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If using exterior of building, do we need release?


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#1 McGooGoo

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 12:06 AM

Hello,

I am shooting a horror movie, which we are hoping to have distributed in video stores. I have a legal question; If we are using the exterior of a building, do we need a release from the owner?

The building is a central element to the movie, I was going to get permission anyway, but was curious about the legal side?

Any thoughts?

Thanks
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 12:18 AM

Hello,

I am shooting a horror movie, which we are hoping to have distributed in video stores. I have a legal question; If we are using the exterior of a building, do we need a release from the owner?

The building is a central element to the movie, I was going to get permission anyway, but was curious about the legal side?

Any thoughts?

Thanks

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It's a good idea if it is distinctive and recognizable, and used a couple of times in the movie.

If the use of the building is pretty innocuous and brief, you can risk getting away with it. I did a brief shot of a generic building, no signs visible, for an establishing shot of a hospital for interior scenes for "Twin Falls Idaho", shot on sets. I don't recall getting permission, but the usage was nothing objectionable (it wasn't being played as the location of an evil person doing horrible things, etc.)
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#3 McGooGoo

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 02:24 AM

See there again is another issue that I would love advice on. I would like to use this building as a starting point in a horror movie; I am suggesting in the script that 2 murders too place in the building.

Does anyone have any advice on dealing with the owner?


Thanks David!
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#4 Josh Hill

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 03:29 AM

Just ask, be honest, and have a good sense of humor about it. Most people, even the most conservative, have a good sense of humor about those things. Unless they are just abnormally sensitive to horror movies, I doubt they're going to care much. They'll probably laugh about it, or hang around while you're shooting and bug you about what all of your gagetry is.
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 08:41 AM

If your camera is on public property and you are shooting a view of the building that would be seen by the public from the exterior then you do not need written permission from the building owner.

The case law on this is here....

http://biotech.law.l...ck_and_roll.htm

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame tried to sue a photographer because he took a picture of the museum and was selling it as a poster. The museum insisted that their building is "trademarked" and that they are the only ones who could sell pictures of their building.

Well the museum was wrong, they lost.

This is the legal precedent now used by the stock footage industry to sell exteriors of buildings, famous and non-famous.

Private residences may be a different matter, ie some ones private home where they live.

Although if it's a wide shot of a sub division with many houses in the scene then you won't have an issue, or if just a small part of a home is visible behind a character again not an issue.

Say you're shooting an aerial of a sub division it would be unreasonable for the courts to ask that you get a release from every home owner when 100-150 homes may be seen during the duration of the shot.

In any event the home owner needs to take you to court which is a long and expensive process, if they do get you in court they have to prove damages, also not easy. If they win, they have to collect, and 80% of all court rulings go un-collected in the USA.

But buildings....no problem.

R,
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#6 drew_town

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 09:49 AM

Just ask, be honest, and have a good sense of humor about it. Most people, even the most conservative, have a good sense of humor about those things. Unless they are just abnormally sensitive to horror movies, I doubt they're going to care much. They'll probably laugh about it, or hang around while you're shooting and bug you about what all of your gagetry is.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My experience with this is people will either be very willing to help you with your project or totally object to the whole idea. I've never really ran into an in between. It's always been one or the other. On one shoot I did we were set up in front of a hospital, and if you heard the ambient sound from the raw footage you would hear the director talking to a police officer who is telling us to get lost. We just left the camera running and stalled for time with the actors doing their thing. Student project- no regrets.
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 10:19 AM

"On one shoot I did we were set up in front of a hospital, and if you heard the ambient sound from the raw footage you would hear the director talking to a police officer who is telling us to get lost. We just left the camera running and stalled for time with the actors doing their thing."

Ah you raise an interesting point, if you have actors and a crew on public property with no permits, then the police can move you along.

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame decision does not exempt film crews from getting permits for full on film shoots. But one guy with a camera set up on the sidewalk for a few minutes is not an issue. In the case of a still photographer he could work with no tri-pod.

The same holds for news crews doing stand ups on city streets, they don't need a permit for that. Since they are usually made up of one reporter and a camera guy, and it will only be a short time period that they are on the sidewalk.

R.
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#8 Matt Pacini

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 11:35 AM

Regarding laws, who won what lawsuit, etc., keep in mind that anyone can sue you for anything, even if they're wrong.
Getting sued and winning is not a victory (because of the time, money & hassle you're going to go through).
Not getting sued in the first place is.

My general rule of thumb is, if the location is crucial to the story, especially if there "may" be something that some people "may" object to their place being identified with, (2 murders certainly fit this criteria), then I get permission.
There are just too many things to worry about after your film is done. It's easier to just ask & have him sign a simple contract.
If he's not against the idea, then there is no reason he wouldn't sign.
If he is, then this is the kind of person you're most likely to have a problem with later, so why not find that out beforehand and save yourself lots of potential problems?

MP
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#9 Laurence Avenet

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 01:52 PM

In addition to the above, if your distributor requires you to have an E/O insurance, the attorney involved in that process may ask to see some or all of your releases for the project.

Laurence
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#10 FilmmakerJack

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 04:04 PM

What's some advice for finding actual locations? I'm looking for an apartment building or hotel with a staircase I can film in. So I would need to film not only outside, but inside. Is this at all doable for a student? Or would the cost of all the legal affairs be way outside of my budget?
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 04:08 PM

Filming inside is a whole new ballgame. Obviously you'll need permission from the building owner.

If you're a student your best bet is too approach the owner and ask nicely. If they say no you just have to keep asking until you find a place that will say yes.

This is why location managers exist, some times the process can be long and frustrating.

R,.
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#12 McGooGoo

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Posted 23 May 2005 - 04:43 PM

Thanks everyone,

I am going to talk to the building owner, and get him to sign a contract (if he agrees).

I think he may be particularly sensitive since the building is currently abandoned and he takes allot of heat for not fixing it up. It is a beautiful building though, and I recently heard that renovation plans are in the works.

Here is a link:
http://www.snweb.org/brod.php

I am not shooting the side with the mural! I hate it!


Dan
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#13 Matt Pacini

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 03:06 PM

You can get basic release forms easy enough.
No need to hire a lawyer, so it shouldn't really cost you any money for this.

It's a tough situation for low budget work. There is a legitimate concern on the part of building/business owners, about the risk of injury.
No matter what you think, or promise the guy, it could happen, and it may be beyond your control, so there's nothing you can say that is reassuring in situations like this.
For instance, one of your actors falls, breaks a foot, gets cut on a piece of broken glass, etc., and THEY decide to get a lawyer and sue the building owner.
You're completely out of the loop. You have no power to stop something like this.

Having said that, it's not that hard to get many locations, but you have to have something to offer. It's not good enough to just say you want to film there, and it would be cool.
I found that by offering an ending credit, I got into about 80% of the places I wanted to film in.
You know, THANKS TO JOE AT JOE'S BAKERY or whatever.
This is basically free advertising for the business. Just be prepared to work around THEIR convenience, and make absolutely sure you overestimate the time you're going to need to get your stuff shot.
Most people think you're going to be there for 45 minutes, when the truth might be 9 hours.
It's better to WAY overstate the time. Nobody is going to be pissed if you're done sooner, but if you're three hours over what you told them, you're gonna have one irritated business owner!

A vacant building however, is another story. He has nothing to gain by letting you in there, and much risk of losing a lot.
Good luck.

Matt Pacini
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#14 Robert Edge

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 03:45 PM

If we are using the exterior of a building, do we need a release from the owner?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


The answer depends on what country you are in.

In the US and Canada, you have a legal right, if you and your camera are on public property, to photograph the exterior of a building that is on private property.

The law on this in the US and Canada is crystal clear. It's too bad if some filmmakers are so afraid of lawsuits that they won't take advantage of obvious legal rights unless they can get a release.

The foregoing does not address the post-9/11 issues that have arisen in relation to photographing certain kinds of infrastructure and buildings in the US.

Unlike the US and Canada, in some European countries you need the permission of the owner in at least some cases. I am not a European lawyer, but I've been told that the different approach arises from a certain point of view about copyright in architectural design.
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#15 drew_town

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 04:45 PM

The answer depends on what country you are in.

In the US and Canada, you have a legal right, if you and your camera are on public property, to photograph the exterior of a building that is on private property.

The law on this in the US and Canada is crystal clear.  It's too bad if some filmmakers are so afraid of lawsuits that they won't take advantage of obvious legal rights unless they can get a release.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There are many specific situations where it is not legal to shoot a building. In our case we were shooting a mental institution. There is a law protecting the privacy of the patients at the hospital. The authorities were willing to remove us just in case we captured someone other than our actors in the shots. So however legal it might be to shoot the actual buildings, there can be a number of things that restrict you from getting the shot you need.
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#16 Robert Edge

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 06:27 PM

Drew,

The question was about photographing a building, not about photographing people who are mentally ill.

On the question that was actually asked, the interesting issue is the different intellectual property treatment given by some civil law systems as distinct from common law systems. In other words, some European countries give greater intellectual property protection to architectural design, in at least some cases, than countries like the US and Canada. My bet is that the rest of the common law countries, such as England, Australia, New Zealand, etc. follow suit.

That said, I've seen a number of threads on this website about photographing people in which participants make statements that better reflect paranoia about lawsuits than an understanding of the law or, for that matter, the real history of cinema.

Edited by R. Edge, 24 May 2005 - 06:29 PM.

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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 07:08 PM

On the other hand, understanding the law is what can lead to paranoia...
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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 07:25 PM

Filmmaker paranoia is fed largely by the over blown media reports of people that actually got sued for doing some thing rather simple. The only situations that make the news are the ones where some one has won a huge judgement against another person. Since this is all the media reports it's easy to get the idea that lawsuits are flying every which direction and thousands of people are being sued and winning judgements.

If a plane takes off from NY and lands in LA safely, that doesn't make the news. If the plane crashes when it gets to LA it's a news story. Yet 99.999999% of all flights on a given day world wide take off and land with no incidence.

Now some one will post the "it only takes once" argument. Well life is risk, you might fall down the stairs and break your neck. It only takes once.

I deal with people every day that are very paranoid over lawsuits. The statistical odds of you being sued in the first place for filming a building are so remote it's not even worth worrying about.

And if you do end up in court, the legal precedents are already on your side, the other side would be wasting their time.

R,
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#19 drew_town

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 10:45 PM

The question was about photographing a building, not about photographing people who are mentally ill.

Yeah I know. I'm just tossing the idea out there that there might some other things to think about too. Not specifically lawsuits but authorities and/or owners. I've never been threatened by a law suit, but I have had the authorities show up on a number of shoots and mouth off some reason why we couldn't do what we were doing. I can't speak for everywhere, but definitely where I'm from, if a property owner were to contact the authorities and was displeased with what you were doing, even if you're within your legal rights to be filming, you're as good as gone.

Quick story: I DPed a series of promos for the campus police at the university I attended. I worked countless hours on the project and worked with many of the officers. My director/producer agreed to make the promos free of charge as a good faith to the department. So a week after we finish these nice promos for the police we were on another shoot and the same guys we just did all this work for showed up and ran us off for really no good reason. I reminded them we just did all this work for them but they didn't really seem to care at the time. And that's only one of like two dozen examples I've personally run into.
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#20 Robert Edge

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 02:42 PM

I can't speak for everywhere, but definitely where I'm from, if a property owner were to contact the authorities and was displeased with what you were doing, even if you're within your legal rights to be filming, you're as good as gone.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yes, there can be a difference between the law and the conduct of enforcement officials. If you're on a well-funded commercial shoot, it may well be easier to take the path of least resistance. On the other hand, if you are on a tight budget, and can't do things like close down a city block, maybe you rely a little more on your rights. If you are a documentary filmmaker or a street photographer or a news photographer, it's another story. You've got to know what your rights are and sometimes you've got to insist on them.

At the moment, this subject is a hot topic for documentary filmmakers and street photographers in the US. The open letter in the current issue of Filmmaker, by a photographer who had a run-in with the authorities because he was filming with a Bolex through the window of a commuter train, is an interesting example. Recently, there was a vigorous debate over a proposal to ban all photography in the New York subway system. Had this ban been in place not so long ago, we would not have Bruce Davidson's Subway series. One reason that the ban hasn't happened, at least yet, is that photograhers, instead of taking the path of least resistance, made their voices heard.

Myself, I'm planning to shoot some outdoor footage in New York in the near future. I've shot there on a number of occasions with a 4x5 without incident. That said, I know that there is some potential for problems, whether from the police or New Yorkers who just don't like photographers. I've decided to shoot with an A-Minima in an attempt to be reasonably inconspicuous, and I may go through the process of getting a permit for a couple of places where I want to use a tripod.

Edited by R. Edge, 25 May 2005 - 02:44 PM.

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