January 22, 2016 at 11:06PM, Edited January 22, 11:06PM


Additional costs AFTER post production for a feature film?

Hi there ! I'm from México and i've done a few short films and stuff like that, nothing pretentious. As a graphic designer I've been working with a experienced director making a feature film, i'm doing posters, designs, photo shoots and managing social networks

I've talked with a few directors with full features and such, and every one of them tells me that, after the post work, you need to pay a lot of money for licenses for audio or stuff like that if you want to distribute your film. I don't really know. So I was wondering: Is that true?

The quantities that i'm talking about are about 50,000 usd or so, (Witch here in México that's more than half million of "pesos". And that's enough to pay a cheap feature film here).

I'd really appreciate your comments, specially if they're not about my crappy english, haha. Thanks :- )


The term post-production usually encompasses the treatment of audio (both dialog cleanup, foley, other sound effects, music, etc), as well as the final marriage of audio to video (stereo, surround, Dolby, THX, etc). In the USA, copyrights (and fears about copyrights) have gotten quite out of hand, meaning that everything must be licensed. What is everything? Depends who you ask. Big Hollywood productions will literally build their own furniture so that they are not sued for using the likeness of a chair they bought at Wal*Mart. Same with clothing and even cars! Smaller productions will buy or use furniture (or clothing, or cars) but will still license music. Documentary filmmakers can almost not practice their art because an ill-timed ring-tone in their sonic landscape can be considered a licensable use (that many cannot afford). But even documentary filmmakers know that it's not OK to just grab some music and use it without a proper license. And synchronization rights can be expensive.

It used to cost many thousands of dollars to license the song "Happy Birthday" for a movie, until a court ruled its copyright invalid last year: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-happy-birthday-song-lawsuit-...

But many problems remain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Copy_Bad_Copy

Audio post is expensive. $50,000 for a feature film is low budget even if you are not licensing music. But add in music licenses and it could easily be 2x or 3x that number. Good luck!

January 23, 2016 at 6:40AM, Edited January 23, 6:40AM


It's not as bad as you make it sound. You'll want to license any song you intentionally add to the mix, and any song people perform. For documentary, especially, there is very little history of incidental use of copyrighted audio in court. The threat of a lawsuit is very different than an actual lawsuit.
Smart production and post production will keep your licensing and compliance costs minimal. If you haven't sorted them out before securing distribution, chances are your distributor will help you. I've never seen a film secure or not secure distribution because of copyright issues. If it's a huge issue, they'll just re-cut it with a different, more affordable song.

Jon Kline

January 24, 2016 at 6:17PM

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