Pre-Production

7 Talent Release Forms You Need

Assemble

By Assemble

June 10, 2022

Any motion picture, no matter how large or small, must have a talent release form. A talent release form authorizes the production company to distribute a film containing an actor's name, voice, image & likeness and performance. The producer could be held liable for legal action without a talent release form. 

What Is a Talent Release Form?

A talent release form is a legal document that gives the filmmaker full permission to distribute and sell the video or film with the consent of the talent. By executing this contract, a producer safeguards against cast members having second thoughts about participating after production has ended.

You can download our free actor release form below:

 

Why You Need a Talent Release Form For Filming

A talent release form for filming is used to protect you against lawsuits.  By not obtaining a release form from the actors before filming, you are ceding control of your production to talent. Your production and its financial future are at risk without a signed release form.

When to Use Film Talent Release Forms

Anytime you have talent in front of the camera, be it professional actors or models, and are planning on distributing your film, a talent release form is required. For a photoshoot, you’ll need a model release form and for a film production or video production, a talent release agreement form is essential.

Film talent release forms will always be required if you plan on getting your film distributed. Your actors and extras will have to sign their copies after the fact if you do not have them in place before filming begins. This could be a hassle and present problems in seeking distribution. Because of this, it's best to have your actors sign the talent release form before shooting begins. It’s important to note that if you are using child actors, a guardian must sign and authorize consent for their likeness to be used.

An actor release form is not always required. If shooting a newscast or if you are in a public venue for example, where anyone can walk by, you are typically not required to have an actor release form. However if the person’s face can be seen and you have audio, then their use would require a release form.

What Should be Included in the Release Forms

The specifics of any basic talent release form example should be modified to suit the requirements of a variety of different projects. As an example, a talent release form for documentary filmmaking will differ from a talent release form for photography.  A qualified entertainment lawyer can assist you in modifying any free talent release form PDF to meet your specific needs. 

In addition to specific details needed for your particular project, there are a few characteristics considered standard for a release form including:

  • Name 

  • Voice

  • Image & Likeness 

  • Performance Rights

Name

This gives you permission to use the actor’s name. Generally, this use should extend beyond the primary work. Although it's unlikely that a performer would object to including his or her name in the opening or closing credits of your film, that doesn't mean they will necessarily want the use of their name as the focus of your marketing campaign. You may need to offer additional financial incentives for use of their name in publicizing the film.

However, you should handle that question up front by ensuring your talent release form specifies the use of a talent's name in any expected promotional materials.

Voice

This gives your production the permission to use your talent’s voice on camera or as voiceover.  

Image and Likeness

Film is a visual medium. The use of the talent's likeness & image is perhaps the most important permission granted by a talent release form. 

In most cases, this permission should extend beyond the scope of the primary work, such as promotional stills in your electronic press kit, or the actor's image on your movie poster.

Performance 

This refers to the interpretation of the role that the actor plays in your production. It can also include musical choreography and performances.

7  Talent Release Form Templates You Need

A release form is not only required for actors.  To ensure you own the copyright to the material, you'll also need to obtain a release form from the crew.  You may also need additional release forms depending on the type of production. We identified seven talent release form templates that every production should have on hand before shooting begins.

  • General Crew Release

  • Standard Release Form

  • Actor Release Form

  • Actor Contract Template

  • Music Video Release Form

  • Talent Release Form for Minors

  • Creative Release Form

General Crew Release

Release forms make up a substantial portion of the paper trail that ultimately forms the chain of title. Film distributors carefully examine release forms before they approve a film. A general crew release form or a crew deal memo is an important contractual agreement between the film crew member and the producer that allows them to utilize the services of the film crew. This confirms that the producer retains ownership of the original copyright. 

This document ensures that any work provided by crew members such as editors, cinematographers, gaffers, and others involved in the production will be provided as "work for hire." Essentially, copyright protections are relinquished to the film's producer rather than the crew, which means the copyright protections will stay with the producer.

All members of the film crew must sign a release form. A distributor will require you to have a clean chain of title. As part of that clean chain of title, they'll check to make sure all crew members have signed the film crew release form.

Standard Release Form

The standard talent release form is meant to be used by individuals to grant permission for images and audio recordings of their likenesses and voices to be used for any purpose.

A standard release form could be used, for example, to create a YouTube video appearance release form, granting permission for the talent to use their image and voice commercially. The term "commercial use" describes almost everything outside of editorial content (such as news stories or educational content). When a video is part of a process to make money, it is considered commercial. If you plan on posting your video on a company's website or promoting a product, release forms are needed.

Actor Release Form Template

As we discussed above, for any actor appearing in your film you’ll need them to sign an actor release form, giving the producers use of their name, voice, image & likeness and performance.  Without it, you can’t sell or distribute your film.

There are many common fields in a standard actor release form template. They include:

  • Production Number:  A studio or production company may have multiple productions and this keeps track of the paperwork for the chain of title.

  • Production Title: Your film's title (be sure to note if this is a proposed title, subject to change).

  • Director: The name of the film’s director.

  • Producer(s): The name of the producer(s) on the film.

A release form for actors should be concise and easy to read. It should say that the participants are voluntarily taking part in the production, thus giving permission to the filmmakers and/or producers to use their image and/or voice and performance in any manner and in any medium without restriction. If their agent or manager has any requests to restrict use, those should be negotiated and incorporated into the contract. 

Actor contract template

An actor contract template is different from a release form in that the contract is not just giving permission for use of likeness and performance, but specifically details the role, responsibilities, expectations, duration and compensation.  It would also include reasons for termination, reimbursement for expenses, promotional and marketing obligations and any exclusivity required for the length of the shoot.

The acting contract template breakdown would likely include:

  • The role they are contracted for and any performance expectations or requirements.

  • Timeline of the project and hours required.  If a TV series, this might include obligations beyond the current season.

  • Compensation such as a flat fee or union minimum.

  • Expenses or Per Diem: This is extra compensation, such as transportation costs, accommodation costs, food expenses, or any other costs associated with the production.

  • Merchandising agreement allowing their name and likeness to appear in books, on toys, posters, and t-shirts, etc.

  • Expenses associated with appearances in support of a project, such as travel and accommodations.

  • Termination clauses are essential to every contract. The production company and director choose a date after the film, movie, or finished product has premiered. You should also include any reasons for early termination and who is responsible if either party breaches the contract. 

  • Exclusivity agreement. Producers often want exclusive access to actors' time during the entire production. This can, however, be negotiated so that both the actor and the producer's needs are met. Together, you can work out a schedule for when the actor needs to be available for production and when he or she can accept other work. As long as they are not acting during those agreed times, they can accept other work. A flexible exclusivity agreement should restrict any physical changes the actor may make for another role.

Music Video Release Form

The music video release form is a document that would allow a filmmaker and/or production company to use the likeness, image and performance of anyone featured in front of the camera during a music video. This includes the talent and/or band as well as any actors and extras. 

The performance release would also cover the music heard in the video. A songwriter's work is generally protected by copyright, so the artist would need to grant permission, and if any 3rd parties were involved in the song's creation or performance, those permissions would also need to be obtained. 

In other words, you can use music in videos legally if you have the permission of the person, people, or company who owns the rights. Music rights are typically owned by the record label and publisher, so you must obtain their permission. A synchronization license (or sync license) will be provided by the publisher or composer. It is an agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted composition (song) that gives permission to release the song in video format. This permission is also called synchronization rights, synch rights, or sync rights.

You will need to obtain a master license from the record label if the artist or band has a contract with them. A master license is a legal agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted sound recording that grants permission to use the recording. It is also known as a master lease or master right.

Talent Release Form For Minors

A talent release form for minors refers to any talent under the age of 18. They will need their parent or legal guardian’s signature on the release which they can affix at the bottom of the form. This is also included in most types of standard release forms.

Creative Release Form

A creative release form covers a wide variety of intellectual property including video, text, writing, graphics, illustrations, audio or audio visual recordings. Producers get the right to use the work, name and likeness of the artist, but the copyright remains with the creator. In signing this agreement, the artist releases the producer and its assignees from all claims and demands related to the use of their work, including claims of libel or invasion of privacy.

In other words, it includes the right to reproduce, perform, display, and distribute the whole or part of the work or edits, in whatever format is currently available or yet to be discovered, including the right to name, images, and biographical information.

This issue came to light when Director Julian Schnabel couldn't get Jean Michel Basquiat's estate to provide original artworks for his 1996 film about the artist. As a result, he had replicas painted "in style of" Basquiat's works. The Estate of Andy Warhol, however, did not object to Schnabel using famous pop pieces, so the ones in the film are authentic.

Actor Release Form: Key Takeaways

You may think actor release forms are time consuming, but when you're ready to sell your film, distributors will carefully examine your "chain of title," or the documents that prove you own all the components of the film.

  • Your talent release form should grant you the right to use an actor’s name, voice, image, likeness and performance.

  • The form should include production company, project name and the director and producer names. 

  • You need this release to cover your liability and is a requirement by distributors.

  • You will also need the consent of a parent or guardian if any talent is under 18.

  • In most cases, compensation is not included in a release form; this is typically outlined in the actor's contract.

  • Keep a release short - one page is usually sufficient.

  • Make sure the producer also signs the release form. A contract signed only by one party is not legally binding.

And most importantly, be organized. Having to prove to distributors that you have a clean title means having easy access to all your release forms. A comprehensive storage system is key to a seamless process.

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