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Jesse Hanna

If a film doesn't have a permit, or release from a location, does that keep it from being shown in festivals or sold to distributors? 

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I've shot on private locations before and gotten releases, but I have heard stories from indie filmmakers going to locations without permits and shooting, some private and some public. I think Robert Rodriguez and Ed Burns have mentioned they've shot scenes without getting permission. Even some dvd commentaries have mentioned this. I have seen some festival submissions require certain clearances, but I'm not sure how strict this is. If a film doesn't have a permit, or release from a location, does that keep it from being shown in festivals or sold to distributors? 

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If it's a feature, yes they will need E&O (errors and omissions) performed on your film and all the documentation to prove you've done your due diligence. This is for many reasons, the biggest is that some of the big festivals have been sued for people releasing stuff that is not theirs. The other reasons are more logical; people at the festivals are trying to buy content and if it's not finished, then they won't be able to buy it, etc. 

For short films, I'm not sure what you need. I've never submitted a short to a major festival. I have to medium and smaller festivals and nobody has cared. 

E&O insurance is just one of those things ya need for features because there are so many moving parts to distributing a film and if anyone is upset about anything, they can sue. So to help resolve that problem, you hire a lawyer and they go through your documentation and certify that it's accurate. I don't think anyone cares about stuff shot on the street, as long as you have a blanket permit to be shooting in general, that's all anyone cares about. 

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Public locations don't technically need permits, its public for a reason. 

To sell/screen a film technically you do need permits for private locations. However if you "stole" a location its only a problem if the owner finds out and sues. Normally festivals will ask you to sign a doc stating you had permissions - this covers locations, music, actors etc...

A small project that is seen by a limited audience on the festival circuit probably wouldn't get back to the owner. It would probably only become an issue if the film was a  success and seen by a large audience (unlikely for a short), 

Even if it does get back to the owner, they might not be bothered to pursue it. E.g the train/subway footage on "Pi" was stolen. Trying to ban the film would just result in bad publicity and little gain. 

Generally I always seek permission for everything important.

I have a couple of music videos with private locations I stole in circulation - its never been flagged by anyone, but if I was asked to take them down I wouldn't be that sad. 

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Thanks for the advice, I've read a lot about filmmakers from the french new wave era, or during the 60's/70's easy riders days and it seems like they didn't have much in terms of legal accountability, yet now it seems like it's heavily enforced by festivals. In a lot of ways it seems like it's harder to make films independently now then it was back then. 

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