PART 4: POST-PRODUCTION
After sound and color correction, I felt like I was approaching the finishing line. My film was almost ready and I was getting excited to finally show it. But I then faced an issue I had (perhaps a little consciously) ignored until then: the film contains 80 different locations or works of art that are copyrighted material.
I asked around for advice: what should I do? The reactions I got varied. On one extreme were those who said: “Who cares, just put it online, no one will notice and even if they do, what’s going to happen?” Well, I might get sued, but more importantly the film might get pulled from whatever media it’s on, it will raise the wrong kind of awareness, I’ll have proven to be a disrespectful artist and my film may never see the light of day. On the other extreme were those who immediately cringed and made the following suggestion: “And can’t you re-edit the film without the artwork?” Hum, no. I can’t. So as I finished the first edit of the film, I had to face the fact: I had to get permission for all the locations and artwork that needed it.
I started off by getting some advice by clearance agencies in Paris – these are legal agencies that specialize in clearing all kinds of rights for film productions. I wanted to ask them for their advice on how best to proceed and what my chances were. I met with one agency who had never seen a project like this and replied, in a nutshell, that this would be a massive undertaking to get all the permissions, but that it was doable. In short, they were hoping I would hire them. But I couldn’t, I didn’t have the money for that.
So, I went it alone. I tracked down all the artists, or the agencies representing them, and sent them all a formal request, along with a letter of intent, asking to include the artwork or piece of architecture in the film for non-commercial purposes.
For most of them, I got an ok. Even the most "famous" ones: I got positive replies from the representatives of Anish Kapoor, Anthony Gormley, the Calder Foundation. I felt envigorated.
There’s a saying in the film business that I generally abide by: “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” And that’s all fine. But if I learnt one thing here, at least from a legal aspect, making this film, it's that if you can get permission beforehand, just ask for it.
However, the situation I found myself in revealed a weird conundrum: there’s a good chance that most of the artists I contacted asking for permission would have said “no” had I contacted them prior to ever shooting anything. It’s quite possible that, now the film was made and they could see the result, and also see how many other artists were also involved in the film, they agreed. So this raises a tricky debate about strategy: people may be more likely to let something be if it’s already been done, than agree in advance to something that is not yet made.
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