Nathaniel Lyman is an entertainment lawyer in Vancouver. He was very generous with his time as he agreed to speak to me regarding the legalities of the entertainment world and the importance of having your paperwork in order.
Nate, as he prefers to be called, works with the Chandler Fogden Aldous Law Corporation. They primarily represent Canadian clients in film, television and music. They also work with U.S. producers when partnering up with Canadian producers.
“What was the attraction to entertainment law?”
“I had originally wanted to be a filmmaker. I’d worked on my own film projects as well as other film sets in various positions. I felt I wasn’t being challenged enough and wanted to pursue other positions.
“The recession of 2008 slowed the industry down, making it difficult to find steady work. Maintaining my interest in film, I wanted to learn the other side of filmmaking. I moved from Toronto previous to enrolling into law at UBC in 2009.”
Aside from law school, Nate’s first encounter with the legalities of filmmaking happened while still attending high school in Halifax. He was on the rooftop of a parkade filming a shootout with plastic guns when a police car approached. They asked if they were the crew that’d picked up the film permit and location agreement earlier. He said they were. The police drove off.
While in his second year of law, he worked at a pro bono UBC First Nations Legal Clinic in the Downtown East side.
“What can you tell us about copyrights?”
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that most content you find on the internet, can be incorporated into your film. This is incorrect. You need a valid license to use third party material.
When it comes to telling a story based on a true event you would need consent of all parties involved. If it’s ‘inspired’ by real events it’s easier to get made.
“If telling a story based on a real city/town, do you have rules to follow?”
“For the most part, you want to keep the story in the real world. If you’re talking badly about a corrupt police force, mayor or other negative story associated with the city/town, you may want to use a fictional name.”
By reading the script beforehand Nate can advise on any changes needed if necessary to mitigate any legal liability.
“When you’re working with a big budget, you want to be certain you can distribute the product upon completion. By ensuring you have the rights to the story, whether you’re infringing on anybody’s copyrights in the film and do you have permission to incorporate clips and music?”
These are a few essential clearances.
Nate also explains the difference between documentaries and a scripted film.
“On a scripted film, you are working with guilds, unions and talent agencies. On a documentary, there are clips, music and footage that need clearing. It is incumbent on the filmmaker to seek out the rights holder to a song release. Upon agreement, we will write up the draft.”
When Nate provides full services to a film project, his office will procure the deal memos and assist with closing the financing and advising on tax credits. He also advises on clearance procedures and obtaining errors and omissions insurance. This is done to avoid any pitfalls along the way that might hinder the release of the film.
Thanks to Nathaniel Lyman for allowing us a small window into entertainment law. It’s given me a new appreciation for the corporate side of entertainment.