BOOK REVIEW: The Filmmaker's Legal Guide, by Tony Morris - Raindance

No filmmaker can do it all. Cinema is, after all, a collaborative art form in its very essence. But there is one area of filmmaking which any filmmaker (even producers) tend to find daunting, and that is the law. Navigating the clauses and sub-clauses of any contract or agreement if you don’t have legal advice can induce the highest levels of angst in any creative, especially when you are starting out.

It is also extremely difficult to know where to turn to when it comes to getting sound legal advice in such a specific field as entertainment law. This is why The Filmmaker’s Legal Guide, by Tony Morris, now in its second edition, is a particularly welcome treasure trove.

There’s no avoiding legal advice

It is an unavoidable fact that the law is treacherous ground for those of us who have not been initiated. Yet any production needs to have its release forms and risk assessment forms; every person needs to have a contract and performance release form. Any role on a set has its specificities, and the legal clauses that go along with it.

In this respect, The Filmmaker’s Legal Guide is an essential resource that any filmmaker in the industry needs to own. Not just own, but read and re-read, and use as the go-to guide for legal advice. With its clear index, you’ll be able to thumb through it at a glance when you need it most. With its straightforward approach to complex matters and its author’s ability to simplify legal matters without dumbing them down, any filmmaker will be able to get a solid grasp of any issue in a heartbeat.

Tony Morris covers any matter you may think of, whether it is the simpler elements of a contract, copyright, intellectual property or performers’ rights, or going as far as how to set up a company and all that you need to think of during that process.

A comprehensive guide

The book is constructed like a contract, with article headings and subheadings, giving you clear direction when looking for a specific issue. You will also quickly find that each issue is dealt with clearly, concisely and thoroughly. The plethora of examples that Mr. Morris uses to illustrate all the sections in his books will make any shadow of a doubt disappear in an instant.

This second edition has been enriched with a number of those examples, including comprehensive and extensive appendices, comprising a number of agreement templates for you to use, ranging from non-disclosure agreements and life rights release to performer’s consent forms and investors’ agreements. This second edition, published in 2019 after a first edition in 2015, also covers legal hurdles that did not exist previously, notably the impact of Brexit on the UK film industry.

This book will cover anything you can think about, anything you haven’t thought about, and all that you need to think about. Crucially, it will prove that legal challenges, while tricky, do not need to be overwhelming, if you have the right guide. Keep it on your desk at all times.

Get your basic legal contracts covered by attending Tony Morris’s class at Raindance.



Baptiste is a writer hailing from the part of France where it is always sunny. After a stint in politics and earning his Master's Degree in Management, he was a marketing intern for the 23rd Raindance Film Festival in 2015, then joined the team permanently in 2016 as the Registrar of the MA in Filmmaking. He is passionate about diversity in film, which he researches and writes about extensively. He is the producer of the hit webseries "Netflix & Kill" and the multi-award-winning short film "Alder", as well as a writer for stage and screen. His short film "U Up?" is currently in pre-production.