The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Evan Thomas

Cheers Lisa. I've had the workbook project bookmarked for a few months and it's one of my favourite sites to visit. Thank you for the link to the "Power to the Pixel" panel discussion, i just watched it, very interesting and just what i needed to watch right now.

I think i know what i have to do but i need to learn the technical stuff so i can put it into practice. I'm off to scour the web.

Lisa Salem

Hey Evan – I kinda realised that after I posted.... It might also be useful to check out the videoblogging Yahoo group – at the least it'll lead you to great info about optimum compression settings etc... – just type in videoblogging on the Yahoo Groups homepage and you'll find it – but I realise that's not really what you're after...

And cheers Doug – I just did the formal introduction and will get onto the member/bio stuff too... :)

Brian Boyko

I've got a problem. A key person in my documentary on New Zealand politics sat down to do the interview but refused to sign the release form. We did the interview anyway. On camera, he gave us permission to use the interview in New Zealand's Film Archive and for Online Streaming – unedited – but would not sign the contract.

He's a public figure and it shouldn't be a problem – I don't he'd sue us, but I can see how this can scare off distributors.

Here's what I'm thinking about doing. The problem is not permission to use his words. It's journalism – and so long as he is quoted accurately, it's not a problem. The problem is using his voice and image- the talent release, as it were.

That says to me that my best option, if I want to use him (and he's so key I kinda have to), is to buy a Getty Images picture of him, dump that on the screen, and hire a voice actor to say the exact same thing he said the same way he did during the interview. Because I have permision to use the unedited material online, people can see that the quotes are accurate.

The way I think this would work, artistically in the film, would be to shoot footage of a NZ flag, and have a scrolling screen with a stentorian voice reading:

"Mr [...] was willing to sit down with us for an on-camera interview but was not willing to sign a release so that we could use his voice and likeness in this movie. Because of that, his voice has been reenacted in this documentary.

Those interested in seeing the original footage can go to the New Zealand Film Archives Reference # "X", or go to "" – both of which Mr. X has given permission for."

What do you think?

Joe Moulins

You'll be able to use the interview. If it happened as you describe it, he very obviously consented to be interviewed.

He's a public figure. And a dick, by the sound of it.

Make him look bad.

Brian Boyko

He is... a man used to getting his way.

I'll do the rough cut with the full video interview. If a distributor balks, I can tell them what happened and offer the voice recreation option.

– Brian.

Jo-Anne Velin

When working in news for (Australian) ABC in Europe, I was told on-camera consent is adequate. Did he specifically say no to the images? If not, check with legal eagles but I think you're covered.

Wolfgang Achtner


You write that this man is a "public figure." Do you mean that he is a politician or a member of a local/national government? I'm just trying to figure out what you mean by "public."

By definition, if a given person is a public figure and they have agreed to an interview, everything they say is on the record and can be used.

In most countries, the only restriction that I can think of would be filming someone inside their homes without consent.

Brian Boyko

This man is a politician. He holds a ministerial position in the national government of New Zealand. He has obviously agreed to the interview.

There are two complications. 1) The interview took place in his party's caucus room, and we do not have a location release. It's not his home or personal office, but it is an area not open to the general public. 2) The man is VERY well known in New Zealand. He is a famous and very controversial figure here. He holds high national office. But if people in the U.S. don't know who he is, would he be considered a private figure in the U.S. market?

Joe Moulins

I don't claim to be an expert on ...anything, really, but I do suspect you are overthinking this, Brian. This sounds like a cut and dried case of a Big Swinging Dick messing with you.

If you ask this question in the legal forum you may get a more nuanced response, but I don't think you have anything to worry about in this case.

Brian Boyko

Thanks – yeah. When we go over the raw footage, we'll see what we have him on tape saying. :)