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Do you REALLY Need Release Forms?

Picture the scene.

Your business has been working on a big video project for over 6 months! Maybe it’s your first video or 100th, but whichever it is, you’ve decided to capture scenes and interviews with a variety of staff members. At last, it’s edited and all over your website for all to see.

A few months later, a problem appears. One of the staff members in the video has quit to set up their own company and they don’t want to be seen in your video anymore!

What can you do?

You could find some budget so you can re-edit the video, editing them out completely. But what if they’re interviewed in the video? You’ll probably have to reshoot those sections capturing new interview comments with different people which will cost even more.

Then there’s the faff of taking the video down from YouTube, uploading a new version, making sure it’s linked to properly across your website – the hassle and costs soon start to add up. Then, as a final blow, he’s threatening legal action. Why? Because he never gave permission to be seen in the video in the first place.

Could this have all been avoided? Yes. This is where release forms come in.

By getting the right permissions and using the correct release forms for your corporate video, you massively reduce the risk of your project falling apart when someone decides to move on.

What do release forms cover?

In most cases, a release form is used to give the production company permission to produce and share a video where a person appears. But they can also cover permissions for locations, music and imagery such as logos and artwork.

‘Permission Releases’ give a huge amount of protection to the production company and the client, for example, if the interviewee changes their mind a few days after filming or a company later asks why their building was featured in a video, having a signed release form gives you protection.

Some organisations might have their own release forms or a similar approvals process already in place. Larger organisations might have image release permissions built into employment contracts or schools may have pre-approved agreements from parents.

However you go about it, getting permission is essential for pretty much all video projects. So what situations are you most likely to need a release form?

Talent Releases

A talent release form is required anytime talent appears in a video. This could be a professional presenter, a vox pop interview or a member of staff in a cutaway sequence.

Whilst some people tend to rely on a verbal release of having your talent say ‘i consent to be interviewed on camera’ at the start of filming, having a physical form is much more robust and should be used in all situations.

A standard talent release form will need to be filled out by the talent and will require their signature, date, name as well as other relevant information such as the location of the signing, job role, contact details etc.

If our clients have their own release forms, we’ll always talk to them, send them our release form and come to an agreement on what to use for the project. An iPad system is much more efficient and reliable than a paper-based system too, but getting the permission in writing is the most important thing.

Location releases

Having permission to film at a particular location also requires a release form. This goes for everywhere from public areas to private land and buildings. A signed location release shows that you’re allowed to be where you are and that the location can be featured in a finished video.

It’s not just the location itself you need to be careful of though.

In some cases, there may be parts of the location that cannot be shown on camera. For example, when we were filming for the BBC, we captured several scenes inside an art gallery. However, due to the paintings and sculptures that were copyrighted, we have to be very selective about the areas we were allowed to film in.

Private events

Capturing permissions at a large private event, such as a conference, is a bit different. If you can’t identify someone in a crowd, this is generally seen as ok.

But say there’s a seminar of around 200 people attending, and you’re likely to capture recognisable faces in the shot, it’s going to be hard to get everyone to sign a release form!

One thing we always do is make sure that plenty of signs are placed around the entrance to the venue. The signs clearly state filming is taking place and that by being present, the attendees acknowledge that they have given permission to be recorded as part of a video project.

They’re also given the option to opt out by contacting the event organiser or video crew. If it’s a seminar, we often mark a number of seats where those who don’t want to be captured can sit.

Getting permissions is essential for all corporate video, not just for the big budget ones. And it’s not just talent and locations too. Music needs to be licensed properly, agreements with voiceover artists cover specific usage and imagery such as logos shouldn’t be used without the permission of the organisation too.

Having release forms signed by participants in your video not only protects the production company and the client for this project, but it also gives you options for any future use of the video should you want to reuse it for advertising or any other purpose.

The risk of a project backfiring because of not getting permissions is small, but it can happen and it can result in costly re-editing at the very least or a full reshoot and legal action at the worst. Permissions protect everyone involved in the project, so make sure your production company has the processes in place to keep you protected.