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Release forms. Why?

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Jeff KitchiguineRelease forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:25:50 pm

Hi folks,

I'm actually planning to make a documentary in Canada. It will be a documentary with kids. I know that I'll need release forms signed from the parents, but the question is why?
I know that the release forms is a sort of a contract between the filmmaker and the person who will be filmed but when I take a closer look, I don't see any advantages for the person who will be filmed. I would like to be able to "sell" my release forms to the person that I'm going to film. If a person is asking me
"why do I have to sign this form?"
What do I say?

Is it to protect myself or is it to protect the filmed person? Why the person would or wouldn't like to sign the release form?

Thanks for all your answers.


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Todd TerryRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:41:16 pm

The "why" for you is to protect yourself when someone much-after-the-fact suddenly decides that they don't want to be in your movie.

That, and the fact that no distributor would touch it with a ten-foot pole unless you have talent (and possibly location) releases on hand.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Jeff KitchiguineRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:01:11 pm

Thanks Todd.

I understand that it's crucial for me to have them signing these forms, but for them, why do they have to sign them?

Thanks :)

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Ron LindeboomRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:22:34 pm

[Jeff Kitchiguine] "...but for them, why do they have to sign them?"

...for YOU.


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Nick GriffinRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:10:59 pm

[Jeff Kitchiguine] ""why do I have to sign this form?""

Short answer: "So we can use the images we're shooting of you in our film."

I've said much of this here before so I'll be brief.

Here in the US a release form is used to create the ILLUSION that the signer has given irrevocable permission for you to use them in your photo, film or video. I say illusion because, I believe, in reality an individual can demand, at any time, that you stop using their image. The typical release has wording that indicates otherwise so your average person believes what it says.

A release must also have "consideration" in order to be a legal contract. Basically that means something of value has changed hands. In our case it means that we've given them a dollar upon signing the release.

The best releases are a few paragraphs in length and offered for signature in a matter of fact manner. You act like it's anything other than routine and your subjects may become reluctant to sign. And if anyone else you're shooting sees that someone has turned down your release it can get ugly fast. However most people are so pleased with themselves at the prospect of being on film or video that they jump at the chance and sign the release without reading it. The real trick to getting people to sign a release is to act like you can just as easily have them in your project or not.

BUT... all of his may be different for you for a number of factors:

1) Canadian laws may be different than US, so a properly executed release may be more or less binding. Suggest you ask a Canadian lawyer.
2) Because children are involved the laws may be different. Again, suggest you ask a Canadian lawyer.
3) If this is a documentary you may not even need a release. I know that here in the states if your end product is considered "news" you don't. I think. You guessed it... suggest you ask a Canadian lawyer.
4) If you are just shooting in Canada but producing/distributing in another country you probably don't need a release because many types of minor contracts are unenforceable across international boundaries.

But. I'm not a lawyer -- here or in Canada -- so I may be wrong.

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Jeff KitchiguineRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:56:01 pm

Thanks a lot for your answers :)

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denise quesnelRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:12:41 pm

Nick gave you lots of great answers, but I can confirm as a Canadian that laws here are different, and you need an agreement to use children. Best to consult a Canadian lawyer as well as check out our TeleFilm website as well as the Provincial film commission (of the Province you are shooting in) for leads to lawyers, forms etc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:45:14 pm

Minors anywhere are not bound by contracts, an adult that has custody of the kids must to sign for them.

In addition to release forms, which can get lost or declared forgeries later, we always spend ten seconds at the start of an interview having the subject ID themself, spell their name, give their address, and state to the camera they are giving us full permission to use this interview in any way we want to, no strings.

It may not be any more legally binding than the paper, maybe even less, but as Nick says, perception is important, and just having the fact of the recording helps kill any ideas to muddle things afterwards.

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Bob ZelinRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:51:21 am

Hi Jeff -
here is a real simple answer. You make your documentary in Canada.
And it's great. But you don't get release forms. And your documentary is so great, that it is shown in theaters, and then HBO buys the rights to show it on HBO, and you make millions of dollars.

And all those parents want their "fair share" of the millions you just made. But you say "but all I did was interview your stupid kids - it's my documentary, I get all the money".

And do you know what the parents lawyers will say to you ?

"See you in court".

That is why you sign releases.

Bob Zelin

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Timothy J. AllenRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 10, 2009 at 4:03:15 am

I think you already know why you, as the producer, would want a release form signed. As I understand, your question is why would the person being filmed or videotaped would feel compelled to sign the form.

Here are a few reasons (in the voice of the production assistant to the on-camera talent...)

- It's a communications tool that helps us both make sure we are on the same page as far as what your images can and can not be used for, exactly who can use them, and for how long.
- By reading and signing the release, you get a better understanding of how the images are expected to be used. It also gives you a chance to ask any questions you may have before we both spend our valuable time on set or location.
- We are a professional production company and part of being professional is ensuring that everyone is clear on agreements. We have a legal obligation to get documentation of your permission to use your voice and image. Without that documentation, broadcasters and distributors typically refuse to promote or air the program. So, in essence, it's also a "ticket to the show" for you. In order for us to be able to feature you in the program, we have to have it on file in our records.

Granted, the main reason from your point of view is to protect yourself, but ensuring that the terms of agreement are clear on both sides - before you film - benefits everyone.

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Rafael AmadorRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 16, 2009 at 7:07:12 am

So in the end what we have to get is that people that can not read and write, understand the rules of the western media industry and sign a paper to protect our self.
Sounds easy.
I often film minorities that haven't had the chance to see a TV set in their life.
Normally filming is not a problem. They may feel uncomfortable in front of the camera in the beginning, The second day they won't care about it.
But if I ask them to sing me a paper I think I can end up in the oven with an apple in the mouth.
Signing a paper for many cultures is an absolutely NO-NO.

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Jeff SmithRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 22, 2009 at 12:38:04 am

Hi all.

Thanks a lot for your answers. It was a big question for me and I didn't want to scare people by signing something. Nowadays, it's pretty hard to trust people (both ways I mean).



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David Roth WeissRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 22, 2009 at 1:09:16 am

[Jeff Smith] "I didn't want to scare people by signing something."


You need to tell your "victims" that they should be scared away by people who don't ask them to sign a release.

And don't ever start a project without a written agreement either. I recently failed to follow my own advice on that one, on a just tiny little job with a very near and dear client; and sure enough, it bit me. So, no job is too small, no client to good, to work without signed paper.

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.

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Rafael AmadorRe: Release forms. Why?
by on Apr 22, 2009 at 2:58:44 am

From now on I will carry with me an "ink stamp pad" so my victims can let their thumbs prints in our agreement.
PS: I think some people have been pulling all this story of the rights too much.
They created problems where they wasn't no one.

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