaker to describe creative artists working in either film or video, and the term film to describe the project or medium in which they are working, even if that medium is video.


This book is designed to help you spot legal issues common to most film and video productions. Generally, these legal issues will typically fall into one or more of the following categories:

• Copyright and intellectual property law

• Contract law

• Labor and employment law

• Finance and business

Most issues involve several of these topics—for instance, working with an actor who is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) involves both contract and labor law; raising money for a film involves finance, business, and contractual legal issues; distributing a film involves contractual and copyright issues.

Although the business of filmmaking involves virtually every area of law, this figure illustrates some of the most common legal issues a filmmaker faces.


Excerpted from The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers by Thomas A. Crowell Copyright © 2011 by Thomas A. Crowell. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Getting Started; Development; Getting the Rights; Financing; Preproduction; PRODUCTION; The Production Office; Legal Issues on the Set; Shooting Permits; Child Actors; Intellectual Property; Shooting Schedules; Location Damage; Personal Injury; Transportation and Accomodations; Overtime and Overages; POSTPRODUCTION; Editing; Music Licensing; Reshoots and Doubling; Looping and ADR; Animation, Titles, and Special Effects; Laboratory Agreements; DISTRIBUTION; Distributors; Chain of Title and Deliverables; Net Profits; Royalties, Accounting, and Audits; Marketing and Promotion; Ancillary Rights; Assignment of Rights; LEGAL TAILOR; Appendix A, Contracts; Appendix B, Intellectual Property Law, Appendix C, Business Entities; Legal Resources; Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)