One of the first things Angel asked me upon his arrival in Dallas in April 2016 is whether I had arranged for script clearance.
“Say what?”, I responded.
He explained that I had to have someone qualified read the script to identify all possible legal conflicts, such as character, business, or product names, locations, artwork, etc. So I had to start research for a specialist who knew how to do this and, most importantly, could produce the requisite certification letter for the insurance company. This would be required in order to get what is called Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance.
An Internet search revealed a few firms advertising that they conduct script clearance. I had to make telephone appointments and it took several days to finally interview 3 of them. All wanted between $1100 - $1600 for the job, but there was a huge stumbling block: none would give a clearance letter “that could be used as a legal document” of the sort that insurance companies required. I never could understand why on earth someone would pay so much money for a clearance that couldn’t be used legally.
I decided that maybe I was being too restrictive on getting a “legal document”, so I called the insurance company I was thinking of using, United Agencies. Sure enough, a legal letter would be required for the E&O, which itself was quite expensive.
I heard that there was a professor who taught entertainment law at Southern Methodist University who did script clearances, so I emailed her. She telephoned me and said that, although she could not do it, she advised me strongly to get a lawyer not only to do the clearance, but to help with all my legal affairs. She brought back to life that doubts I had about my contracts. I asked her whom she recommended and she advised a large entertainment firm in Los Angeles.
My concerns about paying attorneys’ fees was exacerbated by the fact that no money had been put in the budget for either legal fees or insurance. The insurance, aside from E&O, would total about $10,000, even with a high deductible. I was worrying about whether we could meet budget and we were less than a month into the one-year project.
There was an inexpensive alternative, Angel said. An acquaintance of his worked for an insurance company and he agreed to put us as a “sub” on another insurance contract for another film. He would then issue us “certificates of insurance” whenever we needed to prove we were insured. I was leery and decided to ask the United Agencies representative about such a scheme. He told me that people may do that, but it is not legal because the “top layer” firm that really is the insured doesn’t know about it. Also, if you ever need to file a claim, you can’t. There was no way I was going that route.
Next I called the large law firm in LA. After consulting with them about what they would do for me, I assented to their retainer and sent them the script for clearance. And, because I had decided to do things the “right” way, I bought the insurance from United Agencies and set in motion the process for getting E&O as well.