Contracts and Permits to Keep Us Out of Trouble

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By Suzanne Cross

John, Alexis, and I are beginning to gel as a collaborative team.  John has taken on the story-board task.  Alexis will do the filming and provide us invaluable guidance based on her experience.  And I take on all the other (as yet still unknown) producer tasks. 

John begins to write; Alexis is fine-tuning the equipment needs in New York; and I think I better check out getting a contract for her.  So I take a look at my San Francisco Film Society class notes and find that the instructor recommended a law firm in Oakland that specializes in entertainment law. 

We are matched with a terrific fit for us, Justine Jacob at Lee & Lawless www.leelawless.com , an attorney who is also a filmmaker, and empathetic to our project. 

More conversations with lawyer and with filmmaker and I quickly learn the fine distinctions about the various types of film credits that need to be detailed in the filmmaker’s contract.  A week later, we finalize the contract.

Oops!  Now I’m wondering if we need a government permit to film at the rural South African school.  So I go back to the web and begin to search for whoever in this Zululand district would be responsible for issuing such a permit. 

Searches and searches later and no closer to an answer, I look for and locate a production consultant in Johannesburg, South Africa, and find Karen to help us.  After weeks of her persevering phone and email contacts with the Obonjeni School District, our permit is granted, but it comes with the caveat of an escort from the School District for our two week shoot.  We’re trying to convince them this is NOT a big Hollywood movie, just one camera and no budget.


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