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School event release from suggestions and necessity

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Michael RyanSchool event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 16, 2012 at 11:26:06 pm

I have a customer that is a DJ and he wants to shoot footage of one of his prom events to use for website marketing. I have never dealt with the school market and need to know the special requirements of the types of release I need to have the client secure. The event will be in a public place but since they are minors I am betting the right to privacy laws are somewhat different and since it is an event sponsored by the school it would probably considered a private event even though the event is not held on school property.

The question is that since none of the kids are being interviewed and will only be seen dancing does that matter ?



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Denis DanatzkoRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 17, 2012 at 5:36:53 am

I'm not an attorney, but I'm strongly inclined to reply that "yes, it does matter."

The short version is "Do yourself a favor and either get releases, or don't do the job".

Following are my (admittedly lengthy) arguments:

I've been shooting a lot of promotional web spots lately, and those who employ me for that require that I get:
1 Location Release from the property owner or property manager and
1 Location Release from the business owner,(unless they are one and the same), and
1 Talent Release for each person whose face and/or voice is recorded (even though their image or voice may get cut and not used).
If a minor appears on camera, then a Talent Release signed by a parent or legal guardian is a must in order to protect yourself and your customer. I've done nearly 100 of these, and have gotten releases for every one.

Remember, you're dealing with lots of minors. All it takes is 1 irate parent, chaperone, or teacher to raise a fuss (and once that happens, you can rest assured more will follow), and I believe you're opening yourself up to a world of potential trouble.

I recently shot one of those casino-night fundraisers for an event producer's promotional web spot, with approx 125 adult "gamblers", and the only people whose face I could show were the employees of the event producer, i.e. the dealers, croupiers, and pit boss; everyone else had to be shot from the back to prevent their face from being seen. (Not easy in a crowded room full of Saturday night drinkers, for sure).
The event was held in a hotel banquet room, and I had to procure a Location Release from the hotel and a separate Location Release from the event producer. I got both without a problem, but without those, the footage would have been unusable and my night wasted. (Luckily, my contact at the event producer had experience as a shooter & producer, so he understood the importance).

When you say the event is to be held " a public place...", exactly what type of place? You say it's not school property. Is it a banquet hall, country club, hotel, restaurant, or similar business? (I strongly believe those are all considered private property). Unless it's held on a public street, sidewalk, or in a public park, pavilion, or similar venue, it seems there aren't that many places that are legally considered "public" anymore. (Did you know that shopping malls are private property)? And since 9/11, many towns, in my area at least, require a permit to shoot on public property. I also believe that...legally...if admission is charged, i.e. prom tickets, then it is not a public event. Example: could your neighbor buy a ticket and take their spouse? I doubt it.

Some may argue that in many of those places there is no "reasonable expectation of privacy". However, that doesn't automatically give someone the right to record video in those places. They are still private property and require permission from the property owner or property manager.

Another example: I once worked as a PA on a shoot for what would be a local cable TV commercial. I followed the producer/shooter into a high-end shopping mall, we set-up camera/tripod outside the business (a bridal chain) that hired us, and before we were finished setting up, mall security was on us like hornets. After about 45 mins of wrangling with them, and a visit to their security office, we were allowed to return to the business, but we could only shoot within the walls of the business, not from any of the "common" areas of the mall. (One of their concerns was that trademarks of other businesses might end up in our footage, and they were there trying to protect the other businesses). The producer/shooter had never checked with security prior to then, and we almost lost the shoot.

For something like your situation, you might want to put the burden of procuring releases on the DJ, and ONLY start shooting once you have the releases in-hand. And even then, you're left to how thoroughly the DJ has done that.

An alternative that MIGHT be viable, but should still be put to an attorney, is to shoot slightly out of focus, (enough that no one can be recognized) except for the DJ.

Either way, I suspect you'll still need some sort of written permission from the school if it's a school-sponsored event, even if not on school property.

Shooting video seems like one of those rare instances where it's probably easier - and certainly wiser - to get permission than to get forgiveness.

I'd bet others will chime in with other, and certainly less lengthy advice. If/when they do, heed the advice of those with the most experience.

Good luck.

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Mark SuszkoRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 17, 2012 at 2:55:36 pm

In some cases, the school has already arranged blanket permissions by making parents sign photo/video releases during school registration and/or when getting tickets to the prom. I think your first stop has to be to talk to the school and see if they can head off a lot of problems in this way.

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Michael RyanRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 17, 2012 at 4:13:30 pm


You are correct, the school does have a blanket release but usually that cover just school use of the footage, since this is going to be used by the DJ I am just not sure that if the school signs a release giving us permission if that will be enough since it is for commercial purposes not just school use.


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Michael RyanRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 17, 2012 at 4:11:00 pm


Thank you for taking the time to respond, I think I could have been more detailed in my original question. The School has a blanket release on all of the students that they have signed, The school and the venue have no issues signing a release for us. The shots I am thinking of doing would be like a jib shot of the entire crowd dancing and having a good time and maybe some roving camera on the floor. With the jib shot it will be more of a crowd kinda thing so individual kids will not be focused on but if the kids watch the footage they could probably see themselves if they tried.

In the past I have gotten releases from the organization and then posted on the doors that filming or photography is being done and that by entering you are giving release. In my area here that seems to work but this job is a couple of states away and I don't know the specifics for Ohio.

So I guess I am looking for advice as to wether or not I need to have someone at the door getting a signature from all those that enter but since some will be under 18 that won't work or do I need to have the DJ send a from home and get it back from each kid. And then if one kid doesn't sign and were doing crowd shots and they can pick themselves out in the crowd dancing is there a big liability there ?

Thanks again for your response!


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Brent DunnRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 20, 2012 at 8:10:30 pm

The only way I would be comfortable with this is not to show any faces. These are minors and only their parents have the authorization to sign releases. Schools do have releases, but some parents OPT OUT. If you don't know who, then you put yourself in a bad position.

I would tell the DJ to take a few photos himself and block out the faces. It's not worth the risk.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
Video Marketing

Sony EX-1,
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro Tower, Quad Core,
with Final Cut Studio

HP i7 Quad laptop
Adobe CS-5 Production Suite

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Martin CurtisRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 21, 2012 at 10:33:10 am

Although mere mortals would be wise to follow the advice given by Denis, I wonder how a theme park (like this one) gets away with this little dotpoint on its website "Your image may be taken at any time for security or sales purposes."

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Denis DanatzkoRe: School event release from suggestions and necessity
by on Feb 23, 2012 at 2:25:04 am

Thanks for joining-in.
It's my understanding that such notices supposedly are somewhere in the fine print on tickets purchased, or are supposed to be displayed in clear public view at the ticket or box office. (Though I'll admit I've never looked closely enough at any admission ticket I've ever bought to verify that claim). Compounding that, they are still private property. Not being an attorney, I don't know what gives such places the right to use your photo, or worse yet, potentially make a profit from it.

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