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Film and Video Production Forms: Personal Release Forms

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/4/2010

One of the most important things for an independent filmmaker to receive during film and video production is a Personal Release form from all actors involved in the motion picture. Here is a look at what needs to be included in the release forms and why they are so important to the production.

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    Permission to Use an Actors Likeness

    Directors and producers of studio films do not normally need to worry about Personal Release forms when using SAG actors because the SAG contracts include the releases. However, when working on non-union films, such as short independent films, it is important to have all actors sign a Personal Release form before film and video production begins.

    If a film is shot and even one actor does not sign a Personal Release form, that actor can file an injunction to stop distribution of the film, including entry to any film festivals, because they never signed a clearance to use their likeness in the motion picture. The only way to prevent this from happening is by having Personal Release forms for everyone in the film on file.

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    Personal Release Forms

    When an actor or actress appears in a movie and delivers one line of dialogue, you must receive a Personal Release form to use their likeness and performance in the film and video production. The form must include the following information:

    1. Motion picture name
    2. Production company name and address
    3. Date
    4. The rights to use the performer’s voice, performances, poses, acts, plays and appearances in the motion picture
    5. The rights to use the performer’s picture, photograph, silhouette and other reproductions of their physical likeness as part of the motion picture
    6. The rights to use these items for unlimited distribution, advertising, promotion, exhibition and exploitation of the picture by any method or device now known or hereafter devised in which the same may be used, incorporated, exhibited or exploited
    7. The form also must make the vow not to make any claim, suit, action or demand for the use of the above listed releases
    8. The form must indicate whether the performer made the agreement to receive compensation for the performance and, if so, how much the compensation for the performance totaled

    Both the production company representative and performer must sign the Personal Release form and, if the performer is a minor, a legal guardian must sign the release as well. It is also a good idea to have the release notarized by a licensed notary.

    The production company needs to supply copies of the Personal Release form to the person who signed the release, the production coordinator and the production accountant. The production executive needs to file the original release form in permanent company files.

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    Extras Personal Release Forms

    Once again, studio films do not need to worry about these forms because all extras sign a voucher to appear in the film before arriving on set. An extra is a performer in a film with no speaking, singing or dancing roles, usually in the background of a scene.

    For smaller films, as well as studio films where an extra is chosen on the spur of the moment, each extra must sign a release form similar to the Personal Release forms for actors. However, if a large number of extras are used, the film and video production can use a Group Release Form.

    The release forms for extras include the same information as the actor’s Personal Release forms but have a number of spaces at the bottom of the form for each individual to sign, granting permission to use their likeness in the picture.

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    Group Release Forms

    When the film and video production requires a large group of people, post large signs in easy-to-read locations stating the presence of extras means they give their consent for the motion picture to use their likeness in the picture. This same format applies when shooting in constricted areas of streets or businesses. The sign must say that filming is in progress and entering the area means individuals grant rights to use their likeness.

    The Crowd Release Notice must state the name of the motion picture as well as the name of the film and video production company. It must also state anyone who does not wish to grant their release must leave the area and anyone who stays grants their release to the motion picture.

    It is also a good idea to add a line prohibiting the use of cameras and recording equipment if your production works with any unions on the film, due to union and copyright regulations.