Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The hidden cost of exotic locations

Paris... Rome... Athens... some names just conjure up images of romance and adventure. For many people creating stories and setting their locations, one of the fastest ways to do it is with an establishing shot: show the Eiffel Tower and your audience doesn't need to see another word to know they're looking at Paris. But put that in your screenplay and you're raising a hidden cost.

Not many people know this, but in many countries around the world there are royalties payable for showing famous landmarks. Whether old or new, what are often called heritage or architectural royalties can add significant cost to shooting a film or making a video game. Depending on the country or the creator of the work, you might not even be able to get permission at all, requiring expensive re-shoots or reworking of creative content. This is why you often see certain countries featured over and over again in movies, and some never seem to make an appearance.

You may think this doesn't affect you, but you'd be amazed how quickly you'll find out you're wrong. Doing a DVD deal with a French distributor? See that warranty where you say you've cleared title on everything? Your Paris street shot had better not include any famous landmarks (or even recreations of them).

One good way to avoid these issues is to think smart before you start to shoot or render models. If you're trying to set your scene in Paris, did you really need to use the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe? Or could you do the same thing with a generic street shot with a café and a couple of doorways? Thinking about these kinds of issues beforehand could be the difference between profit and loss on your project. Get out in front of them and save yourself the nightmare later.

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Thanks for commenting. Posts and comments aren't legal advice; requests for legal advice in the comment probably won't get answered. Sorry to have to do this but someone someday is going to make me glad I did...