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    Actor's release etiquette
    #1
    Senior Member Azmyth's Avatar
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    Ok, so I'm on day 5 of production.. and I forgot a fairly big thing in all the running around on set. I haven't made any of my actors sign release forms past the auditions. My DP/director who has alot more experience in film production than I do said that he had never had to use releases on any of his productions and didn't think that anything that wasn't prepared by a lawyer was binding anyway. Basically saying that without a lawyer involved its just a piece of paper. On top of that, the laws pretty much protect stupid people who don't read forms they sign, more than it does those who take the time to write up said forms. Unless, as I mentioned before.. they are prepared by legal counsel.

    Noone has asked about signign any releases or anything about contracts. Now, it dawned on me that maybe we should be doing this because we are about to start working with our first set of actors I would call professionals. Everyone else is just starting out and probably didn't think anything about it by not knowing any better.

    Now, I haven't even begun to think about the "what if this movie made any money?" question, because at this time thats not something I'm concerned with. Festivals and such, sure.. but I haven't worried about whether or not the film may make money and was just going to deal with that if it came. As, then I KNOW I'd have to get releases from people. On the other hand, I don't want someone coming back later and saying "you can't use me" and it causing me not to be able to sell the film, should someone actually want to buy it.

    We've made sure everyone is aware that there is no compensation unless the film produces profit, and at this stage we have no way of knowing if/how much that may be. I was just going to create a generic "you have permission to use my image" release and just omit the "you might get paid, but we can't tell you how much or when". Because it just seems silly to tell people something that I have no way of knowing. I've asked several people all the same question, and have gotten different responses all around. I even asked one of the actors on my cast who has lived in LA and has tons of acting experience and he told me not to worry about it, that everyone knows that this is a low budget film and that exposure is their payment first and foremost and anything else is just icing on the cake.

    So right now, I'm of the mindset.. that I need to have some sort of release signed even if it isn't prepared by a lawyer so that in the event someone decides to get ticked off and tries to say "you can't use me", we'll have at least something that says "yes you can". All they have signed was a release at the auditions, but it was more of a sign in sheet/release than an actual release. I just don't know what I should include in the release and what I shouldn't.


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    #2
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    There are template actors release forms you can buy online. Just remember that any contract can be broken if you have the right lawyer. But get one anyway. Chances are that any actor you employ cannot afford a decent attorney anyway.


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    #3
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    I don't know if laws are different in the States where everyone sues everyone over nothing anyway, but in Canada we have a principal called 'Informed Consent' which appears to be what you are working under. The simple act of agreeing to be filmed is the same as signing a release. I have never had releases for no money projects, what's the point really. Now if you go out on the street and can recognize people in the background that is a different issue. You might want to have a simple blanket statement that passerbys can sign like a petition. Now chances are you couldn't sell it to a distributor without releases, but they also wouldn't buy it without E&O insurance and a million other legal things that cost more than your total budget and will never make back anyway.


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    #4
    Senior Member Starshine Video's Avatar
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    CYA

    Its so easy to print out one of the hundreds of decent contracts on internets, just do it and get them signed. Everyone that works on the film should sign one. The simple fact that you have the signatures will go a long, long way in helping you should any legal issues arise.

    Also if you ever pay anyone involved with the film, even if its your best friend that you have known from childhood, pay by check or get a signed receipt. I know it sounds paranoid but in this business, as in every business people have a penchant for screwing each other over. Again Just CYA


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    #5
    Indie Arms Member Doc Bernard's Avatar
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    A quick google search yielded this:

    http://www.ithentic.com/filmmaker-to...or-release.pdf
    Pretty standard stuff.

    As an actor, I expect to see a release some time on the first day of shooting, usually from a harried 2nd AD.

    Most actors who have worked student and/or indie productions, realize that

    1. The project will probably not go anywhere. (No offense, because we still give everything to your creation)
    2. There will be no money, and rarely, lunch. (For the love of God, at least provide lunch and if you offer copy, GIVE COPY!) I have no fewer than 5 projects I am trying to chase down to get footage right now. As an actor, this irritates me the most.

    But we do it for the love of the craft, just like you do. What we get is "practice", making new connections, a new line on the resume and maybe decent some footage for our reels. I still love working Indie/Student films as an actor, there is a raw, earthy feel to them not found on the network stuff (but obviously doesn't pay as well). As long as I have nothing planned, I try to find a student/Indie project for the weekends.

    Back on topic: at least have a boilerplate release for all on camera talent.
    Last edited by Doc Bernard; 03-12-2010 at 06:52 PM.


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    #6
    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    Your story of releases has been told a million times for a million different no budget projects. Chances are releases will be moot point because chances are the film will go nowhere but just in case your winning lottery number comes up, for Pete's sake, get signed, standardized talent releases from everyone. Could save you a world of pain later on down the road.

    I have learned from exeprience that once even a faint whiff of any money comes up, even if no money ever comes up but talent thinks that any money came up, people get REALLY greedy, it is almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. People transform into snarling money hungry werewolves and the only thing between taking your film somewhere and doing something with it and having the film never go anywhere could be those releases. It's called covering your bets.

    Dan
    It's a business first and a creative outlet second.
    G.A.S. destroys lives. Stop buying gear that doesn't make you money.


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    #7
    Indie Arms Member Doc Bernard's Avatar
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    Me and Puredrifting are coming from opposites here, though I think we are are on the same page. I am looking at it from a POV of an actor who has nothing and trying to develop something. PD is looking at it from a POV that has something and developing into something more meaningful.

    That is the issue. You bring in "unknown actors", they are looking for some recognition, bring in "known actors" they are looking for both "Pay and recognition"

    You need to decide how you want to proceed. Either way, you face risk.


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    #8
    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    We are definitely on the same page. My experience wasn't so much with actors, it was with people who lent us locations, people who did a logo for out project, etc. Once they heard we had possibly struck a distribution deal, they all thought that we (the filmmakers) were going to be rich and they wanted a piece of it. Problem was we never saw a penny from our deal, even though our project did get foreign distribution. Point being, having signed releases from everyone means that nobody can hold you hostage by not signing off on things.

    I was amazed at how thorough the distribution people were, not only did they require talent releases, they required location releases, affadavits, E&O, the list went on and on.

    Dan
    It's a business first and a creative outlet second.
    G.A.S. destroys lives. Stop buying gear that doesn't make you money.


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    #9
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    Good Points Pure.......I'm two years into production of my documentary. 13 interviewees. All signed tight releases spelling everything out....And even at that I had one individual think that he was entitled to 5% of any proceeds of my film. Pretty disgusting. My 5 page letter back to his attorney seemed to put an instant halt to that though. Point being that, EVEN with releases, they may still try for a money grab. Having the release however is much better than not having one. I got releases for everything, including property releases, park filming permits in D.C. even though not one park ranger came up to me to ask why I was filming. Had the permit in hand anyway. Always best to do the homework. And I copyrighted the film as it is in production as well. Additional protection.


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    #10
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    I have to ask an opinion of filmmakers here. Recently and totally by accident, I was shocked to discover that a documentary filmmaker has included me in his film, interview fashion, but I have never met him. There is footage of me that is important enough to the film to be included in the trailer of the film as well. I don't know where he got the footage and I haven't asked him, yet, since I don't know him. Can this person legally use footage of me, basically quoting me as well (and I am identified in the film as well) without my legal permission and without my "informed consent"? The film has been released on video, too - I was able to buy a copy. This is a commercial endeavor for this filmmaker and I am being used. This was filmed on private property in a shopping mall. In the proper context I would not mind the exposure so much, but it has also been edited to remove the context. What would you do if this happened to you?


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