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on March 3, 2007
Even though I've practiced law for many years outside of the entertainment law area, now that I have moved over into independent film production, I have found the legal issues involved in properly putting together a film to be daunting. If these entertainment law issues are hard for me, as an experienced attorney, I can imagine that they are dramatically more difficult to handle for everyone else. As a result, it is frankly tempting to instead focus on the artistic side of filmmaking so you can skip slogging through the legal quagmire, but you do so at your peril. This is true for a number of reasons, but most importantly, you are taking a huge risk because distributors won't touch a distribution deal for a film with serious legal problems. Fortunately, I've found that this book takes away much of the pain of learning about the legal issues in film, simply because it is so approachable. After reading this book, I really believe that even non-lawyers can quickly grasp the legal challenges of filmmaking. Best of all, the book skips typical "legalese" and instead offers easy to understand, quick references to the contracts, rights clearance and negotiating issues that everyone should understand. Not only did I like the book, but it really is unique, because there's very little else out there on this subject. It really should be on the desk of every producer. I couldn't recommend it more.
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VINE VOICEon April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a great handbook for anyone in the film or media industry. I have an earlier version of this on my Kindle, there are some additions to this version as opposed to the last one. There is updated information on film tax credit changes, production incentives. The EZ tabs on the outside of the book make it very easy to find information. There are the basics and then more in depth topics that can keep you farom having to call your entertainment attorney most of the time. When the cost per hour for some of these guys is between $200 and $400 an hour, that is always a plus! Having examples of letters of intent, as wellas suggestions on distribution via Amazon, NetFlix, YouTube, etc are all covered in this volume. In the digital age, in any sort of entertainment field, you need to know these things. At the particular time that I received my own copy of the book, I needed an updated form of an NDA for an upcoming film project. It had exactly what I needed when I needed it. Keep it on your desk where you can get to it.
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on March 22, 2007
This book contains a wealth of information presented in a clear, concise, yet thorough manner. Whether you are a writer, producer, composer, or actor, this book will help you understand the legal issues that are part of the process of filmmaking. You can use it as a quick reference to answer a specific question, or you can read it from the beginning as the author unpacks legal concepts and the step-by-step process of setting up a production company to selling your film. As a bonus the book has appendices that make up a valuable law library of intellectual property, i.e. copyright, trademarks; contract law, labor, and employment law. And if you are a law student or lawyer, this book is better than any entertainment law class you will ever take and at a fraction of the price.
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on March 2, 2011
I have been independently studying entertainment law, especially contracts, and find this book to coincide well with what I have been learning. I feel this book will save me a lot of time as I move forward with making my own films and am so glad I found it! If you are looking for a book of contracts, this is not the book for you; however, if you want help understanding contracts and various legal aspects pertaining to filmmaking, this is the best book I have come across!
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on June 16, 2007
This book has allowed me to craft a sound legal structure around my ideas, and my film making has become a true business venture. "Pocket Lawyer" has already saved me from several minor blunders, like not posting a Notice Release when shooting in public, and it will undoubtedly save the day in bigger ways as my projects grow. Where was this book when I was in film school? Valuable legal advice has never come so cheap--well worth the $21.75.
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on May 25, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers, Second Edition: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers

As any one who has read my reviews will tell you I am really into reading about filmmaking in any form. So when I found out about this book I jumped all over it. You see as much as I am into the filmmaking process there are some things I still wonder about. This book right here just happened to be all about one of those topics, one I never really think about honestly. That of course is the legal side of the process and not just copyrights, I am talking about everything.

This book has it all included here including of course copyrights and such from scripts films and ideas. In fact that last one is really interesting since it tells you how you can protect your ideas and concepts when pitching them to people. It even tells you how to get the state to fund your film, yes you read that right. Also included are ways to get other people including agents, executives, actors, and other filmmakers to look at you stuff.

Still the best thing about this book is how easy it is to read and for such tough subject matter that is really important. The added things like the charts and stuff as well as the Q&A portion make it even easier. Of course I am saying nothing new here as other reviews have mentioned all these things and more already. Still I must say that if you are into filmmaking then you must own this for all legal and business issues.

This is a highly informative book that I find to be very easy to read and very interesting. I do highly recommend this book even if you are not into filmmaking this is still a great read. I learned all kinds of new things here. So go out and pick this up now producers as it will be invaluable to you, order it now.
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on July 22, 2014
If you are already doing some form of video production, relax! This is not about how to set up your shot. It's all about what you're planning, and how you intend to get everything done BEFORE you even take your camera out of the bag. There is an edge that's tabbed in black ink on the side, like the old dictionaries; the idea is that you will be able to look at the back cover, and find your section, then open up in the right part of the book.

Something I thought was rather interesting about this title can be found on page 262. In the grey box, he reminds the reader that while it's typical to have post production assigned a share of the take for a film, that you need to watch out for those contracts that try to sneak in language that assigns the copyright as well...essentially the post production house legally steals your film.

It's also not a boilerplate contract book. This actually breaks down what the elements of a production company is; he goes into how to write language that actually protects the "idea", and the film, so that along the way it can't be wrested from you at distribution.

Another example is on page 92, he goes into the bullet points of Ownership Rights, and asks who is responsible for what part, and in turn-what part does that person own of the finished product you produce. There is also an explanation of why it's so critically important on the larger projects to invest your time, and create a production company to lock it all down.

It's in plain English, and for those with legal exposure or training, you'll be happy to know that where needed, he cites why explicitly, and references the chapter and verse.

So rather than a cookie cutter one size fits all approach, you actually learn what you need to choose what's important to your project, and set things up from the start to keep things aligned with your vision, and establish relationships that are all focused on the bringing of the idea to the screen-without making you feel like you've just sold yourself down the river.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an excellent and thorough enumeration of the many legal considerations every filmmaker (or screenwriter) should educate him/herself about before doing business. It is a book independent filmmakers will refer to again and again. (Helped by the excellent organization that makes topics of interest easy to locate, and even is set up so that you can add tabs to each chapter for even easier access).

Crowell makes it crystal clear that this book is not a substitute for a lawyer. He doesn't include contracts (although I disagree with him a bit--I think sample contracts would have been useful and not misused). There is a "depiction release" form, a sample letter of intent, and a few other things you might be able to use--but you'll have to re-type them yourself as they are printed in small type against a dark gray background. (Actually, the use of gray background and sample contracts is why it gets 4 stars, not 5. Black font on gray is so difficult to read and its popularity continues to mystify--especially when a box will do fine. Focal Press books are outstanding--I've purchased many and loved every one--but black on gray? Really? Could publishers please stop doing that?)

Crowell's advice is extensive--and he spends a great deal of time on the issue of copyright law which I felt was very valuable since I know, from experience, this is an area that filmmakers and writers often either know little about or pay little attention to. It is -extremely- important, legally, and Crowell tells you what you need to know.

He is a lawyer and I think this book has a subtle argument for why any filmmaker or screenwriter doing business -should- have a lawyer. This is a very complicated business and a good lawyer is there to protect you every step of the way.

But, with or without a lawyer, this "Pocket Guide" thoroughly presents all the legal concepts you should familiarize yourself with if you enter the filmmaking business (because, creative or not, as Crowell reminds us, it IS a business and as such there are many complex legal requirments--including tax law--that you should be able to talk about intelligently, especially if you have a lawyer.

All in all, this is an excellent resource and belongs in the collection of anyone planning to work as a filmmaker or screenwriter. Definitely recommended.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'd visited Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in NYC for advice on reviewing a distributorship agreement. Since I wasn't certain of receiving legal help, I'd asked if there were any resources that they'd recommend. They suggested this book - The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers.

The book is divided into these sections: (1) Contracts and Intellectual Property; (2) Financing Your Movie; (3) Creating, Acquiring, and Managing Film Property; (4) Production Service Agreements, Product Placement and Hiring Cast and Crew; (5) Production - depiction releases, location releases, copyrights on the set, artwork license, representations and warranties, trademarks on the set, E&O and contractual obligations; (6) Post-Production issues: Music Licensing, Prerecording Music Licensing, Composer's Service Agreement; Film Clip License Agreements; Credits & Copyright Noties; (7) Distribution Agreements: traditional distribution deals, distributor's fee deal, major deal points, distributor's expenses, tips for attracting a distributor, a DIY plan, dvd distribution, DIY online distribution, content aggregator deals; and (8) Law Library and Appendixes with A Filmmaker's Guide to Intellectual Property; A Filmmaker's Guide to Contract Law; A The Clause Companion; and A Filmmaker's Guide to Labor and Employment Law.

The book can be read by topic or in order. I did a particularly close reading of the section on distributorship agreements. In his discussion of distributorship agreements, Crowell provides a clear explanation of how money from ticket sales gets to the distributor and producer and approximate percentages and amounts that the distributor usually reaps. I found his chart of the Theatrical Distribution Money Pipeline particularly helpful. Crowell also gives helpful notes on what an independent producer should pay particular attention to and where a distributor might try to pass on costs that are traditionally their responsibility. Crowell's expertise and experience are particularly helpful in this regard and in spotting different sources of revenue, media and markets where a distributor can distribute a film (e.g., theatrical, free tv, pay tv, VOD and PPV, home video, commercial video, internet, airline, ship, hotel/hospitality, scholastic, and military). Crowell's advice on what is market (particularly in the areas of "distributor's recoupable expenses", nonrefundable advances from distributor, territorial minimums for distributor, financial thresholds in terms of gross receipts when negotiating the term period of a distribution agreement), what a producer should be careful not to grant (or to carefully negotiate), and when not to cede control is critically important, is worth the price of the book.

As the book stresses, each contract is different. This book isn't a contract form book, it's a book that introduces readers, producers and creatives on the legal and financial aspects of producing, marketing and distributing a film. Appendix C: The Clause Companion lays out the major deal points that should be negotiated and agreed upon before the contracts are prepared and signed. Here are some of the areas that Crowell explains: approval (resolving creative differences); types of compensation (fixed, contingent, deferred, participation, residuals, royalties and bonuses); conditions precedent to the agreements; credits; engagement (service contracts); special clauses, such as favored nation clause, holdback provisions, key man clauses, kill fees, net profits, option on future services, and pay or play clauses; representations and warranties; rights granted, reserved rights and the reversion of rights.

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers is a strong resource, written in clear language, with a detailed and helpful index. I highly recommend it for film producers, people in the film industry, and lawyers who want a better understanding of the business side of filmmaking and "what is market."
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on April 14, 2007
This is an outstanding tool for anyone and everyone working in film. If you're a creative artist, it's easy to forget that making a film is a business venture--and one you hope will turn a profit! "The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers" is a welcome wake-up call. Thomas Crowell gently reminds readers to protect their interests and keep an eye on the bottom line at all times. If thoughts of "business" and "protecting your interests" make your eyes glaze over, have no fear. "The Pocket Lawyer" is a breeze to work with. It's clearly written, full of helpful examples, and anticipates every question you could have. The book follows the entire process of making a film, from forming a production company to distributing a completed film. Each chapter tells you what to expect at every step, and how to deal with it. Personally, I found the sections translating copyright law into simple English massively useful. Also, the book includes a stripped-down "law library" that gives filmmakers a primer in intellectual property and labor law. Whether you're a novice screenwriter wannabe (like me!) or a seasoned independent producer, you need this book! "The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers" is indispensable.
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