What’s a “MacGuffin?”

Posted by Casey Budden on Dec 10, 2018 12:48:17 PM

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Sometimes derisively referred to as a “plot coupon,” a MacGuffin is a device in scriptwriting, a “thing” which the protagonist pursues, often loosely defined, which serves as their primary motivation and goal in the film. Alfred Hitchcock is often credited with coining the term; in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University in New York, he attempted to define it:

“It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh, that's a MacGuffin'. The first one asks, 'What's a MacGuffin?' 'Well,' the other man says, 'it's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers, 'Well then, that's no MacGuffin!' So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.”

In the film Ronin, for example, the MacGuffin was a metal briefcase whose contents were never revealed, but which all the characters in the film were desperate to obtain. The audience does not know, and does not need to know, what is inside the briefcase; the MacGuffin is charged with such importance that its significance does not need to be explained to serve its narrative purpose.

Examples of famous “Macguffins”:

  • The Maltese Falcon (The Maltese Falcon, 1941)
  • The Holy Grail (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975)
  • “ROSEBUD” (Citizen Kane, 1941)
  • Marcellus Wallace’s case (Pulp Fiction, 1994)
  • The One Ring (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2001-2003)
  • The Necronomicon (Army of Darkness, 1992)
  • The Ark (Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981)

Tags: Film and entertainment insurance

Insurance for filming animals

Posted by Casey Budden on Dec 10, 2018 12:45:48 PM

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Lions & Tigers & Bears. Oh My.

Animals are frequently used in film productions and everyone loves seeing our furry friends on film. However, there are several considerations with respect to using animals in films that could have a significant impact on your project.

First, if the animal is to be a regular cast member (e.g., it has an identifiable role in the film), the loss or unavailability of the animal actor could potentially cause the same financial loss to the production company as the loss of a human actor. One possible solution would be to insure the animal under Cast coverage (the insurer will require a medical to be performed on the animal by a vet to determine eligibility).

Second, while animal mortality is built in to many commercial insurance policies, there is typically no coverage for injury to animals. Animals are usually borrowed from companies that specialize in providing trained animals to film crews. Like any other thing that belongs to someone else, you could be liable if the animal is injured while under your care, custody and control. You may wish to consider purchasing coverage for legal liability to animals to protect yourself against this possibility.

Finally, the contract with the animal wrangler should be examined closely prior to signing. It’s a good idea to have a specialized entertainment insurance broker like Front Row peruse the contract to ensure there are no provisions which could leave you exposed to additional liability.

These are the questions insurers typically ask with respect to animals:

  • Dates of use
  • Location
  • List of animals
  • Values of animals
  • Current vet certificates
  • Description of use
  • Name and telephone number of trainer

Animals require very special handling and have special insurance requirements. If your production will feature animals, contact us: we can provide advice.

Tags: animal insurance, filming animals

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