Releases after the fact?

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    • #68620



      I shot a documentary two years ago and it's finally done and being submitted to festivals. It hasn't screened at a festival yet, but it won an award at the Honolulu Film Awards. Anyway, here is my issue. My film is a road trip doc, so there were multiple locations, and I interviewed several people along the way. I did not use written talent or location releases; I got verbal consent on camera from the people I was interviewing, most of whom were owners of the locations where we were shooting.  There are also quick shots of locations we visited/passed by along the way but didn't get location releases for. Do I need to get releases for the talent and each location seen on screen before my film screens at a festival or gets distributed?


      Thanks in advance for your help.

    • #208221

      Some festivals have it outlined in the rules as to what you need in regards to releases but other than that it depends on what you may need just to cover yourself for distribution. It doesn't really sound like the type of situation where you might get sued but you should remember that once you distribute you can't take it back and that's where someone can claim damages, so get those releases up front even when it doesn't seem needed.

    • #208224
      AvatarDaniel Bruns

      Hi amberemckenzie,


      I'm no lawyer, but I have always felt that recorded verbal releases are usually adequate enough to keep out of legal trouble for both talent and location releases. That's of course depending on what you had them agree to. It's always best to ask the person for the right to use their image, likeness, name, audio, voice, appearance, and performance as well as the right for you to distribute, edit, sell, and mix the footage in a way of your choosing. If you haven't said something close to that, you may want to go back and get signed releases with that wording in place. That being said, written releases are always far better since they often state the legal ramifications of signing the document more precisely and can give the talent time to understand what they're agreeing to before giving consent. 


      As for the locations you passed by, I have always felt (and again, I'm no lawyer) that as long as you aren't saying something defaming about the location or using the location's notoriety to gain higher profits for your film that a passing shot shouldn't be an issue. In addition, if you don't have deep pockets, most locations or people will sue you for infringement. However, you're the only one that can really determine how likely it is that the location will sue you for either of those purposes. Again, the best course of action is to send a letter with a release explaining the situation and asking them to sign a written release. If that's going to be incredibly time consuming to the point where it's nearly impossible, then you can decide whether or not their likely to sue you and possibly go ahead with distribution. 


      All together speaking, it seems like you've done a lot of the legwork already by asking the managers of the locations to give releases verbally on camera at most of your locations. It sounds like it wouldn't take a serious amount of effort to send releases to the other locations you may have missed and see what results before distributing the film. Of course, it can never hurt to consult a lawyer even for just a few hours before distributing your film as well. A lawyer can look at each potential issue on a case-by-case basis which will really help you in the long run.


      For some additional information, I found these articles on Videomaker's website. They've been doing articles about the legality of filming for years so they seemed like they could help;


      Hopefully that helps!



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