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Business and Legal Issues in Documentary Filmmaking

(615 Ratings)

Produced on: October 23, 2015

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 59 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Navigating the legal minefield of documentary filmmaking can be a costly and dizzying experience for independent filmmakers. This course is a film law and business primer that provides a general overview of the key issues in documentary filmmaking from life story rights and privacy claims to third party clearances every filmmaker and attorney advising filmmakers should know to avoid some of the most common misconceptions and mistakes made in documentary filmmaking. 

Attorney Marissa Crespo of Fox Rothschild addresses issues faced by attorneys who advise documentary filmmakers, attorneys interested in the legal issues in documentary filmmaking, and professionals in the entertainment industry. Any practitioner intrigued to learn some of the legal and business issues involved in documentary filmmaking will benefit from this nuanced program.  


Learning Objectives: 

I.     Gain a general overview of some of the important legal documents and potential legal claims every documentary filmmaker should know

II.    Understand life story rights and releases

III.   Recognize the applicable privacy laws and fair use considerations

IV.   Identify other possible necessary agreements, including location agreements and other third party clearances


Marissa A. Crespo

Fox Rothschild LLP

Marissa represents clients in a range of real estate matters including, the acquisition, disposition and leasing of residential and commercial real estate, with an emphasis on counselling clients on title and survey issues.


In addition, Marissa has experience preparing and filing land use applications before municipal boards for multifamily housing, mixed use and retail development projects.


As a member of the firm’s Entertainment Department, Marissa also represents clients in a wide array of entertainment law matters.


Before Fox Rothschild

Prior to joining Fox, Marissa was a legal intern at SAG-AFTRA in New York, where she assisted with arbitration claims and contractual disputes against signatory producers, distributors and other SAG-AFTRA members under state and federal law. As a former legal intern at several boutique New York law firms, she also has a range of experience including preparing O-1B visa applications for foreign artists and performers and assisting in drafting production and distribution agreements within the film and television industries.


Marissa was previously a summer associate at Fox Rothschild where she researched and drafted legal memoranda for various practice groups.


While attending law school at Columbia, Marissa served as articles editor and notes editor for the Journal of Law & the Arts as well as citation editor of the NYSBA Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Journal.


Beyond Fox Rothschild

Marissa currently serves as a volunteer for the New Jersey Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and is a member of both the New Jersey State Bar Association and New York State Bar Association’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Associations. She continues to serve as a citation editor and is a contributing author of the NYSBA Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Journal. Marissa is also a contributing author of the New Jersey State Bar Associations’ Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Blog. 

In addition to her legal career, she has also worked on independent film projects as a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) and Production Coordinator.


J Thomas S.

Excellent material and presentation.

Rodrick W.

Very informative and the fact that the presenter has some production experience provided re more practical knowledge needed by filmmakers. Kudos.

Linda R.

Very knowledgable and experienced attorney in this area of the law. Great lecture.

David P.

good presemtation

Sarah M.

interesting class

Charles B. N.

Very informative. Enjoyed the presenter.

Meredith P.

Great program!

Alice C.

The presentation was excellent. The lawyer was very knowledgeable and conveyed the information in a way that was very comprehensible.

Edmund B.

Nice, expansive coverage for one new to the issues.

Edward S.

Boy do I wish I saw this presentation before producing a documentary about my friend Coach Ron Naclerio! A tremendous amount of knowledge and a wonderful presentation!

Barry G.

This is a fresh area for me and I enjoyed and admired the presenter. She is well versed and well spoken.

John G.

Very Good presentation & organization. Would've liked a a few more "real life" examples, but still a very helpfui presentation

Richard F.

Focused course on interesting and with television going digital an increasingly relevant topic.

Greg K.

Very knowledgeable presenter.

Frank R.

Great job! May need your help!

Phyllis C.

I liked the relaxed style of the deceptively competent presenter

Edward S.


Marilyn G. H.

very specific and well done

Bruce B.

Good course

June C.

This was wonderful!

David P.

Instructor is knowledgeable about and comfortable with the subject matter. She made made the program interesting.

Thomas R.

One of the best CLEs I have seen; with very effective use of thorough slides.

Jordana K.

Very interesting! I enjoyed this one.

Matthew J. B.

Excellent presenter and fascinating topic!

Julie S.

Really interesting course topic.

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