IX: Protecting the Impossible

In this post I’ll discuss how to protect your work. It’s not legal advice so please consult a lawyer before taking any decisions.

Protecting the Screenplay

In India, the best way to protect your script/screenplay/short story/synopsis/lyrics/poem/article/novel etc is via the Copyright office. However, dealing with them directly is a PITA. Therefore, find a lawyer who can get it done for you in a reasonable budget.

Second to that, you can register your work at the Writers Association, for which you’ll have to become a member. To become a member, you’ll have to prove published or produced work plus get two other members to vouch for you. It’s not as hard as it seems. This is the cheapest way.

Another good way is to register with the WGA (West or East). You don’t need a membership, and you can do it on the internet by uploading a PDF file.

If you can get it done all three ways, you are as safe as you can be.

Contracts, Agreements and Release Forms

You need to get each and every person on your cast and crew to sign a contract, agreement or release form. These documents are complicated, and even though you’ll find many samples online, you’ll still have to customize them to your situation; and the ideal person to turn to is an experienced lawyer. If you’re filming children, you’ll need forms signed by their parents or guardians.

You’ll also need a location release form signed by the owners/licensees/etc for each location you shoot in, especially if you’re shooting in private or commercial property.

If you’re filming animals, you’ll need permission and clearance from the AWB (in India) or equivalent.

If you are shooting in public places, you’ll need permissions from the police, traffic police, civic bodies, municipal bodies, etc.

If you fail to procure all the relevant documents, your film might not get released. It’s as simple as that. If by chance you do release the film without clearance, any person who has not authorized you for the above services in writing can sue you and stop projection or release. Why take the hassle?

Insurance

What if someone meets with an accident, or worse, dies, during the production of your feature film? Always get insurance for your cast and crew.

In India, it is almost impossible for small time producers to get insurance for their equipment. I have spoken to almost every insurance company in the hope that they would insure my gear, but it was fruitless. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.

Titles

You will need to register the title of your feature film at any of the producers’ associations. For this, you will need to be a member of the association by showing proof of your intent to produce – this will probably include documents of registration (of your banner or production company) and a bank account in its name. You’ll also need two producers to vouch for you. Once you apply for title registration, it might take 30-60 days for approval. Once approved, you will get a certificate for the period you have registered for.

Content Protection

So you’ve shot your film and everything is in the can (or the SD card or hard drive). You can play extra safe and Copyright everything, or wait till final edit. It’s only a question of money and how cynical you are about the people you work for. The indie producer has limited options. Once the film is edited and finished, then it is prudent to get it copyrighted.

Censor Certificate

In India, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) must clear your film prior to release. The most common grades are U (Universal), U/A (Children with adult supervision) and A (Adults only). However, for video, there is another option – V substituted for U.

I had to visit the censor office in Mumbai eight times before my form was finally ready for processing. You’ll have to submit proof of title, a copy of the film with time code, forms, demand drafts, etc, in the specific format they want. There are agents who handle this sort of thing, but I wanted to learn first hand. So know this: you can do it alone if you want to. The film is screened by a member and the grade is announced immediately. The Impossible Murder has a V/A certificate. Luckily, since mine was a video film, I didn’t have to book a hall and screen it for members. My movie was watched on a DVD player at the office itself. Also, another advantage of shooting on video is that with this one certificate, I can project in any form, however if I had finished on film, I would need a separate video certificate for television or DVD, etc.

Also, if you’re making promos and trailers to air on television, etc, you’ll need separate certificates for that. But they are not too much trouble.

Marketing

Once the CBFC hands you a certificate and you’ve produced all of the marketing materials like posters, banners, flyers, newspaper ads, promos, trailers, etc, you’ll need to hand these over to your producer’s association to get their approval. It will take about 2-4 weeks but by this stage they know you are the real deal and are very helpful.

If you have maneuvered through this maze of BS successfully without losing your enthusiasm to be a filmmaker, you only have the paparazzi to fear.

Give them your best smile.