The most important thing to remember with release forms (i.e. contracts) is that they prove that you as the producer own the right to exploit (i.e. benefit financially from) the resulting film or video. While they are not necessary if you are just starting out by making a film or video for friends and family to view, they become more important when the public starts viewing your film or video at film festivals. And should a distributor ever express interest in your film or video, they become absolutely necessary. If you are working on a student production or an ultra low-budget or even no-budget production, you can still avoid copyright and trademark infringement by considering the following:
- If you’re including a breakfast scene in your film or video, for instance, don’t show a brand name cereal when your characters can just as easily be eating something generic like eggs and toast.
- If you need a contemporary rock song, check out the bands in your home town rather than downloading a song from the Internet. A local band may be quite happy to get the exposure and credit for their original song that your film or video may give them, particularly if it does well on the festival circuit.
- If you need a score for your film or video, check out the music program at nearby colleges or universities. A student composer may be quite happy to work with you on your film or video for the same reasons a band might be happy to let you use their song.
To get an idea of the complexity of clearing rights, check out What goes into clearing rights for streaming films on NFB.ca which is a write-up of Carolyne Weldon’s interview with Hélène Dubé, NFB’s Administrator, Rights Clearance.
The following links are meant to be a helpful resource. There is no implied or explicit warranty by the staff or volunteers of the Reel Shorts Film Society as to the fitness for any purpose of these sample contracts. GPLT staff, members, and volunteers cannot be held liable in any way whatsoever for use of these sample contracts. Users are encouraged to seek independent legal advice from a law firm that handles entertainment law.
- Development and Other Challenges: A Producer’s Handbook by Kathy Avrich-Johnson – includes the following sample documents:
- Chain of title (p. 15) – for documenting the acquisition of rights that establish the chain of title to your film that will give you the right to license it to a distributor or broadcaster or other licensee
- Option & Purchase Agreement (p. 16) – for acquiring the rights to an existing original literary work
- Writing Agreement (p. 39) – for acquiring the services of a writer to write a screenplay for you
- Assignment of Rights (p. 49) – for transfering the rights and obligations associated with your film to another company
- Story Editor Agreement (p. 51)
- Executive Producer Services Agreement (p. 63)
- Interprovincial Co-Production Agreement (p. 67)
- Producer Engagement Deal Memo for Director Driven Low Budget Feature (p. 86)
- Director Services Agreement (p. 90)
- IPA (Independent Production Agreements) – standard forms and Independent Production Agreements can be found on the Writers Guild of Canada website
- ACTRA Indie Production Agreement
- Original music – see Composer Model Contract – this document on the Screen Composers Guiod of Canada website is a model contract for hiring a composer to score your film
- Music requiring rights clearance
- Synchronization (sync) license – agreement between the owner of the publishing rights of the music (creator/composer/publisher) and the filmmaker, to synchronize the intellectual property associated with the music, to film or video, i.e. to re-record non-public domain music for use in your film or video, you need to negotiate a non-exclusive sync license with the various people/companies (lyricist, composer, performer, record label, etc) who own the rights to the song so that you can negotiate non-exclusive synchronization rights in order to include that song in your film, television program, or other audio-visual production. If it’s a Canadian song, try contacting CMRAA (The Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd.), “a non-profit music licensing agency, which represents the vast majority of music copyright owners (usually called music publishers) doing business in Canada.” If it’s an American song, read The Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide or a similar book for a list of music clearance companies.
- Master use license – agreement between the owner of the rights to a physical recording of a musical work and the filmmaker, granting the rights required to use an existing recording, i.e. to use an existing recorded work of public domain music, you need a master use license.
- To use an existing recording of non-public domain music (e.g. current pop songs), you need a sync license and a master use license.
- Royalty-free music
- Producers Workbook 4, a book and CD produced by WIFTV (Women in Film & Television Vancouver)