The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers : A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers book cover
3rd Edition

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers
A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers

ISBN 9780367562489
Published August 30, 2022 by Routledge
546 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This no-nonsense reference helps independent filmmakers recognize and solve the critical legal issues they might face throughout the course of making a film.

Author Thomas A. Crowell, TV producer turned entertainment lawyer, will help you to understand and negotiate crucial production contracts, handle actors and their agents, and navigate the perils of copyright infringement and other lawsuits. Updated throughout to address important changes to the law, and incorporating discussion of online distribution, crowd funding, social media marketing, and international productions, this expanded third edition will provide you with the skills to:

  • Protect the copyright to your work.

  • Finance your film and watch out for common financing traps.
  • Understand how tax credits and other incentives are used in film financing.
  • Work with other screenwriters, and protect your script ideas.
  • Adapt a book or comic into a screenplay.
  • Know how to spot the difference between copyright infringement and fair use.
  • Hire crew members, actors, and post-production staff.
  • Draft a production services agreement or a license to use someone else’s work.
  • License music for soundtracks.
  • Negotiate a distribution agreement or understand how to distribute your film alone.
  • Learn how to best position your film for Netflix.
  • Make money from YouTube.

And much more!

Written for accessibility and ease of reference, this book is a vital resource for any student or independent filmmaker wanting their films to be successful and free of legal disasters.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Introduction

Part 2. Legal Building Blocks: Contract and Intellectual Property

1. Copyright and Intellectual Property

2. The Contract Engine

Part 3. The Production Company and Financing Your Movie

3. Setting Up the Production Company

4. Your Professional Team

5. Financing Your Movie

6. Film Tax Credits and Other Production Incentives

Part 4. Development: Creating, Acquiring, and Managing the Film Property

7. Idea Rights: Protecting Your Pitches and Avoiding Idea "Theft"

8. Creating a Screenplay

9. Acquiring Screenplay Rights

10. Chain of Title: The Care and Feeding of Your Copyright

Part 5. Pre-Production

11. Production Services & Co-Productions

12. Product Placement & Sponsorship

13. Hiring Cast and Crew: Federal and State Labor and Employment Laws

14. Above the Line: Producers and Directors

15. Below the Line: Crew Services Agreements

16. Performers

Part 6. Production

17. Extras and Depiction Releases

18. Locations

19. On-set IP Infringement

Part 7. Post-Production

20. Post-Production Staff

21. Music

22. Film Clips and Stock Footage

23. Credits and Copyright Notice

Part 8. Distribution

24. Preparing for Distribution

25. Theatrical Distribution

26. Putting Your Film Online

Part 9. Conclusion

Appendix A: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law

Appendix B: The Clause Companion

Bibliography and Resources

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Thomas A. Crowell, Esq., is a practicing lawyer and law professor specializing in entertainment law and intellectual property rights issues. He is the editor of the Focal Press Pocket Lawyer series and author of The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators (Focal Press, 2014). For more information, see


"…an excellent, potentially career-saving resource." – Back Stage Magazine