You need filmmaker release forms for everybody. Point blank. Don’t skimp here. Get a lawyer. The name of the game is CYA. Get releases for locations, actors, crew, music (publishing and performance) and anybody who shows up on camera.
Off camera, you will want to make sure you have legal releases for everyone associated with your project, including the guy cooking food and locations. If someone is working with you, you need paperwork.
Filmmaker Release Forms Are Essential
To further help you, I got together with Gordon Firemark. He’s an entertainment attorney here in Los Angeles, specializing in helping indie filmmakers. And he created some essential filmmaker release forms, which you can find here. These contract templates have been crafted for independent filmmakers, producing a backyard indie.
According to Gordon Firemark:
Most line producers or UPMs will have similar template documents in their kits, and will use them liberally during production. Let’s face it, most of the time, even for productions that DO have a lawyer supervising the legal end, things like location agreements and extra deals never cross the lawyers desk. Producers aren’t stupid. They know when to spend on lawyers. These simple things aren’t the place.
Keep in mind that using legal form templates you find online is a lot different than getting professional legal advice, or getting custom tailored agreements from your lawyer. If you’re okay with that, then Firemark’s legal form templates may be a useful resource to have. But recognize that you’re always encouraged to seek out professional advice.
If money is tight, check with your state. Many states have lawyers who can help you with your artistic legal needs at a discount, based on your income. The other thing you can do is start with a basic release draft. Then later, you can get this double checked by your own attorney. This will save them time, which should save you money.