Attorney David A. Pierce, who writes a law column for MovieMaker and is the counsel for the Slamdance Film Festival, offered free legal advice Thursday to filmmakers struggling through COVID-19. Among the questions he answered: Can you still go out and complete your film with a small crew?
That was probably the most provocative question posed during the talk, featured on Facebook Live and sponsored by Slamdance, Pierce Law Group, and MovieMaker. The head of a New York production company specifically asked Pierce: “Are we technically allowed to do production as long as we keep crews down to under 10 people?”
Let’s be honest: A lot of moviemakers are looking for ways, lately, to continue their work in spite of the coronavirus quarantine. You can’t blame the production head for wondering about hypothetical options.
But Pierce offered some legal advice, paired with some human advice.
“You’ve got to look at your basic jurisdiction on what the essential job functions are,” he said. “Even if you can, should you? You want to be good citizens. Now is the time to take the break. Focus on development. Focus on your post-production. Do you really want to put people out there? Do you really want to jeopardize your crew?”
He continued: “You have the basic OSHA safety rule: Provide a safe workplace.”
“We’re only making movies here,” he added. “And this is coming from a guy who’s a movie guy.”
Pierce also added that filmmakers should be careful about how employees are classified, noting that many people listed as independent contractors are actually employees. (This was the case long before before COVID-19, as he notes in this article.)
Pierce also provided advice on how to enforce or get out of contracts that can’t be carried out because of COVID-19, how filmmakers can apply for federal loans, and why you should try to resolve disagreements now through good faith and, worst-case scenario, mediation.
Finally, he advised that filmmakers should absolutely not duck their investors, but rather contact them to talk honestly about the realities everyone is facing now.
Courtesy MovieMaker Magazine.