Release Forms and Contract tips for Indie Filmmakers

11411733_10205420282644291_3316827329988431737_oBeing a legal Videographer is one way I earn money to pay my bills. Being an Indie Filmmaker is a passion that I have had since the age of 5. Over a lifetime my skills and knowledge grow and improve. I began as simple crew, then Director of Photography (DP), every now and then I will act and can be seen a few times in the background as a videographer for House of Cards season 4,  and “Slow Learners”. Just to name a few. Over the past 5 years I have moved into the role of Producer, Line Producer, Director of Social Media, and writer. These roles on a production take more time, work, and lots of pre-planning and forward thinking. The biggest is making sure you have all contracts signed BEFORE the shooting begins. There is the original Non Disclosure Act (NDA) so people do not leak your story line and any wonderful twist it might have. The other big one I have come to really focus on is the Release Forms. For each film everyone who is seen on camera must fill a release form out, and sign it. Do not use a digital signature because talent can come back and say that the electronic signature is not theirs. I’ve even had talent come at me with they never signed a form, shocked when I do pull out the signed form that they forgot about, and still try to say that they did not sign it even though that is their handwriting. Yes, that was one crazy person to deal with.

Recently I have learned a new step in the release forms. My Invictus Films counterpart and I produced 2 short horror films last year with the intent of their inclusion into the UK anthology “Grindsploitation” 1 and 2, and later, with funding, creating features from our shorts “The Wendigo” and “Vermillion. All of these films can be found on IMDb and FaceBook.

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Before shooting I had all of the talent sign a release form for both films; “The Wendigo” and “Vermillion”. However, the release form only mentions our film names and production company. Although we can still use that for the “Grindsploitation” production, it is best to have both production names and companies mentioned in the release forms. It’s an added OCD “crossing T’s and dotting i’s” release form. When dealing with the potential of one or more of your talent going off their meds and causing problems, best to be a bit OCD with your legal forms. I’m hoping to save other Indie Filmmakers the aggravation with this bit of first hand experience. With an independent film there are productions with little to no funding, and we must include the best of whoever is willing to work for free upfront, with the potential of finding funding to make the feature later, with pay, for all. It is harder to be picky, and background checks on the sanity of the people you are including on your production, made pointless. One must have faith that everyone is there with the same common goal, telling a great story the masses want to see many times over, and our names living beyond our lives. It is not an easy passion/work and definitely not for the faint of heart. Be sure to get everything in writing before production begins. However, there are moments where you and a colleague find yourselves midway through writing a great story. At that point, get things in writing and be sure that you are not cheated out of the copyright. These forms and contracts help everything stay above board, and your production moving forward. If someone tries to throw a hissy fit in hopes to destroy all of your hard work, you have these release forms and contracts to save your bum.

Added side tip for fellow Indie Filmmakers, be sure to use your hashtags, and do not fear Twitter. It is the best place to get your message out and heard.  😉 Here are some useful hashtags for you…

#SupportIndieFilm #SupportIndieHorror #IndieFilmmaker #IndieFilm #WomenInFilm #YoungFilmmakers #MakingMovies


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