Ashley Kravitz has another one of those movie jobs where you might wonder what it is she does, but without whom movies just wouldn't be what the directors envision when they start on a new production. It's Kravitz' job to make sure that all the rights are cleared for all the products you see in a movie. If a certain item cannot be cleared, then it cannot be used in the movie, which makes Kravitz' job all the more important.
Growing up, Ashley knew that one day she wanted to be involved with movies. "I have always wanted to work on movies," she replies in answer to the questions I mailed her, "I just never dreamed when I was growing up that Clearances would be the way I would achieve that!"
So before we continue, let's define what Script or Rights Clearance is. Kravitz: "Script Clearance, in its broadest definition, is the approval or permission for all third party rights that may be visible on the screen in any scripted medium. For instance, say a scene is to take place in front of a newsstand. Before the set dresser can fill the racks of that newsstand, permission needs to be given by the publishers of the magazines or newspapers if they are to be visible within a shot. The same goes for posters, t-shirts, almost anything in a shot that is not created by production, covered in a location agreement or supplied by a product placement deal. Rights Clearances and Script Clearances are really two terms for the same thing. If there are third party rights involved, I try to negotiate permissions from the rights owners to allow the production to use whatever it is that the third party owns the rights to. I do not clear any Music Rights, however. It is similar, but music is usually more complicated, because there can be so many more people that participate in the creation of the tune.
"The same is also true for playback footage. Say a scene has someone watching T.V., if the audience can see or hear what the character is watching, then permission needs to be received from anybody who owns any rights to that footage. That may include the studio, production company, distributor(s), even featured actors in the clip."
Back in the days
Ashley, who personally enjoys nice, sweet romantic comedies the most, started her career in the movie business in the beginning of the 90's. "In the early 90’s, I had been working at the Disney Studios in Burbank, as an assistant to a writer who had a development deal. When the deal expired and nothing developed, I blindly sent my resume out to various companies and received a call from the Clearance Dept. of Dick Clark Productions. Dick Clark was producing a lot of award shows and blooper specials, both of which rely heavily on clips, and this was how I began my clearance career. I was fortunate to have some great mentors guide me through my first few projects and I really disliked the job at first. Then as time wore on, I really started to get interested in the work.
"I had been at Dick Clark for a couple of years, when I found out about a clearance position in the Corporate Legal department at the Walt Disney Company. From ‘94 to ’96, I cleared materials for many of the various Disney divisions, including the theme parks, internet sites and record labels. I enjoyed the work, but deep down I still yearned to work on feature films. In ’96, a position opened in Disney’s Theatrical Division and I was able to make my dream come true." Kravitz worked at Disney until 2000, when the demands of motherhood (she has a daughter and a son, born in respectively 1997 and 1999) made it difficult for her to give her projects the attention they deserved. She resigned amicably from Disney, but it soon became clear that she wouldn't leave the rights business just yet. Producers Kravitz had worked for in the past called her for her expertise, and she continued working on a freelance basis. In 2006 this led to the start of her own company, Cleared By Ashley, Inc., with which she has been very active. Recently she has cleared rights for movies as diverse as Hollywoodland, The Black Dahlia and Little Miss Sunshine, and in the future she has many new projects lined up, including Georgia Rule, The Martian Child and Iron Man.
I asked Ashley who it is that contacts her when a certain movie requires her services: "It varies. Often it is one of a project’s producers. Other times it maybe a lawyer for the studio or a production coordinator. Sometimes I’m hired as soon as a project gets green-lighted, other times the project is already completed and the production company asks me to go over the film because many distributors will not invest in a film that may be vulnerable to infringement suits. More often than not though, I am brought on a project in pre-production and will usually see it through to the final cut. I also have clients that hire me to deal with clearance issues for the bonus material that is usually included with the DVD or Blue Ray editions of a production."
And doing Rights Clearance for a movie isn't always an easy job. "The thing I like least about this work is being the “No” person on the project. Many times a Director or Production Designer or Art Director wants to use something in a scene and the rights owner says no for whatever reason. I am then the messenger of the bad news, which can make a lot of people unhappy. I understand the disappointment and obstacles that a request denial can cause to a production. Unfortunately, sometimes those that I’m trying to help, don’t understand what it is that I do, so they think of me as stifling their art. When in reality I’m the first line of defense protecting the project from others who may be able to stop the art from every reaching it’s intended audience."
And then there are the outrageous requests she sometimes gets. "It all depends on your definition of outrageous. I’ve had to clear items for a scene that took place at an Adult Entertainment Convention, so there was a lot of pornography and sex toys that needed to be cleared. I’ve also received calls from the FBI inquiring about my company..."
If you want to read more about Ashley Kravitz, you can check out her website by clicking here.