Disclaimer: The text below is intended to provide filmmakers with helpful information in their preparation towards the production of their film. Nothing below should be construed as constituting legal advice. It should not be used as a substitute for consulting with legal counsel and receiving advice based on the circumstances of a particular transaction.
In the United States and Canada, if you are shooting a documentary, in most instances, a personal release form is required. If you are shooting a documentary on the fly and don’t have the necessary release forms with you, it is possible to use a verbal release, on camera. It may not be perfect, but it’s proof enough that your intent was to secure a release. Most personal release forms that are widely available on the internet should be good enough.
When it comes to documentary filmmaker, one thing to note is that release forms are not necessary if you are involved in filming a newsworthy event. If you videotape President Obama or Stephen Harper (for those of you who don’t know who the Canadian Premiere is), a personal release form is not necessary if you wish to put your masterpiece up on Youtube.
Please note however that if you use a video shot by someone other than you, even if the video is of a public figure, you need permission from the person who did do the shooting before you can use the clip in your documentary.
If you find yourself in a situation where you require a release form but are unable to obtain the release because of your subject’s recalcitrance, then you still have the option of blurring the face in post. If you are able to make sure that your subject remains unidentifiable by voice or context, you should be fine.
A copy of a personal release form can be downloaded at the link below:
Documentary Release Form / Personal Release Form.
Disclaimer: As mentioned at the beginning of the post, nothing in this post should be construed as constituting legal advice. It should not be used as a substitute for consulting with legal counsel and receiving advice based on the circumstances of a particular transaction.