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Old October 23rd, 2006, 12:28 AM   #1
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Documentary-Filming without consent??

I am producing a documentary on a controversial subject locally here in SLC. It is about heli-skiing in the Wasatch, and the debate over the special use permit system that granted the last 5 year operational permit.

Long story short: I am making an effort to interview all sides of the story, the problem is, the heli operators have taken so much heat, that they aren't willing to talk on the subject. There is currently a law suit against the forest service about the permit they issued to the heli guides, adding to the tension.

It's easy enough to run into these folks with a camera, while skiing the same terrain they ski. You can find them on the ridges as they land, or at the bottom of the runs. I was thinking about trying to talk to them in their environment, but I'm sure they well get pretty uptight, despite a non-confrontational approach.

So, if I approach them (non-confrontational) on public land, and I film them reacting, can I use that material? Without explicit consent?
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 02:47 AM   #2
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It's always best to get a signed consent form. The likelihood of getting sued might be pretty small in many cases, and in fact the interviewees may never even know your doc exists. But it's well worth trying to cover the bases anytime there's even a minuscule risk of litigation. Not to mention the fact that getting permission to shoot video of someone is simply the ethical thing to do.

You could always offer to blur their faces and garble the audio a bit so they can remain anonymous. That kind of makes it seem like even you are saying they're criminals or something, though. :)
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 11:37 AM   #3
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Blurring out their identities may work well creatively for your film.

Legally, I think it would make you a little safer since you can't identify the subjects.

2- Some documentaries don't get consent, and this is an intentional, calculated risk.

In Supersize Me, they didn't get consent from McDonald's. See the comic book sticky at the top of this forum.

Other cases where people don't get consent (not sure if there is significant legal risk):
In Michael Moore's films, he probably didn't get consent. When he confronted GM's president (Roger and Me), it's pretty clear he didn't get consent. And in Charles Heston's home (Bowling for Columbine, I doubt he got consent either.

News organizations typically never get signed consent. Documentaries may also do this.

3- An uncalculated risk is a bad idea, so you may want good legal advice.

Also, just because other people do it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good idea.
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