Understanding Film Production Contracts: The Top Five Most Important Film Production Contracts

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The legal issues around film and video are often tricky, and even the most legal minded and seasoned director will have trouble because the laws are not always black and white. What happens if someone agreed to be in your film, doesn’t like the result, and wants out after the fact? What if someone promised to let you use footage and has now issued a lawsuit against you about it? The answer these problems is you put together film production contracts before they even occur. These film production contracts will not just leave you legally protected in most cases, but they will also help you ensure that your film goes smoothly because those involved have a clear understanding of their responsibilities. Here is a look at a few of the most important film production contracts that you can make sure to include during the pre-production and production process.

Photo Release Forms

Photo release forms are possibly the most important film production contract you can have as it is an absolute must whenever possible. A basic photo release form that is used in video or film production basically states that a person is granting you the rights to use their image in whatever fashion you want in direct relation to this project. There are a lot of different ways to put together a photo release form, but the basic information is that they do not hold you legally liable and that they waive all rights in regard to this project. Always use a photo release form when shooting a narrative film project, and try to do it as often as you can in documentary settings as well.

Group Release Form

A group release form is a film production contract that acts the same way as a photo release form, except people include less information and it is designed for group settings. When you have a large group of people, such as shooting with a number of extras or filming documentary footage in a large group of people, it can be hard to get everyone to fill out a full photo release form. Instead you construct a basic group release form that asks for minimal information and you pass it around so that everyone has a chance to sign. This should protect you in most cases, or it will at least play in your favor if the situation does have any legal barriers.

Location Release Form

A location release form is a film production contract that ensures you the use of a location for filming, but not just for the ability to show the image of that location. Instead, a location release will also release the owner of the location from any legal liability of what may be going on during the filming. This means that they will not be responsible for any damages or crew injury that may occur, and will be just as important for them to sign as it will be for you. You should also include how the space will be used and what they can expect so there are no mysteries and so they will not object to anything once the production process begins.

Footage Release Form

You are going to use a footage release form in the case that you want to use already created footage. Unlike other film production contracts, this footage release form is a contract made to purchase or acquire rights to something already created and is not an agreement between parties on what is about to happen during production. The footage release form is not always going to accompany a monetary agreement, but it may and this information should be included on the footage release form. The footage release form is going to be very similar to a music release form, and is the most important documentation that you can have around this footage. Many distributors or film festivals will require this form up front.

Location Agreement

A location agreement is not a legal film production contract, but the type of film production contract that is meant to just outline the agreement between the two parties so that they both are aware of what will happen. In a location agreement you are going to include everything about filming at the location, including dates, what will be altered there, and how it will be repaired afterward. The location agreement is used so that you have less of a chance of the owner withdrawing and a clearer line of communication.