Category Archives: Legal

The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw

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Crowdfunding – Indie no-go?

I woke up recently to the news that Kevin Smith won’t be using kickstarter for Clerks 3. Great! Why? I’m rapidly becoming a Crowdfunding cynic.

Everything I originally loved about crowdfunding has ebbed away, which brings back  memories of ebay (remember that place?). Once upon a time ebay was lovely community with purer intentions. Sadly when it became more mainstream – ebay/paypal started to take huge fees; sellers had little come-back (buyers could easily claim the item had never arrived and the liability is with the seller to reimburse – even if the item did turn up); likewise – buyers regularly get duped into buying broken, fake or knock-off products – the whole experience now feels like one big scam! Is crowdfunding heading down a similar path?

As I have primarily used crowdfunding to make or help others make films, I am basing my experiences around this although it could equally apply to other projects/products. Much like ebay, crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo, Kickstarter or Sponsorume were once a lovely place to be. Projects that would never see the light of day had the opportunity to flourish. Now it is so mainstream and everyone wants a piece!

The problems are obvious:

1. Everyone is doing it. There is an awful lot of noise now. It’s a given you’ll HAVE to do this as a film-maker (we didn’t for this project being as it’s a charity piece, but sadly I’ll be back before long). It is incredibly tough to get noticed when everyone is shouting about their project and the unique perks which once enticed are losing their lustre.

2. Too many people are getting scammed by undelivered perks, projects which fall flat/never see the light of day or worst of all were nothing more than a con in the first place – eg. http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/kickstarter-scam-nearly-duped-thousands-out-of-120000/22016

3. Fees. These companies continue to cream off bigger fees (ala ebay/pay-pal) whilst leaving many dangling in a murky quagmire legally speaking. You can bet the onus will never be on them!

4. By far my biggest gripe is that playing fields are now completely uneven. Once upon a time a project just needed to be unique to stand-out from the crowd. Now this world is flooded and projects can be manipulated/dictated by the sites themselves (ie. the highest bidder). To me crowdfunding is about realising dreams. It was never about giving further finances to the more established who already have surplus resources such as film studios (eg. Veronica Mars) or celebrities (eg. Zach Braff). These people already have an unfair advantage and have access to far more resources – they just don’t want to reach into their own pockets! Of course, along comes the odd exception such as James Franco, although again – the cynic in me still thinks this is just as much about profile raising for Franco as it is for the charity fund-raising aspect itself (although I’d dearly love to be proven totally wrong about this!).

SpareChange

Kevin Smith “kickstarted” this mainstream film-maker trend with his Red State movie but has gone on to realise we should “leave it to people who need it“. To which I wholeheartedly agree, although sadly the damage is already done! Crowdfunding for most is now a desperate needy affair which boils down to little more than online begging or shouting over and over to the point of complete nauseum (most often both at the same time). And the grim reality is I will no-doubt find myself back here again soon enough.

Music rights and wrongs

I’m no closer to solving the previous post’s Sonar issue. I continued around the same cycle ad-nauseum with online support (I could draw you an exact flow-chart detailing their responses based on my actions). Eventually I got fobbed off to another department and the same cycle began again.

When I did some deeper digging around online, I found something which sounded exactly the same as what I had experienced. It “appears” I’ve been sold a “Publisher’s copy” of Sonar X1 Producer. This software has all the appearance of a full retail version but the licence expires 6 months after installation. What could possibly be annoying about this!!? Why was it sold in the first place (let’s just say be careful where you buy from online) and why isn’t this made more obvious to the user in the first place by the manufacturer (so this can be avoided)? Hmm…

As if by magic today I received an email from Cakewalk trying to get me to upgrade to the latest version of Sonar X2 at a discounted rate. If only I had a “proper” copy of X1 as I believed I did, I might have entertained the idea.

This is all rather frustrating as I was part way through composing some music for a film. I was asked to compose because the film-makers had fallen foul of that old chestnut “Music Rights”. They had the correct licence to use the original music at film-festivals, but this didn’t extend to television broadcast rights (at least not without large expense). So the moral of this post is: be careful you know exactly what your licence covers, especially when it comes to music.

Credit where credit is due

I experienced a truly surreal moment last week. Whilst reading a Bond forum, I got wind of an Oscar “For your consideration” soundtrack which was doing the rounds for Thomas Newman’s Oscar nominated Skyfall score. The thing which piqued my curiosity was a couple of extra tracks which were not featured on the original soundtrack release. Naturally curious – I decided to try to check this out further, which led me to some less reputable web locations. I was very surprised to find on one of them contained a Thomas Newman demo tracks called East Meets West. Interesting!

On the one hand, it is extremely flattered that people might even consider my work in the same breath as an Oscar nominee (especially as the track itself was still a little rough around the edges – the brass definitely needed more oomph!). On the other hand, not only is this work free in the first place, I am not getting the credit I deserve.

Do we ever get the credit we deserve?

For the rough-cut of Spare Change I decided so many of the cast and crew were doing more than just their specified role it would be unfair to attribute them to just a specific role. We all mucked it, I appreciated all their efforts. Therefore I dropped roles altogether.

Spare Change Credits 1Spare Change Credits 2

This certainly isn’t the done thing in larger production circles. However I do wonder how much hard work is taken for granted as a result, and how many people get perhaps more credit than they actually deserve!

Meanwhile, I’d like to wish Thomas Newman (and the three other Skyfall nominees) all the best for tomorrow evening at the Oscar ceremony. Fingers crossed!

Calming chaos

It’s now only a matter of days until we go out and actually film Spare Change. All the work so far has been to get us to this moment. And as most film-makers will tell you, we are now at that stage where things go a little bit mad.

Today’s good news is we have finally been given permission by the city council to film on the streets. This hasn’t been an uneventful milestone. The final hurdle was upgrading our existing £5,000,000 public liability insurance to £10,000,000 which has effectively doubled the film’s budget.

We still don’t know if we have quite enough lighting equipment for the locations. We most probably won’t find out until on location and shooting. This said I am going out this evening with the Director of Photography to do a few tests.

People have been dropping in and out of the production for various reasons at an alarming rate. Even now we are still looking for our makeup artist (any offers?).

So it’s all damage control and administration trying to work out if X or Y happens, then what is plan A, B, C, D…? For some reason I feel surprisingly calm getting my head around it all, along with the shot-lists, call-sheets and other logistics/documents required.

Maybe this is because something is finally happening and I’m excited. Maybe part of it is that I have kids and organising chaos/damage control is what I do on a daily basis. In any case, I can’t wait to give you an update on the production very soon!

Cookie monster

Do you run your own website and are you based in Europe? Are you using Google analytics or embedding any Google maps, Facebook “like” buttons, YouTube videos on the pages?

If so, by Friday you may well be breaking the law and could be held liable!

That’s right folks! For those who haven’t heard already – it is now compulsory to let people know you are setting cookies on your web-pages and they have to agree to “opt in” rather than the “opt out” (as has been the case until now). That is unless they are deemed “absolutely essential”. Sadly – none of the above will qualify as “essential”.

Scared? Well you’ve all had a year to patch. No – I didn’t hear about it until recently either. Naturally many people are now running around like headless chickens!

Unlike a rather unhelpful talk I went to on the subject recently, I will at least try and point worried folk towards “some” direction. Disclaimer: please note I am only pointing, I am not a legal professional. It is ultimately your responsibility to decide how you should proceed:

  • Firstly, show the ICO you are taking things seriously by producing a cookie audit (if you haven’t already). Browsers themselves tend to list the cookies, but there are some free tools out there which can also help. Do not pay for these tools, some people are charging! Here is a free example of a plug-in for Chrome which you could use. There are no doubt many others out there also.
  • Next write a privacy statement which contains the cookie audit as part of it. Make it easy for non-technical people to read. Explain all cookies you set, where you use them, what you use the cookies for. Make the link obvious and ideally appear on all pages (perhaps in a header/footer).
  • If possible look for a pre-existing script to do some of the hard work for you (this is just one, if it is helpful buy this chap a beer!)
  • There are lots of other useful sites out there – such as this one. If you haven’t already: Go! Research!

I’ll end by saying I find a lot of this daft. So much so, that the people who are enforcing it (the ICO), set a cookie when you say “I don’t want cookies” but “I want you to remember that I don’t want cookies”. Completely barmy! I believe it makes more sense to force compliance at the browsers application end, rather than stressing so many web-developers out of their minds unnecessarily! Now what was that well-known saying about what “the law is” again?