If you’re a budding filmmaker, you’re probably starting to realise that there is more to it than just filming and editing. You might have found a person or a location that you want to feature in your film, but you can’t jump in straight away. You need to do some preparation and make sure you have your legal bases covered first.

What legal issues am I talking about?

Getting permission to use spaces and film people. The most straightforward way to make sure that people have given their informed consent for you to film them or their property is to get them to sign a release form.

There are two main types of release forms that filmmakers use. The first is a personal release form. The second is a film location release form.

Personal release form

Personal release forms are used to obtain the written permission of participants in a film. They are also known as participant release forms. You should use them whenever a person will be identifiable in your film, whether or not they are featured or have a speaking role. The form should give you permission to use or not use images and sound recordings of them in your film. If the person is under the age of 18, you will need their parent’s permission.

Film location release form

The second type of release form that filmmakers regularly use is a film location release form. Film location release forms give you written consent to film on private or public property.

For example, say you want to shoot a scene at your friend’s house. If your friend owns the house, you only need their permission to film there. However if they are renting, you should get both your friend’s permission, as the occupier, and the permission of the owner as well.

You may want to set your film on somebody’s rural property, or in an abandoned warehouse. Again, you will need the owner’s permission. This could be an individual or a business. If you try to film private property without permission, you can be prosecuted for trespass.

If you want to film at a public location, such as in a state forest, or national park, or in a township, you need to contact the relevant government body or council for permission. You are less likely to run into issues of trespass by filming in a public location, however there are still council regulations and other laws surrounding the use of public space that you will need to abide by.

Once you have the permission of the relevant person or organisation to film their property, you need to make sure they sign your film location release form. Your film location release form should make it clear how you will be using the property. This helps to avoid any legal issues later on because the owner of the land has given their informed consent.

Got that Steven Spielberg Jr? If you need a personal or film location release form drafted or reviewed pick up the phone and give us a holler!

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