For the aspiring film school students, the first project is where all the mistakes start, but honestly, you’ll keep making them. On a film set, chaos seems to always be lurking around every corner, just waiting to pounce. With the proper preparation, you can fight back.
In this series, I’ll walk you through the paperwork that will make production run with fewer complications. While some things may seem tedious, trust me, they help in the long run.
What is a Release Form?
Release Forms show that you have permission to use a person, place or thing in your film. There are different types of Release forms you could need. Talent Releases are for the people in your film. There are also Location Agreements that location owners will sign. Other types may be Vehicle Releases, Animal Releases, or something similar.
Why are Release forms important?
Like in all areas of business, there are legal requirements. The Release forms help to protect you from legal issues. A Talent Release Form can give you permission to use the image of your actor. A Vehicle Release says you have an owner’s permission to use and record their car, bike, boat or other transportation device.
Who is involved with a Release form?
Everyone who works on your set should sign a Release form. If you have something you want to keep quiet, such as a film spoiler, you may consider having anyone who visits set sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). All the forms will be kept by the Producer/production company.
What to include in a Release form?
Each form has variations in what should be included, but there are some things that should be included in all of them. Get the contact details of the person signing the document, address and phone number, maybe even an email. The forms should include the film’s title, a place for a signature and date. Also explain what the form gives you permission to do, what legal responsibilities the person signing has, and what input they have on the final film.
For the talent Release, you’ll want to explain that all photos and videos taken are property of the film company. For example, an actor doesn’t have the right to demand all the footage, because they don’t like the film.
When working with minors, there should be a section for the actor’s name and the guardian who signs for them. The minors will need a parent or guardian to remain on set while they are filming, so be sure to include some information about what they’ll be doing.
NDA’s detail what people can and cannot share to people outside of the cast and crew. This should also include something regarding social media.
Also, include the legal ramifications they may incur should they break the agreement. This could be included in the Talent Release. However, if you have people come to visit set that aren’t cast or crew, you may want them to sign one of these.
For the Vehicle Release include the make, model, and registration or VIN. When seeking permission to use a vehicle, make sure the owner knows what you will be doing with it. Will it be sitting in front of a house, while the actors talk beside it? Will the actors be washing it? Will you be crashing it? Be as clear with the owner of the vehicle as you can.
While bicycle and skateboards may not necessarily fit into this category, I recommend getting a Release for those as well. It’s better to be protected legally should anything come up. You may want to adjust the Release if your entire film centers around four boys riding their bikes like in Stranger Things.
You may want an Animal Release if you have a furry or scaly friend in your film. This would be similar to the Talent Release for a minor. The only difference would be an area for the name of the critter, as well as the species and breed, if they know it. Like the Vehicle Release, be clear with the owner as to what the animal’s requirements are and how long you’ll need the animal.
You should also specify in the form what the owner’s requirements are. Do you need the owner to remain on set while their pet is filming, or can they leave? Something to think about for that, do you as a producer have someone to spare to watch the animal between takes?
The Location Agreements are important to lock in where you will be filming. These should include the address of the location, the dates and times of filming. You may want to overestimate how long you will need a location for filming, so you have some wiggle room should anything unexpected happen (let’s be honest, it happens in film).
You should also include what happens if someone is injured on set. Is the location owner liable?
Again, be as clear as possible with the location owner. Ask the homeowner before digging holes in their yard. Know what you can and cannot use. Will they let your entire cast and crew use their toilets? If all you’re using is the yard, make sure you know if you have access to inside the house, for toilets, shade, and electricity.
If you are going to use music for your film, you may use royalty free music. However, if you don’t do that, you’ll need the composer of the music to sign a form. You’ll need to include their name as well as the song title in the form.
The final thing to remember with these forms is to keep them. Keep the hard copies or store them digitally for your records should something come up later. It may seem tedious, but good bookkeeping is necessary for the tenacious filmmaker.