Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tip #88: Get permission to include logos and artwork

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

It is the easiest mistake in the book, and we fell into it big time - allowing a copyrighted logo, brand or artwork to appear without permission. In our case it was a scene involving a father-and-son bonding moment, during the filming of which all our energies were focused on trying to ensure the young child would appear natural in front of camera, to the extent of overlooking the obvious: that the young boy was wearing pyjamas with a huge picture of TinTin on them! In the end the child was more than natural on camera, providing us with lots more footage than was originally scripted. The producers, notably Sinead Ferguson, on seeing how obvious the TinTin image was, questioned what the situation would be regarding clearance. With the upcoming film by Steven Spielberg on its way, we thought this might be an impossible task...

Actors Jos Lawton and Henry Page
in the 'TinTin' scene.

And it was not the first brand or logo that we had to attempt to get clearance for. Although some great efforts were made to avoid certain logos and branding in shot -either by turning the labels round or removing them completely from shot, or blurring them out by using depth-of-field in the lens- there were several companies we had to approach to get clearance, and who are consequently mentioned in the end credits.

But in some cases we knew it would be impossible. For example, there is a flashback party scene with implied drug usage, which has beer cans scattered around the room. We knew that it would be very unlikely to get permission to use a brand name in such a scene. So in the end we digitally removed the offending logos. It was not an easy task. In fact it is probably the most complex effect shot in the film. But hopefully not one that anyone notices!

The lesson here is:
  • Don't include famous logos, labels, branding or artwork on props or set design without getting permission first
  • If you need to include a logo and don't think you can afford or even get permission, then create an alternative version that will not be subjected to copyright
  • If uncleared labels appear in shot during filming and cannot be removed or changed, turn them around, reframe the shot, or use depth-of-field to obscure them.
  • Avoid having to digitally remove or alter labels and logos in post -it is a gruelling and sometimes unsuccessful task!
And of course another option is to not only get permission first, but use it as a funding opportunity....more about that here.

And what about TinTin? Well fortunately it has a happy ending. Producer Sinead Ferguson was able to heroically get contractual permission to include the logo direct from Herve Moulinsart who are the owners of the TinTin artwork. And so it remains one of our favourite moments in the film, for more than one reason!

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