Releases For Use in Film and Video

Video Release Form Basics

Why should you get a signed video release form? Media companies and TV networks get a video release form signed so they will not be sued by someone who appears in a video. If you watch a Discovery, Cops or other TV show with “real people” rather than actors, you will often see a face that has been blurred. This has been done because that person did not sign a release and network did not want the risk of a lawsuit.

This risk is very small, but still possible, for smaller scale productions. But if there’s any chance the video could ever be sent to a distributor, TV show, film festival or other contest, releases will be required. And of course, in the event of a lawsuit, a release is extremely helpful.

There is no need for a video release form if a person in a video cannot be identified. Shooting a crowd of people in a public place may also not require a release unless it appears that the people were advocates for a company or business.

The need for a release is not dependent upon whether the video is commercial or given away for free. If the video is given away for free, you may still need releases from the people who appear in the video.

You will generally want to get a video release form signed if you interview someone who speaks on camera or if you shoot video of a private, non-public event. In that case, you may need to get a signed video release form from each person in the audience.

Getting a video release form signed by identifiable participants in your video is a good idea not only to protect yourself, but to give you options for selling the rights to your video in any kind of commercial venture or competition.

Save any of these releases to your hard disk. Proofread and rewrite them as necessary. Keep copies in your camera case which may help remind you to use them. Obtaining proper written permissions is the responsibility of the producer. Below are five types of common releases:

1. General Release

The general release should be used for non-actors.

General Release in RTF

General Release in txt

2. Talent Release

The talent release should be used with professional actors and models.

Talent Release in RTF

Talent Release in txt

3. Minor Release

The minor release must be signed by a parent or legal guardian of a minor (the legal age varies from state to state).

Minor Release in RTF

Minor Release in txt

4. Materials Release

The materials release is used for obtaining permission to use photographs, video, film or other media which may be copyrighted or owned by others.

Materials Release in RTF

Materials Release in txt

5.Location Release

The location release is used when you wish to photograph, videotape or record property which you do not own.

Location Release in RTF

Location Release in txt

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    Thanks a lot man, this saves me alot of typing. I spend enough time planning and writing scripts. I find myself writing all the time. Watch movies, study them and inspiration comes and spills all over the pages. Great stuff too. Just putting together a complete one which will only have about 5 actors and the rest will be public stand ins. So now I’m protected. If you want to see my work its on youtube. search my name or enigmatic studios. My writing is under backdoor productions so far.

    thank you for having these forms available… LoVe

    Hey thanks! Question and I apologize if this was already answered but for what legal reason do you pay $1 for the General Release? I assume that Virginia (and possibly other states) require a monetary compensation piece? Again, thank you very much.

    This is such a help, thank you! My business will be filming an adult and her niece and we need a release for the minor…I didn’t even think of having a release for talent, materials, or location. Check out our progress on our YouTube channel: Bizy Does It (dot com)

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40 thoughts on “Releases For Use in Film and Video

  1. Marie Segre

    Thank you for posting these forms for free. I am new to this and it was incredibly helpful to find such an easy format to use.

  2. Julius, the Julius

    Thanks from me too, I so appreciate it. This might be a legal question, or a stupid question, forgive if so, but does anybody know if a General Release is good for people interviewed in documentaries. Thanks again, Julius

  3. LJ

    Ok, this is going to sound absurd. But

    say for a student film, we forgot to get these signed and there is no way of meeting the actors again. But have their complete agreement, is it better to sign the forms in their names or just leave out the forms completely ?

  4. Paul Corby Pratt Productions

    Thank you so much. This is going to save me and the non-profit I’m doing a promotional for a lot of time and effort. If I can be of gelp feel free to contact me.

  5. ALEX WASHINGTON

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I TEACH A DIGITAL ARTS COURSE, AND I FIND THAT YOUR FORMS WERE MOST RELEVANT TO MY STUDENTS USE AND WORKED WELL WITH SOME MINOR MODIFICATIONS FOR OUR PURPOSES.

    ALEX WASHINGTON

    INSTRUCTOR OF FINE ARTS

    THE HILL SCHOOL

    POTTSTOWN, PA

  6. JP

    dumb question…legally, can we just go ahead and start using these forms or does a lawyer need to look at first? Is it that easy?

  7. danimations

    These documents are a great resource for emerging video producers and film makers. Thanks for sharing them! I will be modifying them to suit a current documentary film project I’m producing in South Australia.

  8. Keith

    KISS principal at their best!

    Do you have similar for use for Director and or a Producer Release Form for work on a doco? Thank you again.

  9. Brad white

    I plan to shoot/produce a short movie all done outdoors, on public property. I plan to obtain the local jurisdictions permits. Does anyone know if I need release forms for buildings in the background. The shots won’t be on the properties but stores and other businesses will be in some of the footage.

  10. Christine

    I am part of a local non for profit charity that displays a Memorial Day weekend event. Professional photographers usually use this event to take photographs. I welcome them and actually encourage them. The location is on private property. I asked a photographer last year if he would kindly give me some of the photos he was taking at my event. He said “I have to charge you like anyone else”. Is there some kind of agreement I can have them sign?

  11. 5FamFilms Inc

    Tremendously helpful in getting our new film company off on the right foot! Thanks!

  12. Darius F Talley

    I really want to thank you for publishing these. They helped me a lot and I am very appreciative because I needed them badly.

  13. Mia Moraes

    Incredibly thankful that you published these-. I’m new to all these details and having this easily accessible has been a tremendous help.

  14. Sue Maslow

    Anyone ever have an interviewee who signed a release try to retrack and insist the footage be destroyed? I am looking for legal support for the proposition that, once signed, the Release cannot be withdrawn unless the film maker breaches a promise made in writing (or perhaps even orally if provable) to the interviewee. Any experience out there?

  15. Ethan

    At the end of the general release form it mentions that the release shall be governed by Virginia law. Does this need to be changed from state to state?

  16. Michael

    I live in Canada and worked on an entertainment event over a year ago with the understanding it was simply for those in attendance. Fast forward a year and the promoter is now about to air the event on television without my consent or a release ever signed or verbally agreed to to use my perfomance on television which I would very much like them not to do. Do I have any rights?

  17. george smith

    I have a small production company and produced a promo for friend which included one of their client as the main character.

    She signed an actors release form, and up until a couple of weeks ago was a nice as you can imagine with a pushy demeanour which I took for ambition to be famous, but somewhat endearing, mistake No:1 (Big lesson learnt)

    After a heated discussion she now wants to sue me saying she did not give permission for it to be aired, even though the agreement was not with her as she is merely the face of the companies products.

    The director of the said company has said that they will not pursue this on her behalf as she is being ridiculous, yet she still insists she will get advice from her solicitor to try and get the said promo off of an internet media platform site as she is not happy with her acting/image in scenes.

    The underlying issue is because of the fact that in a phone call she made to me a couple of weeks back her interaction within the conversation was insulting, I lost the ability to count to 10 and breathe after several attempts, that I finally said that firstly this was not her production but her employers, and that I will edit the final piece as instructed or I will pull the project, and that she was a rude ungrateful person to have had over £3000 of production work for nothing, as it was produced free to the company that she works for.

    This person is a Z list celebrity and has Diva tendencies which I tolerated for four months of her relentless phone calls and texts demanding constant changes to a project that should have been a five day freebie for a friend *the said company that I produced the promo for.

    After a chat with this person (company director) we agreed that it was ready to be aired on said internet media site, as he was insistent that the post production should never had included the main character having any say in the editing, but he out of politeness allowed her to see the rough edit, which i was apprehensive about in the first place but trusted his decision, and she ended up being a major headache from aug 12 – present day which has been a nightmare for something that i did as a favour for a friend, in return for a mention on his company website (which is still going to be the case), as he is embarrassed by her behaviour, but she at the end of the day is a client that make his company money so has to pacify her ego.

    I thought that a release form was watertight if it had all the required element within the form, or has this character whom is the face of the companies products, or is she whistling in the wind, or out of somewhere where the sun doesn’t glisten?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    But after discussion

  18. Hal

    Hey George,

    Sorry to hear of your problem. Unfortunately anyone can sue anyone else at any time, regardless of what contracts have been signed. The release you have should protect you in a court of law. So if she sues, I think you would be in good shape. And if she sues, no one in their right mind would put her in another video. She’ll probably figure that out and drop it.

    This woman sounds like a real handful. Casting is 90% of the director’s job. I think Woody Allen said that.

    Good Luck.

    Hal

  19. Tom

    I’m in the process of starting a small, short film festival in a rural Georgia town. What do I need with respect to a release to screen any films selected by the selection committee and then post them (at least the finalists) on our web site?

  20. Sarah Jay

    What if you are filming in a public high school, that has granted permission to full access to the crew. The students that are being focused on have releases, but do we need release forms from scenes of general school population (which is huge?)

  21. Hal Post author

    If this video were to appear on TV, YouTube or another high profile venue, you could have trouble. Watch the Discovery Channel and A&E and you will see that everyone who has not signed a release has their face blurred.

    I’ve done videos for schools, but the school system said every student’s parents had singed a blanket release. You might ask about that. I can’t give you legal advice, but I will tell you to read a book called Clearance and Copyright by Donaldson. You’ll learn some of the complications and gotchas involved in this kind of shooting. These kinds of questions should be dealt with before you shoot or even script a video. There are too many ways to get in trouble. Good luck.

  22. John DeLeon

    Great info. Helpful site.

    The biggest things I hear from production companies are that:

    (1) it’s hard to upload the specific release forms their clients (networks, legal departments, etc.) require and

    (2) that most of the choices in the App Store aren’t built for the logistics of having temporary below the line production assistants collecting signatures in the field, when those signed releases need to be organized and stored back at the production office.

  23. Beth Bishop

    Love this document, I noticed that this one has digital signature available with the little signature tab next to the box. I was wondering how you did this as I have downloaded the Location release form which does not have that feature. Can you help me?

  24. Hal Post author

    These forms are RTF and TXT. There is no digital signature for any of them. Please provide more details. Even if that were an option, I would advise that a producer obtain a handwritten signature on a printed, not digital, release form.

  25. Wayne

    We filmed a video recently that is to be used to obtain a grant for funding of free clothing to at risk individuals (for a not for profit). We were invited into certain individuals homes (have the emails and text to show) to discuss how the program has worked for them. They invited us into their homes to setup lights and cameras and on camera we told them the purpose of the video and how we would use it. For all but one, we have the release forms. We don’t have to use the video of the person we don’t have a release for, but it got me thinking….if they agreed in email/text to be filmed, allow setup of equipment and discuss the program on camera and in the end were given a small stipend, do you still need that release?

  26. Mary

    Hello,
    I just found this great website. Thank you!
    I have a question. I have footage I filmed at public marches in downtown L.A.
    there’s! a big number of people like in all marches ( impossible to get releases) that were participating.
    I’m working on a music video and I plan yo use few seconds of all these footage I gathered.
    The video will not be for sale. It’s only to promote the spirit of the song. The song will be on iTunes but not the video. It will be on Youtube and social media.
    Like I said, in a street march situtation it was impossible to get releases. How does the release apply in this case? I have no visible businesses etc. Only people.
    Thank you so much!

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