View Full Version : business releases and supersize me

06-26-2004, 11:55 PM

I am planning on making a documentary. I know that I probably need release forms for any businesses I film in. Specifically clubs and bars.

My question is this.

The guy that made "Supersize Me". He filmed in many Mcdonalds and used the footage in his film that has a nationwide theatrical release. How has he done this. I doubt Mcdonalds signed any releases for him.

I need to know. I want to film in bars but as the film will not be very pro on the subject, I doubt I will get many permissions.

Can I film until I am thrown out and still use the footage?

I hope someone can help.

Thanks in Advance


06-28-2004, 06:13 AM
I'm not a lawyer, so don't quote me, but I'm guessing Spurlock had permission from individual McDonald's franchise owners to shoot inside those restaurants. Also, with documentaries, the rules are more relaxed than with traditional features. You might want to pick up a copy of Clearance & Copyright: Everything the Independent Filmmaker Needs to Know by Michael C Donaldson http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1879505304/qid=1088428300/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-6159564-4583158?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

06-28-2004, 07:42 AM
I am sailing in the same boat, most of my documentary subjects involve shooting in public places, stores and restaurants and am always wondering about the permit and "release" issue,. pls keep us posted here after you have found your answers, I am sure it would be quite helpful for most film-makers here.
Good Luck & Thanks!

06-28-2004, 09:42 AM
Thanks for the response Josh. I will definately check out that book.

Sharp I will keep you informed if I find anything out.



07-09-2004, 01:00 AM
Hi there,

browsed past and thought i'll drop my 2 cents.

Basically, anywhere that's owned by someone, has to be cleared for area usage. Any area that is deemed public, like on a road side street, doesn't require clearance. However if you're shooting on specific state office land, or national parks for instance, you might need to clear it.

What Josh said earlier about the film-maker having cleared through individual Mac outlets is probably right. As long as someone on the higher level management side signs on the dotted, he is representing the entire organisation in clearing your shoot for that specific location. So technically you're washed of all liability should the organisation decide to sue you. On the other side of the coin, if you dont get your location clearance and you release the footage anyway, you'll get your ass sued six levels under.

With regards to clearance? I recommend going straight to the top. I realise going through the PR lady at the doorstep, and the corporate communications suits at level ten is just way way too hectic. Networking is key here, and if you can find a link, go straight to the top, go right to someone who has the power to say yes, or no. If not, dont bother at all, the red tape in a beuracracy just eats away at your time.

Last bit of advice? Shoot first, talk later. You can wait for clearance, but once an organisation smells you investigating issues, they'll ban your ass from being around. No one likes a journalist hanging around in case he digs up something that he's not supposed to, even if its not even related.


07-17-2004, 09:46 PM
that's interesting, cause (for example) you watch a michael moore flick, and he strolls right in to what ever major corporations front lobby and films what ever while he's there (till he's removed) and these people know who he is and don't want the publicity, yet the footage shown from those properties are still in his flicks. someone explain more.

07-21-2004, 08:49 AM
Yeah, I am confused on that issue as well?

07-23-2004, 05:10 PM
I attended SXSW and a Q&A session with Spurlock after the screening of Super Size Me. As he explained it... he was able to film in McD's and use images without release forms because his film was a "satire". For the same reason many comedians, Michael Moore, Saturday Night Live, etc. can use celebrity and corporate images without being legally challenged.

He also explained that he felt protected because if McD's went after him 1. he is protected under the satire law 2. it would make the large corporation look bad prosecuting an independent filmmaker 3. it would create negative publicity for McD's and positive publicity for the film.

I think Michael Moore was thrilled when his original distributor dropped the US distribution for Farenheit 9/11 because it created a media buzz = free publicity.

For non-satire situations, if you can get releases it is better for when you are negotiating for distribution rights. If not you can take your chances.

07-24-2004, 07:36 PM
My layman opinion is similar to Yanfeng's - shoot now ask later (with property releases. However, I would not take this approach with personal releases. It's easy to track down an establishment's owner after the fact (buildings have a tendency to stay put), but finding the guy you interviewed who made the perfect statement is impossible.

Another thought - if you're shooting in bars, but do not need to single out any particular establishment, you may be okay if you stay in tight on people. You'll definitely get the bar feel from the hints behind them, but may not get enough in the shot to identify a specific location. This way you're not picking on a particular bar, but bar life in general.


07-27-2004, 05:43 PM
Any area that is deemed public, like on a road side street, doesn't require clearance.

Does this mean you can interview a person in a public location without having to have them sign a release? I'm shooting a documentary, and while I certainly wouldn't shoot someone without their permission, I'm hoping verbal permission is adequate.

07-27-2004, 07:03 PM
Never mind. I see in the "legal questions" thread my question was more or less answered. I should've looked closer before posting. :-[