We now live in a world that requires permission for pretty much anything, and that includes filming on private property and interviewing subjects. Gone are the days where we could just shake a hand or trust a verbal agreement. If you are a video producer and/or filmmaker, release forms are a must!
Before I explain a little about release forms, let me briefly explain what happened to me last week while I was filming (or at least trying to) a portion of my upcoming documentary, NOT FOR RENT! Tonia, a woman that we have been filming for the last few months about her 25-year old felony and the lack of housing even after so many years, was attending an expungement seminar at Cottages of Hope. Now, before I go into anything, I must say that Cottages of Hope does wonderful work with individuals with criminal records in several areas: employment, financials, and housing assistance. Because they are well known in the area for providing these services, this was one of the main reasons why I wanted to film their expungement seminar in Ogden, Utah. A couple of months back I had contacted their director about filming at this seminar. I explained that I would like to highlight the good they were doing at the their center and to film some “b-roll” footage of Tonia who would be attending. The gentleman ended up being very cold and short with me for some reason. I went on to explain that I can provide release forms and a location release and I wouldn’t have to film anyone’s face. He blatantly said “no” and was not interested in having cameras in the seminar. I was baffled. Here I was trying to help them out but they didn’t want to have anything to do with our film project.
About two weeks ago, I interviewed a gentleman that happened to be on the Board of Directors of Cottages of Hope. He said he would talk to the director and try to get me in. Fast forward to last Friday. I arrived early to the seminar with my required release forms in hand and walked into the center, without my camera. I then asked for the director and was sent to the back room. Again, the gentleman was very rude and didn’t want to have any part of the project. Since no permission was given to film the seminar, I ended up walking out pretty upset at how I was treated. (Note: After Tonia came out from the seminar, she had told me there was a newspaper photographer taking photos during the seminar. I was upset again. I guess because I’m an independent film company, our story isn’t as important?)
So, why am I telling you this story? I think the moral here is as a filmmaker you have to be prepared for people to not be as excited about a project as you are, or at least not being able to see the vision. Even with release forms and a prior call (and help with a Board Member!), filming didn’t work out. I’ve learned over the years as a director and producer of films you have to be prepared and flexible for changes in your production schedule and who you do and don’t get to interview and film.
Always have release forms in your bag ready to go. What types of release forms do I need? Are they needed every time I film and at every location? These are good questions. Though I’m not an entertainment lawyer, I can give suggestions as an experienced filmmaker. Let’s talk a little about location releases since this is the hot topic of this blog post. Honestly, I have not been as diligent as I should be in using these ever so important forms. According to Videomaker, “Shooting in or at private property requires permission of the owner or authorized agent. Places like your local museum, mall or zoo might seem to be public property, but they aren’t and they have rules for photo and video that are usually printed in the fine print on the back of your entry ticket or in the business office. If you are just shooting a day in the park with family and friends, even if you plan to post it to YouTube, that will be okay, but if you are shooting for commercial purposes, you might not be able to do so without permission.”
Commercial purposes is the important phrase here. A friend of mine last year was attempting to film at the Tulip Festival but did not call or ask permission in advance. He arrived with his crew and was turned away due to the fact that the festival charges for a “commercial photo pass” to film or photograph on the grounds. Using your phone while filming your family and friends was okay, but as soon as it turned into a commercial project, there’s more red tape to get through! He didn’t want to pay the expensive fee so he planned to film elsewhere.
What about when I film or photograph a person? Do I always need a signed release form? The answer is: No. The questions you must ask yourself as a producer are: Can you clearly see that person’s face? Do they speak on camera? Does the person do anything that would identify him or her to the audience at large? If the answers are “no”, a release form is often unnecessary. Another important question that has to be considered though, is how “public” is the place where the filming occurs. If it’s a publicly operated park, or an open space, where nobody reasonably expects that they’re entitled to any real degree of privacy, then releases and waivers probably aren’t necessary. On the other hand, release forms ARE required when the person speaks on camera, is interviewed, can be fully identified, and is a main subject of the project. There are always grey areas so be careful! Bottom line is to have release forms ready to go and to get them signed if required. Some producers are okay with a “verbal releases” from people on camera. This is basically the person saying it’s okay to film them while actually getting their response on tape. This is not as good as having a written release and may not hold up in court. If you are filming large groups, you may try hanging up “Group Release Forms” around your filming area. Generally, speaking, such releases are valid, but they’re always susceptible to claims that “I didn’t see any sign”. So it’s important to take precautions to document the positioning of the signs, etc.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. For FREE release forms and a website that I’ve used a bunch, please visit FilmmakerIQ.
It’s been over just a year since the release of our second documentary film, The Forgiveness Journey. The 73-minute film was an emotional and challenging endeavor for myself and for the people that we spoke to. Over about a eighteen month production schedule, my wife and I interviewed doctors, psychologists, religious leaders and everyday people about the process of forgiveness. Questions were brought to the table: How do we forgive? Are all wrong doings forgivable? What happens to us emotionally when we are able to forgive ourselves? I feel that The Forgiveness Journey, though low-budget (budget was only about $1,000) and filmed with a very small crew, was able to answer these questions, help others think about their own situations, and open up conversions about sensitive subjects, including my own story which I will talk about briefly in this blog post.
Since we released the film in Salt Lake City, Utah in February of 2014, there has been mixed reactions to some of the points we raised in the film. Some people have expressed that forgiving is conditional and depends on the offense and/or wrongdoing, while others feel that there are no conditions to forgiveness and that all people should be forgiven no matter what. Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle. Forgiveness is very complicated. Without understanding the entire story, it’s difficult to understand the dynamics that are at play. One point we brought up in the film is that forgiveness is for you, not the other person. Most people agree with this point.
Marina Cantacuzino, the founder of the U.K. based, The Forgiveness Project, appeared in my film discussing how forgiveness works between two people, her organization in London, and the misconceptions of forgiveness. She was quoted in the film saying, “There are those who see forgiveness as an immensely noble and humbling response to atrocity – and then there are those who simply laugh it out of court.”
During the Parliament of Worlds Religions in Salt Lake City in 2015, The Forgiveness Project displayed their “F Word Exhibit“, which tells stories of people whose lives have been shattered by violence, tragedy and injustice and who are learning to forgive, reconcile and move on. I learned a lot from Marina about forgiveness which I’ve applied in my own situation with my daughter, Maddie. Thankfully, Maddie and I have finally developed email contact, but no plans yet of actually talking or seeing each other. I need to be patient.
Marina’s new book, The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, brings together the personal testimonies of both survivors and perpetrators of crime and violence and asks the question whether forgiveness may have more currency than revenge in an age which seems locked into the cycle of conflict.
One man that I will never forget is Arnold Thomas. I met with him over a course of a couple of months in fall, 2014. Arnold is a suicide survivor and lives blind because of his attempt. I’ve spoken to Arnold a few times over the last couple of years and I understand he is doing very well with his journey of self forgiveness. Arnold is a successful blind owner and Chief Executive Officer of White Buffalo Knife Corporation located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Presently, he serves on a National Veterans Health Administration/Indian Health Service work group. Additionally, Arnold has been involved in developing curriculum for suicide prevention and intervention programs on the local and national levels.
Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with some of our film’s subjects including Vicky Thomas, who struggled with childhood abuse, forgiving her mother and step-father, and working through personal traumas. At the time of our interview in 2013 near Portland, Oregon, she was the editor for New Connexion, a journal of conscious living and working through the forgiveness process. Her interview with me was emotional, honest and raw. She talked about the emotional and sexual abuse she endured as a child, the religious cult that her mother forced her to go to as a teen in southern California, and what she is doing to come to terms and to reconcile with family members. I just learned today that she is doing well according to the new CEO of New Connexion. “She is no longer the editor and has taken time off before her next professional adventure‘, he states. I’m excited to find out what she has in store for her new career.
Dr. Forrest Crawford, a professor at Weber State University, commented professionally on forgiveness in the film. I met Forrest for the first time during our interview during an award ceremony he was being honored at in Ogden, Utah. He had mentioned during our interview, “The process of forgiveness means that I have to be grounded and motivated to serve others.” I love this statement. Since the film’s interview, Forrest was one of our guest speakers at the film’s release at the Broadway Theater. We’ve also collaborated on public speaking opportunities including presenting at the 2015 John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, and a Weber State University “Forgiveness Panel.” In addition, Forrest is a co-founder of several organizations including the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and the Utah Black Education Forum. He is currently serving on the Utah’s ACLU Board of Directors. I learned a lot from Forrest about forgiveness since meeting in early 2015. He is great friend and colleague.
It’s wonderful to know how many great people my wife and I met during the production of The Forgiveness Journey and the support from the local community during the film’s official release in Salt Lake City. One of the reasons why I decided to make a film on forgiveness was to better understand my situation with my daughter and to help others through their forgiveness journey. In the film I worked with writer and life coach, Kimberly Giles at Clarity Point Coaching. I will always be grateful for her time, patience and knowledge on the topic of forgiveness and second chances. Lilli Martin from Signs of Forgiveness also took me on a journey in the film throughout the Salt Lake City community. I joined her as she spread the word and symbol of forgiveness. Her updated website states: “The symbol is fresh ~ not steeped in any dogma except the incontrovertibly of Forgiveness to freshen our planet and your world.” One year later, Lilli is still involved in the forgiveness movement and is going great. I’m still thankful today for her ability to forgive me for my mistakes.
I hope over the last year viewers have been able to take away something from the film that will help them with their journey. Forgiveness is not easy. We must be patient with ourselves and others during the process.
If you haven’t yet watched the film, you can see it FREE on YouTube. I would love to hear your comments.
— Matt Duhamel, Metamora Films
As a social justice filmmaker and a TV host with MetamoraTV, I like to seek out ways that my films and projects, along with other films by influential filmmakers across the world can be seen by our communities. Recently, I found “The Meaningful Movies Project“, a non-profit organization that helps neighborhoods, groups and individuals organize, educate and advocate using the power of social justice documentary film and conversation to build positive and meaningful community. I see this as an amazing opportunity to build conversations on important social topics through the power of film.
According to their website, The Meaningful Movies Project, “empowers citizens to gather, educate, inspire, connect, and commit to effective, non-violent solutions in building a more peaceful and just world.” The first step would be to start a group, and the great thing is a large budget is not required. If fact, some groups start inside homes, then expand to a larger community facility. I may be looking at starting a group in the Pacific Northwest (we are relocating Metamora Films from Utah to Washington State possibly later this year…stay tuned!) which would be a great opportunity to not only share the films that we’ve produced at Metamora, but other films that target social justice issues. I can’t help to feel that I should be doing much more in helping others through the power of independent film. I’m sure other social justice filmmakers feel the same way: how can we as artists help change the world through our work? Sure, there’s film distributors, online distribution, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. that help filmmakers promote their films to the public, but in my opinion, there’s nothing better than to meet people face to face and learn how the film affected them personally. The possibilities are endless with community screenings such as the Meaningful Movies Project.
Over the last few years, I’ve hosted charitable film releases in Salt Lake City, Utah where we’ve shown, The Forgiveness Journey, a documentary film on the process of forgiveness, What Makes Me Tic?, a documentary on Tourette Syndrome, and Life Under The Horseshoe, a short film on Spring City, Utah’s live, stage radio show. Each film release has had a wonderful turnout and donations were raised for charitable organizations such as The Forgiveness Project (U.K. based) and the Tourette Association, Utah Chapter. Now, with The Meaningful Movies Project, I feel that the possibility of reaching even more people is available through groups, community events and film releases.
It’s my hope that The Meaningful Movies Project catches on throughout the country (and even world!) in order for more and more people to witness the power of film and how it can better our cities, communities and world.
If you’re interested in starting a group in your area, please visit the online application. Good Luck!
– Matt Duhamel, Metamora Films
A friend of mine who lives in low income housing recently mentioned to me an exhibit at The Leonardo Museum in downtown Salt Lake City. I had never been there but I’ve driven past the museum probably a hundred times. The exhibit that he wanted me to check out is titled, No Fixed Address, which invites you to look at the faces of individuals and families who live on the streets or shelters. It sheds light on the myths and realities of homelessness and reminds us of our shared humanity. Photographed by Lynn Blodgett, the exhibit is an eye opening experience.
Earlier in the month, I tried to make it to the exhibit a couple of times but uncontrollable situations prohibited me to keep my appointment with Jann Haworth who’s in charge of the exhibit. I was determined to make it today in order to film the exhibit for my upcoming documentary, NOT FOR RENT!, a film about ex-felons attempting to find housing. Though the exhibit is not necessarily about homeless ex-felons or ex-inmates, people with felony convictions do make up a percentage of our homeless population due to a variety of reasons including, mental illness, addiction, and/or lack of housing options (many landlords will not rent to an ex-felon). In addition, according to the National Reentry Resource Center, “Released prisoners with a history of shelter use were almost five times as likely to have a post-release shelter stay.” With 13,621 people in Utah alone who don’t have a place to call home, (1 in every 213 people) I felt that film footage of the exhibit was extremely important in order to bring attention to the epidemic.
As I walked into the exhibit, the large room was comfortable, peaceful and quite, for the exception of soft, beautiful piano music playing over head from a local musician. The lights dimmed about ten minutes after I arrived highlighting the sad, worn, and even beautiful, smiling faces of the homeless. There were faces of individuals, woman, children, families, and everyday people you would never think wouldn’t have a place to call home. As I walked in further, I noticed a sign that explained Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: “Shelter is one of life’s basic elements, like food, air and water. It is based on the theory that one must satisfy a lower level of the hierarchy before elevating to the next. Issues related to homelessness reinforce his work.” I pondered Maslow’s theory for a few moments as my camera was capturing an attractive, freckled faced woman’s portrait which hung as part of the exhibit. “She’s homeless?“, I thought to myself.
Jann motioned to me that the exhibit continued past the portraits and perhaps I was interested in filming the I-View Project. During the summer of 2014, The Leonardo distributed disposable cameras throughout Salt Lake City’s local support agencies and shelters. They asked clients to photograph the city as they experienced it; interesting sights and events, familiar places and people, and treasured items, and even food. This is the first time these photos have been shared with the public. I was taken back by these random, raw images. I took my camera and filmed the large wall that displayed photos of diverse people laughing, sharing, working, eating and just trying to make it on the streets of Salt Lake City with no fixed address.
Towards the end of my visit, I discovered a small craft book sitting on a table. I began to sift through it and soon realized the notes and illustrations where from children. Messages such as, “Don’t stop believing“, and “You are worth, you are wanted, you are loved” were sketched into the book. On the next page was a simple drawing of a home with the message, “Home for me is somewhere your loved and somewhere you can live your life.” A more negative message almost took up the entire following page: “Homeless sucks. You have no money. Sucks. No house (sad face)”
I came away from the No Fixed Address exhibit feeling lucky for what I do have. As I produce my next documentary film, NOT FOR RENT!, I have a feeling that the interviews that I do, the footage that I shoot and the research that I’ll present, will help me “Instill compassion, encourage action“, just like the No Fixed Address brochure reads. I hope it does for you as well.
For more information on the No Fixed Address exhibit, please visit The Leonardo Museum.
In Utero is a cinematic rumination about life in the womb and its lasting impact on human development, human behavior, and the state of the world. The film brings together for the first time convincing data that explains why some of us face challenges from the start while others thrive.
As a filmmaker attending the 2016 LDS Film Festival in Orem, Utah (Life Under The Horseshoe, Official Selection), I’m excited about this documentary written and directed by Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal. As the film’s website suggests, “Experts in the fast-growing field of epigenetics explain that we are not only our genes but a product of our environment as well, a proven fact that changes our perception of stress and exposures to the environment during pregnancy. The film looks at how these environmental effects are passed down through the generations through our genes, making it scientifically plausible that a traumatic event that affected your grandma could leave a mark on your genes.”
In Utero looks like a powerful film with new, amazing evidence from, “experts in the fast-growing field of epigenetics that explain we are not only our genes but a product of our environment as well, a proven fact that changes our perception of stress and exposures to the environment during pregnancy.” I’m a HUGE fan of thought-provoking films and it looks like from the film’s trailer, reviews and synopsis, In Utero will fall into the “transformative” film category. Similar to the powerful and thought-provoking films that I covered the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, I’m excited to see what other filmmakers are producing and creating. Most of the time I don’t get the chance to ‘mingle’ with other filmmakers and to really understand why they produce the films they do. The LDS Film Festival gives the public the chance to view amazing films along with it’s filmmakers the opportunity to share thoughts, ideas and to network with similar creative professionals. Their website reads, “The LDS Film Festival has grown tremendously over the last few years. What began as a short film festival, is now a major event that showcases an impressive array of feature films, special screenings and short films. Over the last ten years, attendance has been constantly increasing, now averaging 5000-7000 visitors. Since its inception, the LDS Film Festival has premiered dozens of theatrical releases and screened hundreds of films. Regional, national, and international media have all reported from and about the festival, including The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and Premiere Magazine.”
In Utero will screen on March 3rd, at 5:15pm at the LDS Film Festival. If you are unable to attend the festival at the SCERA Center in Orem, Utah, In Utero has additional screenings in 2016. Metamora Films will be there earlier in the day on March 3rd at 12:15pm as the festival screens our film, Life Under The Horseshoe. We are excited to be apart of this amazing film festival!