Before you begin shooting your film, you must make sure you have all of your agreements in place. These documents make sure you have everything on the up and up and that you'll be able to showcase your film when it's completed without having to worry about any legalities in the future.
BASIC FILM AGREEMENTS
1. UNDERLYING RIGHTS Rights for pre-existing work. A book or play that you want to base your film on. Need to draw up a document showing that you the Producer are obtaining the rights to the original work for a price.
2. WRITERS FILM AGREEMENT Union or non-union. This agreement specifies how many drafts you require, the payment for each, the final credit the writer will receive, and the transfer of the copyright. A lot of times the agent will draw up these documents. If you are obtaining the rights to a short film for example from a beginning writer, you can draw up an agreement with each other. Just make sure there is something drawn up and the writer and Producer is on the same page.
3. DEVELOPMENT FILM AGREEMENT "Seed money" - Idea money so you can develop the product and idea you have.
4. PRODUCTION COMPANY AGREEMENT Agreement with the Production Company who will be responsible for actually producing the film. Contract specifies who will actually produce, credits each person will receive, a payment schedule matched. Delivery (script, principal photography, rough cut, fine cut and master delivery)
5. CAST CONTRACTS Cast agreements need to be signed by everyone appearing in your film. From stars to walk-ons. Agreements cover their performance, how many days they will work, fee, residuals and credits.
6. PRODUCERS AGREEMENT Production Company will have to have an agreement with the producer of the film. Agreements vary, but they usually detail that the final product will come in on budget and on time. If not, a penalty is installed.
7. DIRECTORS AGREEMENT Production Company and the director deal that covers the responsibilities of the director and specifies a delivery date, the director's fees, profit participation and credits.
8. FACILITIES AGREEMENT Contracts with everyone that supplies you with equipment. Agreement will specify negotiated costs and equipment insurance requirements.
9. CREW AGREEMENT You need to have agreements with absolutely everyone that is working on your film. Agreements cover what services your crew is performing, what rights they are conveying to the Production Company, their fees and credits they receive.
10. STOCK FOOTAGE/MUSIC AGREEMENT Clips that you have borrowed for cost to put in your film. REMINDER: Every second of music you put into your film, you must make sure that you own the rights to put it into your film.
11. MUSIC RIGHTS The simplest music agreement is for music that has already been recorded. You require the rights (in all media) to use a specific piece of music. More complex music agreements cover the composing and recording of an original score for your film which includes the composerís fees, copyright issues, publishing issues and more. If you're dealing with a film composer, you may only need one agreement with just the composer who can grant you all the rights you need.
12. PRODUCTION FINANCE AGREEMENTS Agreement from the financing vehicle you choose for your film.
13. PRESALES AGREEMENTS Preselling your film in different territories. If this happens, you're then able to use these agreements to secure a loan from a bank.
14. SECURITY AGREEMENTS Collateral the bank wants.
15. COMPLETION BOND AGREEMENT A form of insurance policy which assures a film investor that the film will be finished even if it goes over budget.
16. PRODUCER'S INSURANCE PACKAGE An agreement with the insurance company. If it is insurable, there is a policy for it.
CHECK LIST FOR NEGOTIATING CREW RATES When hiring your crew, here is a list of points you should have in the contract to save you money in the long run and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
1. SCHEDULE - The number of prep and wrap days. Number of shoot days. Anticipated number of hours per day.
2. WEEKLY RATES - If a non-union shoot, you can pay your crew a flat weekly rate so in case you go into overtime on certain days, you don't have to pay those fees.
3. KIT RENTAL FEES - You can combine your rate with the kit fees for a crew member. Ex. The makeup person has her own kit. You can pay her salary and kit into a combined rate. This usually occurs with your Sound Mixer as they almost always have their own equipment.
4. MEALS - Detail when lunch will happen. This usually occurs 6 hours after crew call. Most shoots also have hot meals at the 3 hour mark after crew call and lunch.
5. RATES FOR PRE-PRODUCTION and SURVEY days for some crew members.
6. PER DIEMS FOR LODGING - If the cast/crew is on location and you're putting them up in a hotel room, you usually give each crew member Per Diem money for each day.
7. TRAVEL DAYS - Same for travel days if they are driving and/or flying to the location.
8. PAY DAYS - When you will pay the crew member.
9. PAYROLL TAXES possibly for NON-UNION CREWS
10. CREDITS - Detail the exact crew the crew member will receive in the closing credits.
11. PROFIT SHARING - Possible if it's a major crew member.
12. DEFERMENTS - Possible. But I don't believe in deferment pay. You can either pay them or you can't. Don't promise anything in the future.
PITFALLS OF FILMMAKING Where you might get in trouble.
1. Filmmakers who do not get clearances from everyone involved. You must absolutely clear the rights to everything and everyone that appears in your movie
2. Music if often overlooked. Lots of good and upcoming Composers out there who are CHEAP for the moment.
3. To BLOWUP - If you want to do a blowup from 16mm to 35mm it will cost around $50,000.
4. People who PRODUCE as they GO. That's BAD, VERY BAD.
DEVELOPING YOUR CREW
There has to be a need to understand each other. First and foremost. Know the Crew's feelings and ideas concerning what they appreciate about other films, books, plays, music, personal hobbies and interests. It goes a long way when working LONG days. If you have a common interest, things are easier in times of stress, long days and bad weather.
In each crew member look for: -Those one speed workers. Don't hire them. You want people who can pick up the pace when needed and slow down their pace when they are not needed -People who always keep their word. A lot of people out there who forget verbal commitments. Don't have them on your set -Watch out too for those people who fail to deliver on promises, overestimate their own abilities (you get a lot of these people in the Indy Film world) and see this film only as a stepping stone. That may be, but people need to concentrate on the film at hand.
THE KEY TO PRODUCING FROM MY EXPERIENCE IS TO ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have BACKUP FOR EVERYTHING AND FOR EVERYBODY.
Have backup for your CAST Have backup for your CREW Have backup for your EQUIPMENT SUPPLIES Have backup even for YOURSELF if something happens to you.
Cover all the bases and BACK IT UP. You're going to use one of your backups at least once on a given shoot. It happens and you have to be prepared. Something always happens. And at times those backups you bring on are a blessing in disguise. God knows I wish I used my backups instead of the original people on certain films.
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