Stop! Do not roll any inch of the film when working with non-actors for a documentary, educational video, market research, or any such project before you have signed a video release form. Ignore the warning only if you are ready to deal with the lawsuits coming your way and pay some of the heftiest fines for content infringement. Since you want to run with your fortune at the end of the project, think about the release form.
Do not be a victim of perceived goodwill and assumptions. Moreover, many producers do not see the trouble coming their way until court papers are slapped on the table. Yet, a form with a few lines would have shielded them from all this trouble. The document carries a signature that will give you peace of mind wherever the video is used, even if it is years down the line.
What is a Video Release Form?
To understand a video release form, you must know the circumstances that surround the production process. As a producer or company, you come up with a concept, identify the people to speak, and provide them with cues on your discussion direction.
While you are the producer, the people you interview have a right to dictate instances where their voice, image, and opinions can be used. “But I provided a brief and received verbal consent?’ you may argue.
Well, the law applies differently in such situations. It will be your words against his or hers. Having the guest sign the form exonerates you from any blame in case a lawsuit is filed. So, what is this video release form, and how does it affect my production project?
Video release forms are consent documents that grant you the right to use the image, audio, and character of a person henceforth without seeking additional permission.
Therefore, the form is issued to interviewees, actors, models, and any other subject that will appear on a clip.
Listed below are the types of forms available:
1. Video Consent Form
The process begins with a video consent form where the interviewee. They are the ones that grant the right for their words to be used in a publication. In this case, the production could be an advert, documentary, educational video, instructional clip, and such other publications. The form has to be signed before the interview begins.
2. Video Release Form
The interviewee then follows-up with a document in the format of a video release form seeking permission to use the image, audio, and dialogue for publication. While the structure might be a contract, the details are scanty and outright. The form states straightforwardly that an interviewee has surrendered consent.
It is easy to confuse the two forms or even a contract engaging the interviewee. Some producers combine the two documents into a single consent agreement. Even a seasoned interviewee will request one before the interview proceeds because it is a production norm.
However, the video production industry has nothing like too much caution. Even the top voice-over artists participating in the video project must sign off on the form.
The Reason Behind Signing a Video Release Form
The truth is that video production contracts are incredibly detailed. Even as a norm, actors, interviewees, and other players understand the production environment to the extent that too much documentation appears amateurish. However, something curiously necessitates the use of the video release form.
At first, the intentions of producing a documentary or any video are simple and straightforward. You probably want to advertise or promote a training program or real estate project. As such, and understandably so, your contracts are limited to the original intentions
But who knows what the future holds? As fate would have it, your intentions change, or the need arises for you to use the materials elsewhere. Third parties may also request access to these materials. Since it cannot be produced like the original clips, you have to surrender them for the new project.
Do you return to the original interviewers for new consent? In other cases, such material is already publicly available. To avoid legal battles, use the release form to come to your aid.
The scenarios that necessitate the signing of a release form are endless. Since it is difficult to enumerate all of them, a singular release form is developed. Without the form, the potential of a video is restricted. You have to look behind your back before using a video whose rights you already possess. To avoid such inconvenience, sign a release form as early as possible during the production process.
Benefits of Developing a Video Release Form
Individual contracts with actors and interviewees and participants’ goodwill make a release form appear like a mere formality. It remains a formality until something happens and you receive a demand note or defamation suit.
Here are a few benefits you stand to reap by having a release form every time you produce a video:
a) Authorize Commercial Use
Each person has a right to their personality or the things that make us. As such, your image cannot be used for commercial purposes without your authorization.
It is through the release form that producers and brands gain the right to use your recognizable image to promote their brands.
b) Shield you from Legal Battles
Actors, interviewees, and such production participants lay claim to content long after the initial contract agreement. Such requests will be difficult to settle if consent was verbal or fuzzily included in the contract.
With a release form, you can challenge any legal battle and win. Such documentation will deter actors from laying claim to content that is unwarranted.
c) Control the Release of Your Video
How much can the interviewee or actor talk about the ongoing project?
That is one of the biggest dilemmas of a production manager. The truth is that actors have a life and are hunted by media outlets.
What will restrain the actor from preempting your production? It is the release form. It stops participants from discussing projects without the authorization of the producer. As such, you have control over how much information leaks about your production.
d) Expands the Potential of a Film
Scenes, sounds, or plots within a production attract attention that you never envisaged. Actors or voice-over artists may also be approached to reenact scenes for commercial purposes.
How much control do you have over such extended potential? On the other hand, you need to control this growth to protect your brand.
The release form guarantees the desired control beyond allowing you to think beyond your film’s current potential.
How to Make a Video Release Form
Like all production projects, the content of a release form depends on the context of production. For instance, if you are engaging a voice over artist for your documentary, the conditions will differ from those of an actor. Still, the general format will be the same.
Here are the significant points to guide you when making a video release form for your project:
i) Forms of Media Restricted
While you could be shooting the documentary for airing on TV, the chance to include it in your online portfolio could arise, for instance. Expressly have such information in your form. In case such an opportunity arises, there will be no dispute about uploading the video.
ii) Usage by Third Party
Third-party licenses form the bulk of content disputes. Crafting the best video release form requires capturing the procedure of offering the video to third-party users.
Because it is impossible to determine the third parties interested in the work, it is always advisable to capture the provision as a general statement.
Leave room for negotiations in case such a moment arises.
iii) Commercial and Non-Commercial Rights
The commercial value of a video is never known until release. History has taught the industry that the shelf-life of a video is unpredictable. From experience, some movies have made a comeback decades after emancipation. It is, therefore, impossible to map out the commercial path of any production.
To be on the safe side, safeguard the engagement in such situations using the video release form.
Artists and interviewees may also find opportunities to use videos for other purposes. The release form should also indicate how such options will be approached.
iv) Time Frames
While the shelf life of a video is unknown, time will naturally wear out the value that accrues to every participant.
In other instances, the amount that returns to producers will depend on who initiated a deal. The form must indicate the changing value or share over time.
v) Future Usage
Every other point revolves around future usage.
As discussed above, the initial goal is usually apparent. Opportunities that arise afterward become the subject of legal battles.
Create a foundation for future engagements, especially after the initial goal has been realized.
If there were no money involved, very few people would have an issue with video footage. As such, this is one of the biggest challenges with production projects. Thus, the form must outline money sharing based on:
- engagement initiators
- time since the project was completed
- the course is commercial or non-commercial.
The content of a video release form is shaped by the details of a project and its content. From the elements discussed above, it is impossible to capture all details of a release form exhaustively.
The secret to avoiding legal challenges is to lay a solid foundation through the form, protect your tuff, and leave room for negotiation.
Who Needs to Sign the Video Release Form(s)?
Considering that every participant has a contract, why would they need to sign release forms? And are there players who must sign while others may opt to skip?
The unpredictable life of a video makes it difficult to seal all avenues of challenging future content usage. However, you will be on the safe side if the following players sign the release form.
- Actors and actresses– their image, voice, and character is the highlight of most videos. Remember, they will cause the most problems if they fail to sign the form.
- Interviewees– interviews adopt a life of their own once released. To have control of the produced clip requires a release form.
- Voice artists– the voice is an identifier. If you land a top voice over talent, protect your work and ideas by signing the form.
- Any other leading player- as indicated, each project is unique. Should you feel that a character is prominent and defining in your production, insist on the release form.
Release forms are not casual documents. It would help if you had a professional who understands your project potential comprehensively. It will protect your content and ideas and help you build a good reputation in the industry.
Remember, even with all caution, you cannot write a water-tight release form. The secret is to lay the ground for engagements and mutual benefit.
Visit Bunny Studio for the best video release form templates and tips on video production. You’ll find highly skilled producers who will guarantee a seamless production and post-production process. This is the home of the stress-free output.