Understanding Film Clearances and Releases Required for Distribution

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Understanding Film Clearances and Releases Required for Distribution

Before a film is produced it will begin going through a process of clearance review. To ensure all appropriate steps are taken to limit potential risk of copyright or trademark infringement. In fact, long before a film can be distributed, it must go through several steps of review. Known as film clearances and releases. To ensure there are few, if any, potential risks of copyright or trademark infringement. Understanding the various film clearances and releases, and the process involved in obtaining all appropriate clearance before, during and after film production is something many filmmakers struggle with. 

It’s certainly a lot to take in! Which is why most creatives consult with a professional production company like Beverly Boy Productions for film and television clearances before getting started. 

Professionals will also work in conjunction with a qualified entertainment industry attorney. To ensure all appropriate steps have been taken to guarantee a clean chain of title. Prior to distribution of a film or television show.

Types of Film Clearances and Releases

Several types of clearances may be required over the course of production for a film or television show. Generally, film clearances and releases are going to fall under one of three categories. Including people, property, and locations. 

Prior to distribution, the filmmaker is going to be required to obtain errors and omissions insurance. Which is going to review the chain of title from the inception of the film’s earliest ideas. All the way through to the point of distribution.

In reviewing the chain of title, the goal is to analyze film clearances and releases. That have been obtained over the duration of the pre-production planning. 

As well as during the production and post-production editing stages of the film. Different types of clearances are required at different stages of the production process. 

For example:

Pre-Production Film Clearances and Releases 

These include obtaining the rights to any copyrighted works. Such as book to film rights, musical clearance to use songs or certain melodies in a film. And various other forms of clearances depending on the production itself.

Production Film Clearances and Releases 

These include mostly releases from the people that will be filmed. As well as release forms regarding any animal actors. 

Production clearances will also include obtaining the rights to privacy or rights to publicity from anyone that is captured on camera. 

Location permits, and clearances will also be obtained at this time. This includes lease agreements, and consent to film the property as well as a release to use the footage.

Post-Production Film Clearances and Releases 

These include mostly clearance relative to any use of copyrighted music that is incorporated into the film. As well as clearance for things like the use of certain forms of proprietary post-production editing processes. 

Releases at this stage include those from film editors to use their works in the film.

When Are Film Clearances and Releases Obtained?

The best time to obtain film clearance or a release is at the time of the production. It’s absolutely not a good idea to attempt to obtain clearance after a film has been produced. 

You could find yourself in a number of potentially serious situations should you wait to obtain clearance. For example, what happens if you, say, produce a film?

You go through the entire process of production and post-production editing. And you’ve got hundreds of thousands invested in production. But you didn’t obtain copyright clearance for the book to film adaptation?

The Consequences

If the author of the book, or the copyright holder, is not interested in making a deal with you. You’ve done all of this work for nothing! You will not be able to distribute your film. 

Because as soon as you do you’ll be slapped with a lawsuit. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to distribute anyway. Because as soon as you attempt distribution the distributor would require errors and omissions insurance. 

Which would require a clean chain of title which would be impossible to provide. Why? Because you didn’t obtain proper film clearances and releases in advance of the production!


It’s always wise to begin the process of obtaining appropriate film clearances and releases at the very start of the production. 

From the earliest inception of ideas pertaining to a film, characters that will be used. And the storyline behind the production. There are copyright clearances that will be required.

Once a script is written, prior to production, a script clearance report should be obtained. This will be included in your chain of title. Along with the copyright clearance and other documentation. Which comes together along the way over the course of the production process. 

The script clearance is going to provide a list of any and all story elements that are incorporated into a film script. Which could pose potential risks of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, defamation, invasion or privacy or other issues. 

How are Film Clearances and Releases Obtained for Chain of Title?

The process of obtaining proper film clearances and releases will vary based on the type of clearance or release that is being acquired. 

The goal is to keep track, otherwise known as a chain of title, of all such clearances and releases throughout the duration of the production process. 

Obtaining clearance may involve any of the following actions:

  • Having actors or other talent sign release forms prior to filming.
  • Having location owners sign release forms and rental agreements prior to filming.
  • Obtaining a license to use music or other copyrighted work through the Copyright Clearance Center or EMG Music Clearance.
  • Obtaining a title report and letter of opinion from an attorney.

Do Your Research

As you can see, there are various steps. All which may be necessary in order to get film clearances and releases over the course of the production. 

Most importantly, knowing when clearance or a release is required is key. This way you can begin the process of acquiring the appropriate documentation prior to distribution.

In Summary

Film clearances and releases represent a key area of importance that will continue to come up during the entire course of the production process. 

As a filmmaker, it’s important to understand the value in obtaining proper clearance and acquiring the releases. Things necessary to grant you or your production company the proper permission to use copyrighted works.

Or to otherwise engage in the use of film footage, music, and other creative works over the duration of the production. This way, when you get to the final stages, in which distribution is nearing.

You won’t find yourself with any surprises when it comes time to obtain errors and omissions insurance. In order to launch your finished film and share it with the world.

“The information contained on this website is for general use only and should not be taken as legal advice. Beverly Boy Productions assumes no responsibility or liability for the use, or misuse, of information contained herein which is provided on an as-is basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or timeliness. Visitors are encouraged to consult with an attorney before making any legal decisions – Beverly Boy Productions is NOT an attorney and does not provide any such legal advice.” #TEAM BEVERLYBOY