After the long pre-production process is completed, producers enter the “principal photography” phase, in which they begin to start actually filming their movie. During this phase, all the pre-planning is tested, the cast and crew comes together, and shooting commences. While many moviegoers might imagine that shooting the movie is the central part of filmmaking, the process usually only takes 2-3 months, as compared to possibly years of pre-production and an extensive post-production process.

While the majority of legal documents should be drafted and compiled during the pre-production phase of filmmaking, further issues may arise during principal photography. With good planning, filming the movie should be relatively smooth and free of legal glitches. The most important task of legal counsel during principal photography is to provide a producer with advice and guidance when unforeseen conflicts or issues inevitably arise. Filmmakers may run into problems if an actor gets an injury, a workplace grievance occurs, or if more crew is needed, for example. Furthermore, if plans for the film change during the principal photography phase, new licenses, contracts, or agreements may be necessary to ensure that

In addition, there are certain tasks associated with film production that should be completed as the shoot begins. For example, if you have financiers, you should keep them informed about the film’s progress and how funds are being allocated. Producers may also want to review the way money is being distributed to the director, cast, and crew and make sure that funds for things like petty cash and overtime are appropriately handled. During this phase of production, it is useful to begin the process of securing all necessary approvals for the credits of the film, which can take a fair amount of time. Credits can be a sensitive subject for those involved in the film who want to be properly recognized and accredited.

Another important task of legal counsel during principal photography is beginning to lay the groundwork for post-production processes. While producers and directors will be primarily concerned with getting all the necessary footage and staying on schedule, legal counsel can take care of setting up contracts and agreements that will be necessary for sales and distribution.


Daily Production Reports (DPRs) should be completed every day, documenting what occurred on set each day, to be filed for legal reference. The DPR is usually prepared by an assistant director and will be unique to each film; however, there is some basic information that should be included on the document.

  • Which scenes and pages were filmed that day
  • What equipment was used, including the amount of film used and the amount left for shooting
  • Information about what was recorded on the sound tapes
  • When each employee arrived and left, mealtimes, and breaks during the day
  • Any other relevant notes about mishaps or accidents that may have occurred during the course of the day that could provide documentation in case of a legal issue at a future date