From a legal standpoint is there a difference between true life and docu-dramas?

Monday July 17, 2017

Michael Easton, a lawyer with 20 years' experience in the film, television, music and entertainment industries, has worked on numerous large and small budget film and television projects, broadcasting and online legals, music publishing and recording 

contracts, event management, advertising agency work, performers contracts and many other kinds of creative industry issues. Prior to establishing his practice, Michael worked at the ABC then spent 10 years with a boutique entertainment law firm. As a founding board member, he helped set up FBI Radio, of which he is a life member.

Film And TV Law - ImageYou can hear more from Michael at 10th Annual Film and Television Law Conference seminar, being held on Thursday 14 September at Primus Hotel Sydney.

He joined Christopher Sanchez of Legalwise Seminars to discuss issues about film and TV law.

You can find the full Q&A below.

What are some of the key trends and developments in film and TV law that are having an impact right now?

The main recent developments are commercial rather than legal – principally the tightening of budgets, and the need for producers to be more creative and resourceful in financing their projects. It means we are seeing funding from new platforms with new requirements, subscription services such as Stan being an obvious example, and more arrangements where post houses and key creatives take a stake in the project in lieu of fees.

What’s one thing that people sometimes overlook or misunderstand related to ob-docs and bio-pics?

That the subjects are real people, and that the film-maker’s work is going to have a real effect on their lives. Failure to respect the responsibility that arises out of this is at the root of many disputes.

Do you have any tips for dealing with individual subjects and family members when working on ob-docs or bio-pics?

Take time to develop trust, and make it clear from the beginning that it is the film-maker who has the final say on the form and content of the film. The subjects have to be willing to participate on this basis. Broach this subject at the beginning of the project, so the project can be terminated without the waste of too much time if the subjects are not willing to accept this.

From a legal standpoint is there a difference between true life and docu-dramas?

Yes – issues can arise with respect to docu-dramas when the film-maker blurs the line between truth and fiction. For example, inventing dialogue, collapsing events, and creating composite characters to make the story move along. Liability for defamation can arise in this grey area, where the scene could be found to imply that something fictional is true – leaving the filmmaker without any defense.

Are there any film and TV law issues coming in the future that you think people should keep on their radar?

More restrictive privacy laws and regulation - in a broader sense. 


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