A Practical Discussion of Appearance Releases Part 5: What Should You Do If You Discover in Post-Production That Your Team Neglected to Obtain an Appearance Release from an Interview Subject?

POSTED ON December 25, 2018 / IN Documentary Toolkit



This Q&A was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Documentary magazine, a publication of the International Documentary Association, a nonprofit media arts organization based in Los Angeles.

Notwithstanding everything in Parts 1-4 of this series, the answer is not to immediately ask the interview subject to sign a release. To ask for a signature long after the interview is finished suggests to the subject that you need the release and invites a rejection if that person— having thought things over for a while—regrets the interview. (From the same perspective, it’s generally better practice to get a release signed before an interview begins, rather than ask for it after it’s over.)

On the other hand, if you don’t ask for a belated release, the subject might assume you didn’t need one. (The subject freely gave the interview, didn’t he?) And usually, as already noted, the First Amendment says you don’t need one. But then you won’t have the benefits of a release.

When an appearance release has been neglected, the better approach is to discuss the matter with your lawyer and with the distributor, exhibitor or insurer who wants the release to see if you can bend the requirements and do without it. While the absence of a release won’t please them, they might agree that it’s better to forgo it and rely on First Amendment protection than increase the risk of a claim (even an unsuccessful one) by requesting a release belatedly.


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