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What Is The Difference Between an NDA and a Release Form?

NDA versus Release Form

A couple of Bang2writers messaged me yesterday via email and FB chat, asking about the difference between an NDA and a release form. I thought it might be of use to repeat it here for anyone else who might be wondering.

What is an NDA?

NDA stands for “non disclosure agreement”. This is something PRODUCTION COMPANIES may send out with its scripts to readers like me. This is not because they are afraid *I* will steal their script, though. It is because they are afraid rival companies will get the heads-up on their project.

NDAs usually last between one and three years. Projects with an NDA are usually “packaged”. This usually means the project has a cast attached and a budget drawn up. Maybe they’ve even started production or are in post production. Since SO MUCH MONEY can be involved in filmmaking, NDAs can be a good idea.

That said, even packaged movies sometimes will not ask me to sign NDAs either. It’s just not good manners for me to talk about someone else’s project, never mind leak details and B2W never would, anyway.

What is a release form?

A release form is a “permission to read” document. Again, it is something a PRODUCTION COMPANY may ask a writer to sign before they will consider reading his/her script.

Usually the release form will ask the writer to not hold the company liable for any SIMILAR projects they may develop that’s NOT the writer’s script in question, after it has been read by said company – or, in other words:

If we read your script … then make a film that’s not your script but is *like* your script … You can’t sue us.

A lot of new writers believe release forms are so ruthless production companies can RIP WRITERS OFF with abandon. This is not the case. The production company is instead merely protecting itself from lawsuits from those new writers who believe all prodcos are out to rip off writers. But why would they do this?

Remember, there are mega popular ideas and similar specs doing the rounds all the time. There is a stronger than average chance a writer *will* see a similar idea to theirs go into production! They may  then go off on one legally about it. Better to sidestep the problem before it becomes an issue … Hence release forms.

As a writer, should I send an NDA with my spec?

Absolutely not. For one thing, there’s a strong chance people will not read your script as a result! Sending NDAs out is considered paranoid and frankly, unprofessional.

As a general rule, Bang2write does NOT read specs with NDAs attached from individuals. This is because I believe it contributes to this bogus culture of paranoia regarding copyright.

Some writers have then said, “Well I’m not sending my script to get read by you”. However, I can’t even remember when this last happened, so I think avoiding NDAs works. I’d wager many more writers are realistic about this issue NOW than say, five years ago.

As a writer, should I sign release forms?

If you want to be read in America, you will HAVE to sign release forms (they don’t seem as big a deal over here). Google some templates and check them out. The more release forms you see, the more you’ll realise they’re much the same: the language, what they set out, their intention.

If a release form looks considerably different to others you’ve seen, that should set alarm bells ringing. If you’ve never seen one before and aren’t sure what to expect? Simply ask someone who’s dealt with them before!

There are LOTS of online resources on Facebook and via #writingcommunity on insta and Twitter that can help you. If you want to ask me or any of the Bang2writers a question, join us on Facebook HERE.

Good luck!

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3 thoughts on “What Is The Difference Between an NDA and a Release Form?”

  1. Pingback: How To Get An Agent | Bang2Write

  2. Help. I am a screenwriter whose script is in the beginning stages of production. We have recently secured a cast and crew, and are anticipating the start of shooting this summer. Both the producer and DP has signed a non-disclosure agreement. The actors will have access to the entire script only at the table read, then subsequently the parts of the script needed to shoot their scenes. Here’s the dilemma. A person who we paid to sit through auditions because of her years of acting experience , who originally wanted to audition for a role has asked me for a copy of the scrip (emailed,)t over lunch the other day. A few days later she made mention of a moderately known actor that might be interested in a role and she wants to send the script to him. I do not feel entirely comfortable with just emailing people the script and furthermore with people forwarding the script to other people to read. This NDA subject is tricky..Some say protect yourself, on the other hand some says it is arrogant and unprofessional to ask people to sign a non-disclosure before sending them your script. I feel conflicted about this please help.

    1. It’s not usual for actors to only get the script at the table read. Actors need to read scripts ahead of the game to work out whether they want to be involved. There are properties that are so hot this doesn’t happen, but then that means you’re dealing with A Listers. If not, then it’s strange everyone is being so secretive about your project, TBH

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