The Complete Guide to Actor Release Forms (FREE Template)
Are you sure you own your movie? You may be shocked to learn that without release forms from each of your actors, your film does not belong to you! Fortunately, we’ve got an actor release form template you can use, and a handy guide to help you use it. That way, all your hard work making your film won’t go to waste!
What is an actor release form?
An actor release form is the legal agreement between you and the actor. It transfers to you the rights to use any performance that was made in conjunction with your film. Without a signed actor release form, you do not have the right to use an actor’s image, voice, or performance, and you can’t sell or distribute your film without those rights.
Commonly, actor release forms also allow you to create promotional materials with your actor’s name, face, and voice.
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What is “Image and Likeness?”
In order to show or distribute your movie, you need to acquire the rights to use the image and likeness of an actor. Otherwise, you don’t actually own or control an important piece of your film. “Image and Likeness” is a legal shorthand for elements of an actor’s performance. This can include things like:
- IMAGE: The actor’s physical appearance you film or photograph.
- VOICE: The actor’s voice you record.
- PERFORMANCE: The unique way in which the actor interprets a role.
A standard actor release form should cover most things that you might have in your film, but there are potential exceptions.
You may want to include specific language to cover other creative or performance elements like choreography or the playing of an instrument.
When should you fill out an actor release form?
Your actors should sign all their contracts before production begins. This should include the actor release form. It’s a good rule to resolve common legal protocols prior to production.
Exactly who should fill out an actor release form?
Anyone who appears in your film in any way, shape, or form should fill out an actor release form. This includes not only your principal cast, but also any background / extras, voice actors, and even people who appear in photographs or other form in your film.
In some cases, the standard actor release form may not be sufficient. Young cast members, for example, may require a modified actor release form for minors, which typically includes a section for parents or legal guardians to sign.
PRO TIP: Bring Extra Copies to Set
Make sure to have plenty of copies of your actor release form, especially when you’re shooting with lots of extras. It’s much easier to get talent to sign a release form on the shoot rather than to track them down after production wraps.
Guided Walkthrough: How to fill out the actor release form template.
Before we dive in, please note that our standard actor release form template was designed to help you in a pinch. However, it cannot replace a full assessment of your production by legal counsel to determine your specific needs. Always consult with your production attorneybefore relying on any third-party legal forms.
Step 1: Fill in the common fields first
Before you print copies of your actor release form template to bring to set, fill out common fields. These are the parts of the template that apply specifically to your film.
There are many common fields in a standard actor release form template. They include:
- Production #: If you’re working for a company that runs multiple productions, this will help them sort the paperwork.
- Production Title: The title of your film (be sure to note this as a tentative title, subject to change).
- Director: The director’s name.
- Producer: The producer’s name.
In the main text of this release, fill in your film’s working title in any spot that is marked “Picture”.
The rest of the blanks in the main text of the release are for your production company name (or for your name, if you’re producing without a production company).
Step 2: Print out a stack
Once you’ve filled out the common fields of the actor release form template, you can print out a stack!
For your principal cast, bundle the form with any other paperwork and have them sign it all before production begins.
For extras, it’s handy to have a stack available when you’re shooting, as you can often end up with additional unexpected extras at the last minute.
You can also email your actor release form to your actors in advance and have them arrive to set with a printed, signed copy. If you’re going digital, expand your producer’s toolkit to include an e-signing service.
While going digital can save you time, it’s important to have additional hard copies available on set.
Step 3: Fill in the variable fields
If you want to be generous to your actors, you may also fill out these fields for them in advance.
If you already have their name, contact information and character name, you can fill these fields out on the computer or by hand in the production office before arriving to set.
Be sure actors sign their legal name and NOT their performing name. It is often useful to note this on the form and to offer a space for the actor to specify how they would like to be credited, if different from their legal name.
Step 4: Get signatures
Have the actor sign and date where indicated.
Make sure the producer also countersigns the form.
While not required, it’s also good practice to scan the signed document and send a copy to your actor for their records.
Keep these organized! You’ll need them later.
The actor release forms may seem bureaucratic, but when you’re ready to sell your film, distributors will look closely at your “chain of title”, the stack of documents that prove your ownership of all the different bits and pieces that make up your film.
And your actor release forms are critical components of your chain of title, so make sure you have copies backed up, preferably digital.
In addition to using cloud-based e-signing solutions to keep copies of executed documents online, you can scan hard copies of actor releases right on set using your smartphone and an app like ScanBot.
You can also backup your production documents using a dedicated film project management solution like StudioBinder (that’s us). Beyond the document storing benefits, StudioBinder also provides collaboration tools to create and manage talent/crew profiles, shooting schedules, script breakdowns and call sheets. It’s also free to get started.
And now you own your movie.
Careful bookkeeping will save a lot of time later and will ensure your film can be screened and sold when it’s finished. Speaking of which, also make sure to check out The ABC’s of SAG Exhibit G: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Filling out Actor Time Reports.
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Disclaimer: We love to provide resources and templates to filmmakers. Just please remember, this article should be construed as informational, not legal advice. StudioBinder does not provide or offer legal advice to its readers. StudioBinder, its editors and authors will not be held responsible for any legal issues the reader might encounter based on the subjects found in this post. As always, we recommend you consult a legal expert for advice on release forms and agreements. This disclaimer assigns you, our readers, all responsibility for your own decisions.