Interviewing People on the Street!

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    • #37580

      Hey guys! I’m shooting a talk show kinda thing this summer and there’s a segment I’d like to do where I interview people, briefly (ask simply a question or two) on the spot. I wanted to do it in a single place (say, an outside mall) but I’d like to know if some sort of permit is necessary to do this.

      I can have media release forms handy, but I don’t know if that would cut it.

      I just don’t wanna run into trouble while carrying out the production.

      Thanks in advance for any help,

      Toms (Kyalami)

    • #166644

      Good question. I’m not familiar with those kind of things. The best I could sugest you is to make sure everyone signs a form that allows you to use their voice, image etc. Futhermore, you should ask the owner of the place you will interview to do this( ex the mall ). It might be the town property as well.

      By making these few things, I think and I hope you won’t have any problems. I’m not sure, so wait somebody else opinion. Good luck!


    • #166645

      Right, that’s what I thought, but then a friend of mine told me that maybe I needed a permit from the city/town legislation, which would really be an inconvenience because I’m sure getting that permit comes at a price of both money and time.

    • #166646

      You have the choice:

      A; Shoot in a more calm spot and hope you won’t get caught. If someone talks to you about it, play the innocent.

      B; Inform yourself at the town and pay the price.

      You have to evaluate the risks and benifits of each option. Tough job!


      P.S. Hey I’m a kid. I hope it doesn’t change your opinion of me. πŸ˜‰

    • #166647

      Hey no worries. I’m a kid too.

      But uh yeah, I think I’m going to just go and inquire at the town hall or something. It’d be nice if it turns out I don’t have to pay though.


    • #166648

      Your’re a kid… I don’t beilive you! I’m 13 years old. How old are you?

    • #166649

      15! L O L indeed. WHat kinda things do you do? Like what kinda videos do you shoot?

    • #166650

      Go to the local city hall they should have the forums. Also, if you are in front of a store talk to the manager first. Have the permit easy to get too so if anyone askes you can show it. If you can you should also have an assistant, they can handle that while you concentrate on what you are doing.

      If it is a small town you may just need to let them know when/where and what you are doing, there may be no fee to pay. If in a mall, mall security will need to know and the mall manager. They may have their own permits and fees.

      Get and use talent release forms.

      Playing innocent may work but it is best to have permission first. πŸ˜‰

    • #166651

      Hey thanks Aspyrider! Yeah I’m definitely going to have to head over to the city hall.

      BTW is there like a single kind of release form or can any be used?

    • #166652

      Permits, et al are important, but most towns don’t require you to get a permit unless you want to actually block off a street or completely take over a sidewalk, etc. Generally, taking pictures, be they motion or still, is perfectly legal in public. Now, I worked for a mall for a while, and while all mall managers are different, the ones I knew had very strict “no taping” rules on the property. You definitely need to get permission first, and it might be worth considering throwing in an offer to promote the mall if you even want a shot. The manager at our mall did allow a couple students to do a project, but they were only allowed to shoot in certain areas.

      Now having said that, filming permits aren’t going to be your biggest issue as much as release forms for the people you’re interviewing. You need a form typed up and ready to go that says something roughly stating that the person allows you to use their likeness/image in your production, and they will hold you harmless for anything resulting from the video. Have a stack of these, and have an assistant who will snag people after you interview them to get them to sign these forms. If you want to show your video publicly, these are essential!

      Now, you pretty much only need to worry about your main subjects if you’re shooting in public. In other words, you don’t need to get a release from every bystander passing by. There’s an assumption in law that if you’re in a public place, it’s likely you’ll be caught on film sooner or later, but if someone comes up and requests that you blur them out, always do it.

      That’s about all I can think of at this moment, though I’m sure there are more nuggets of wisdom I’m neglecting.

    • #166653

      If they are identifiable you need a release to be 100 percent safe. Even then….

    • #166654

      True, in an ideal world you should have a release from every person who enters your frame. But things are rarely ideal. You’re right, if they’re close enough to be positively identified then you should have a form, but then, the point at which someone is identifiable is sort of subjective. I mean, I know people who are so bad with faces that they can’t pick their friends out a crowd standing 3 feet from them, and on the other side of the spectrum you have people who can identify someone 100 yards away by how they walk.

      When I set up shop in Minnesota, I sat down with a lawyer in my new town to write a MN-friendly legal agreement for clients and to brush up on local law. He mentioned what I said above, that in an ideal world you always get releases from everyone, but then he went on to say that in reality if you get the main talent on screen you’re usually safe. In public places, and especially when you’re not trying to conceal your camera, there’s an assumption that you’re not entitled to the same degree of privacy you’d have, for example, at your home or on private property. Of course, this is something that people should take up with their own lawyers to be sure you know the local area rules. And again, you’re right, you SHOULD get every release form that you can. Of course, in our industry, that’s often not realistic.

    • #166655

      Well, what I’ll do is just ensure I have a release form from the people I interview, and then I’ll just keep the camera off for the rest of the time.

      The place where I want to shoot isn’t so much of a specific mall/privately owned place; it’s just a road with lots of shops on either side and restaurants, where people fany a walk, is all.

      Now, what kind of things should the release form statement have?

    • #166656

      That applies to store names and logos too. If you don’t have permision to use it, blur it out. If you interview someone wearing a t-shirt with a logo or brand you will probably need to blur it out too.

    • #166657

      Thats right. Watching Howie Do It, when Howie is on the street we see they blured up a truck passing in the back.
      Hey, how do you do some blur in FCE4?

    • #166658

      Do you think Rick Steves of Travels in Europe gets releases from each ofthe hundreds of people he shows walking down the street per episode? Do you think he gets releases for each and everycompany logo on storefronts, trucks, and even t-shirts? If you do, I’ve some beachfront property in Colorado I’d like to sell you…

    • #166659

      Yeah, I think getting releases for the interviewed is sufficient.

    • #166660


      You did hit on something important. In copyright law, there’s something known as de minimis, which is basically along the lines of if you used a copyrighted work (and people are protected from their image being used through copyright) in an itty bitty way, it’s alright. A sea of people, shops in the distance, heck even a passing truck behind your talent (so long as it doesn’t stop) can be considered safe.

      Still, as far as releases go, be safe and get what you can, when you can.

    • #166661

      More importantly, these grey areas get misinterpreted andthey arecertainly not the videographer’s fault. More than likely, the videomaker is trying to abide by the law because he’s petrified of being sued and losing everything by a clever lawyer who’s found a loophole…or has closed one.

      The videographer is told by lawyers”you can’t shoot that without permissions” which almosthas to be wrong. But the most important tool the lawyer has is the bluff…just like in poker. After all, whatlegalities does the videographer know? Then, a guyon a forum pipes up and says, “Hey…My brother’s an attorneyand I’m telling you it’s illegal.” Or it’s questioned on another forum and Miss Clairol runs to Wikipedia for hertake on itand posts it. Of course,it’s probablywrong. The result is, throughfear,the vieographer is discouraged fromshooting anything at all (except himself in the foot).

      You almost have to adopt the attitude: “Shoot first and ask questions later.” It should be in everyone’s forum signature here, there, and everywhere. This way, you at least have the shot. How the shot is used, how “de minimis” is interpreted,and other legalities can wait.

      Just my “take” on it…HTH someone to keep shooting

    • #166662
      AvatarJennifer O’Rourke

      The sidewalk alongside the street in front of a mall [or strip mall in the case you’re referring to] is public property, but step off that sidewalk onto the other side, even if it’s a parking lot or unpaved open lot, and it is private property. The store on that lot might not own the property, but someone does. Most large city malls don’t have problems with news people shooting right outside they doors, but they won’t let you go inside. If you go in armed with releases, you might seem more “legit” to the mall authority, too.

      Another location to get Every Man interviews is your local post office. That is government property, and you, as a taxpayer, have the right to interview in front of their building.

      If you find yourself shooting an impromptu man-on-the-street interview and you don’t have a release form handy, you can also have the person speak a verbal release into the camera. “I, XO, give Producer Kyalami, permission to use portions of this interview for his Good News Production. I testify that I am over the age of 18.” Something like that. It’s not the best form of a release, but it shows the person actually giving permission, and should hold up in court if challenged. (We are not legal experts on this forums, if in doubt, always consult with an attorney that specializes in permits, permissions and movie legalize.)

      You don’t have to always blur out all business names that appear in the background, but you should take care that you don’t show phone numbers, addresses or license plate numbers. (Which might be why that truck was blurred out in the show “Watching Howie Do It” that The Shooter mentions above.) However, if you are doing a spoof or parody that the company whose image you are showing may take issue with, you should take care.

      As for people, here’s an excerpt from a “What’s Legal” story in Videomaker [link to full story below]:

      if a person is well known as a politician, say, or a sports figure,
      a rock star, a movie actor, or a hero of any other description, he is
      entitled to a lesser degree of privacy than a non-celebrity, private
      citizen has. The more famous the person, the less right of privacy he
      has. Famous celebrities will be the first to admit that they have
      almost no right of privacy.

      Similarly, if a private citizen shows up at a parade or a football
      game or a protest march, he has put himself in a public place and
      should not expect the same degree of privacy that he has in his home.
      Sometimes, a person happens to be at a location in which a newsworthy
      event, like a fire, a hurricane, a bridge collapse or a police
      shoot-out occurs. In those cases, even though the person did not
      intentionally seek publicity, he still may have forfeited his right of
      privacy, due to circumstances beyond his control.

      If a small group of people happens to be at your daughter’s dance
      recital or confirmation at your church, they may not expect to be
      videotaped. Do not let your camera linger on those bystanders for more
      than a few seconds. Do not single them out, especially if they are
      doing something impolite or inappropriate that would subject them to
      ridicule. Find the rest of the story here.

      In an upcoming “What’s Legal” article, contributing editor Mark Levy looks at product placement and public images in the background scenes of videos. Here is an excerpt from that story:

      The Trade Marks Act of 1985 prohibits the unauthorized use of trade marks as trade marks. Consequently, you will usually not violate the Trade Marks Act when you display a trademarked product in your production. For example, your actor may drink a cup of McDonald’s coffee without infringing the McDonald’s registered trademark. As long as the trademark is not represented as a badge of origin it will not be a cause of concern for you. In fact, if you can get Tom Cruise to drink from the cup and smile on camera, the McDonald’s corporation may even pay you for placement of that product. For example, in 1982, Steven Spielberg got the Hershey Chocolate Company to spend $1 million merely to have E.T. follow a path of Reese’s Pieces. (Sales of Reese’s Pieces increased by 65% that year.)

      Check out these following “What’s Legal” stories we’ve done in Videomaker that might also help you get your interviews.

      Finally, here’s a Sample Model Release you can download and use:

      Click to access model_release.pdf

      Good Luck –

      Jennifer O’Rourke, Managing Editor – Videomaker

    • #166663

      By reading all this makes realize that videographers have a tough task there inAmerica. Here in Africa especially in central, east and West Africa we just shoot anywhere and any how, in fact most people like to be seen on the TV and any kind of media, only here in south Africa that people are now trying to copy some American law but still we shoot and some time we block the road for our small drama and still people are coming to ask if they can be seen. When I went in mozambique to do my documantry everybody wanted to be intervied inclunding the police.

    • #166664

      You know, it is such an old concept that most people nowadays consider it to be passe’. But the basic principle is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

      You know, “Be cool to people.” The old Golden Rule. Don’t treat them any different than you would like to be treated, if you were in their shoes.

      If it almost certainly won’t bother them, don’t worry about it. But since all people are different, if it might bother them, go ahead and ask: it won’t hurt you; and who knows: they might be looking for a videographer for some kind of a home project….

    • #166665

      Norman, I can understand what you are saying and the point you want to make but keep in mind that in the Old Testament the Israelites, charged by God, killed with abandonment and took no prisoners any idol-worshiping group they became aware of. In the New Testament Jesus was rightfully righteously indignant and drove the money changers from the temple. Do unto others, be cool to people, etc. is all fine and good as a way of life, concept and Christian pursuit of exemplary behaviour.

      However! There are times when as the Philistines and money changers found out, that rights, priviledge and freedoms can be defended either way – from the viewfinder or through the lens.

      Video producers have rights as well, and those rights are sometimes, if not often, restricted by people or entities in power, government agencies and people of differing opinion. There is, or can be, a happy medium, but success isn’t always enjoyed by the meek who shall inherit the earth. Sometimes you have to take the initiative, work under the radar or go around the mountain to accomplish your goals.

      IMHO this can be accomplished without vagrant disregard of the rights of others, or violation thereof, or NOT being “cool” to people.

    • #166666

      >>IMHO this can be accomplished without vagrant disregard of the rights of others, or violation thereof, or NOT being “cool” to people.


    • #166667

      I don’t want to get too far off topic on this forum, but if one can do what one needs without breaking the law, that is always preferable. No?

      (Romans Thirteen comes to mind….)

    • #166668
      Luis Maymi LopezLuis Maymi Lopez

      This reminds me of my last video production. I wanted to record a scene on a parking lot so I went to the nearest mall too explore possible camera angles. I was walking with the actors explaining the scene that I want and suddenly I heard a whistle. A security guard detain us and start asking what we were doin. I try to explain that I wanted to record in there and he told me that I couldn’t, that I have to talk to the managers of the mall, that is private area, that we cannot take pictures, among other stuff. The worst thing was that we were all dress horrible that day (especially me), he must have tough that we were fugitives or gansgters (Next time I will dress up in a Tuxedo). We thank him for his time and we politely leave. That way too much stuff to do for just two scene, so the solution was simple; Go to another place in the middle of nowhere. This location turn out to be better than I expected, but this is not always be the case. I totally agree with zoobie “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

    • #166669

      Wow, I didn’t realize there were so many young people on theseforums. I am 16.

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