The Documentary Release Form, Explained

documentary release form downloadWhen you’re making a nonfiction film it’s important to get a documentary release form from all the participants, to show that you have their permission to film them.

Why are documentary release forms important?

If you’re planning to put your documentary video on YouTube when you’re finished with it, the only reason you might want to get a release form from the participants is to protect yourself from any future lawsuits, however unlikely they might be.

But if you think you might eventually want to try to get your documentary distributed by a television broadcaster or you plan to try for theatrical distribution of some kind, or streaming Netflix, they may want to make sure you have the proper release forms.

What is included in a documentary release form?

A good documentary release form includes a clause that shows the person signing it understands that the ownership of the film can be transferred to another party (such as if you sell the film or some rights to a broadcaster). Another important documentary release form clause is a provision that allows you as the filmmaker to use the person’s image and likeness in advertising, like a film trailer. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that there aren’t any time limits or geographical limitations to using the footage you record.

Are there different types of documentary film release forms?

Yes! Some broadcasters may have specific in-house documentary release forms that they want you to use. But moreover there are a few different types of release forms that every documentary filmmaker should be familiar with. There are general interviewee/participant release forms for starters. But there are also special release forms for minors under the age of 18 because they can’t legally sign their own release form and need a parent or guardian to sign it for them. And finally there are also release forms for archival materials like old photographs that you may want your interviewee to provide you with.

Where can you download a sample documentary release form?

If you don’t already know what a documentary release form looks like we recommend you download a documentary release form to get started.