I used to deal with a lot with all sorts of releases and contracts in my work as an agent. Just a note to anyone who produces, as well as a warning to all models and actors who come in contact with releases–Be very careful of what you sign!
There are many times when I hear from a client “Oh, this is just a small job for a trade show”, or “we only want to use this for one month”, etc. Then the talent show up to the shoot and sign a blanket release that allows the client to use the talent’s image (or video, or voice, whatever the job may be) in whatever medium they want, for an unlimited period of time. In other words, the shot of you for the “little trade show” could appear on billboards and in national ads–and you would have no say about it!
Rates for any sort of commercial, voiceover, print ad, media buy, etc. are based on many things, including how long the project is used for, whether it’s consumer advertising (versus in-house), what sorts of mediums it’s being shown in (TV, web/internet, print ads, brochures, trade show display, etc.), and what the product or service that’s being advertised is. Part of my job as an agent was to negotiate rates based on what the client is using the image for. So, if when I negotiate rates for the “trade show” and the talent shows up and signs that blanket release form–they’ve not only negated all of the hard work I just put in, but they also screwed themselves out of money!
In addition, the talent could create a product conflict which will prohibit them from doing work for a competing company later in their career (we’ll talk about product conflicts in another post). Now, every project will need a release giving the client the right to use the image/video/voiceover–but the key is that the release needs to match the terms of what has already been discussed. As an agent I required that any releases be sent to me in advance of the job, that way I could review and modify the blanket release to match the terms of the deal. Any reputable producer will allow this–and if they don’t you should cancel the job immediately. The only reason a producer would be opposed to this is if they are intending to something unethical.
It is common practice to have everything negotiated in advance, including signed releases, and then to show up on set and be presented with an additional release that came up “last minute” that the client needs you to sign. Sometimes this is intentional, usually it is just bad planning on the part of the producers or end client–but regardless you should NEVER sign any paperwork on set. Kindly but firmly tell the client that you are happy to sign it, but you have a lawyer/agent/manager who reviews all of your releases before you sign them. Offer to take the release home and fax or mail it back to the client after it has been reviewed. Don’t feel pressured in to signing anything on the spot!
Remember, contracts and releases are designed to protect all parties–which includes the talent! Making yourself familiar with the practice of reviewing releases will make your business as a performer that much stronger.