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Business Resources for Documentary Creators

Every documentary project is also a business venture. Get into the legwork of documentary creation, from production and paperwork to legal concerns and distribution.





Legal Issues

Documentary magazine's Legal FAQ and Observe & Report columns provide, respectively, advice on legal matters in documentary making and a framework for protections you have and precautions you need to take as documentary journalists.

  • Legal Basics for the Sustainable Documentary-making Read More

  • Primer on Documentary and the US Law Read More

  • Watch IDA "Fair Use Master Class with Entertainment Attorney Lisa Callif"

  • Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use read more

  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Exemption for Filmmakers READ MORE

  • Copyright and Public Domain: An Updated Primer Read More

  • Solidifying Legal Relationships at the Early Stage of Production Pays Off Later Read More

  • What is the significance of a “work for hire” clause in a contract? Read more

  • A Practical Discussion of Appearance Releases Read More

  • Legal Considerations When Using Music in Your Film Read More

  • Understanding and Negotiating Archive Agreements Read More

  • Caveats for Using Amateur Footage Read More

  • If a nonfiction story inspires me to do a documentary on the same subject, do I have to ask the author or publisher for permission? Read More

  • When Filming Abroad, Consider the Laws Read more

  • Negotiating Copyright Exceptions across Borders Read More

  • The Risks of Lawsuits-and How to Minimize Them Read More

  • Beyond Vetting – Common Legal Issues for Documentary Filmmakers Read More

  • A Basic Primer on Music Clearance read more

  • Flexibility and Adaptability Are the Keys to Clearing the Music for Your Film Read More

  • Understanding the Different Types of Licenses Read More

  • How to Survive the Deposition Hot Seat Read More

  • When You Get SLAPP'd: Protections for Docmakers Read More


  • Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance Primer Read More

  • Guide to Obtaining E&O Insurance as a Filmmaker from an Insurance Broker Read More

  • Don't Shoot Away from Home without Documentary Production Insurance Read More

  • Be aware of the “voluntary parting” insurance clause when renting out your equipment Read More


  • Design Your Film's Website with Accessibility in Mind Read More

  • Getting Your Film Ready for School: It's Academic DIY Read More

  • A Quick Guide to Social Media Marketing for Filmmakers from Lights Film School Read More

  • Press Kit Essentials from Film Festival Secrets read more


  • The Risks and Rewards of International Pitch Forums READ MORE

  • Three Angles on VOD: Geoblocking; Finding a Distributor; The DIY Route Read More

  • Case study of Note by Note: The Making of Steinway LI037's alternative distribution journey read more

  • Alternative Theatrical Screenings Distribution read more

  • Ammunition for Targeting Your Audience Read More

  • Hybrid Distribution  for Getting Your Film Seen Read More

Impact Strategy

  • "Movies & Grassroots Community Engagement: Documentary Films & State and Local Public Policy in the United States" report from The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) Read More

  • "When Movies Go to Washington: Documentary Films & Public Policy in the United States" report from The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) Read More

  • A Filmmakers' Guide to Capitol Hill Read More

  • Watch IDA seminar "Global Impact - Docs as Tools of Change"

  • "Assessing the Social Impact of Issues-Focused Documentaries: Research Methods & Future Considerations" report from The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) Read More

  • The Impact Field Guide & Toolkit Read More

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