• Manojna Yeluri

Unavoidable permissions and releases for any film

The rising popularity of OTT platforms, video streaming services, and multiple alternatives to sharing audio-visual content, has brought a renewed interest in film-making. With a growing appetite for diverse story-telling, film makers are being encouraged to reimagine the use of language, plot lines, and audio-visual aesthetics, in an effort to yield narratives that are compelling, as they are artistic. 

While the rules of film-making are changing, there are still important things to consider when creating a audio-visual or cinematographic work, regardless of whether it’s intended for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Most important of them all, are releases and permissions. Here are # things that every film ought to have permissions for, and in writing.

(1) All actors and appearances need to sign a release form

Whether it’s the lead of your film, or someone with a fleeting appearance, it’s important that you obtain their permission in writing. Typically, this is what is covered in an Artist or Actor Release Form. The subject or person in your film is required to give your consent to record them, and to incorporate their appearance, likeness, images, and narration in your film. 

(2) Locations and Venue releases are important

Unless it’s in a closed studio or a space that you own, any photographs or film shot at a particular location or premises, has to be cleared by the owners of that space. So in other words, if your film includes footage from a specific venue, restaurant or gallery, you will need the express permission of the owners of the space. This also extends to footage shot right outside the premises, and that might include some of their patrons and guests. If you’re using footage that of public spaces, then you will be required to clear the same with your local police authorities as well. 

(3) Clear the rights of protected visual material

Does your shot include an item that is branded? Or a work of art that’s been hung up on the wall, and is visible in the scene? Have you recreated an artistic work that closely resembles another existing work? Is there a TV show playing on the television or computer screen, that’s also in your shot? No matter the duration, every inclusion of previously existing and copyrighted or trademark protected visual work, needs to be cleared by the rights owners, before you can include it into your final film. A failure to do so can lead to a copyright infringement claim. 

(4) Get permission for the music and sound

There’s a misconception that using music that’s been downloaded from Youtube, or that’s been included in a film for under 30 seconds or 10 seconds, can be excused from claims of copyright infringement. Any usage of protected musical, lyrical and audio work, has to be signed off by the rights holder of the work, before you can include it in your film. Remember that the duration or the context is often irrelevant and is not going to be a very useful point of persuasion in a legal argument. 

It’s important to understand that while there are exceptions to these rules, such instances are not too common. As film-makers, subjects, composers, and art designers, it is important to remember that these permissions (though basic) are extremely crucial to the proper completion of the film. Procuring these permissions can sometimes involve discussions of monetary compensation, or certain other conditions – these conversations, though difficult, ought to be had in a transparent and honest manner, and preferably before the completion and marketing of your film. 

Photo by Vanilla Bear Films on Unsplash