Why the Production Company Video Production Contracts are So Critical
For years I operated without contracts. While I never got into trouble, I definitely paid the price in various ways for not having them soon enough. Mostly, the price paid was lack of clarification with the client and my team about the work that was to be performed which resulted either in our company working way to hard for not enough money, or in bad feelings between myself and the client which cost us the coveted “next job”.
So, let’s take a look at 5 great reasons to have something down on paper. At the end is a link to the Pipeline resources page where you can download a whole bunch of free templates – or even better yet, you can sign up for a free account with Pipeline that has all this great stuff built-in!!
Good Video Production Contracts Make Good Partners
They say good fences make good neighbors. Contracts are really just like fences, whether they are between you and the client, you and your team, or you and your talent. They draw clear lines that give everyone a feeling of comfort about the project instead of blurred lines (everybody get up!) that cause confusion and consternation. When you and your client start butting heads a bit about how many revisions there should be, you pull out the contract and it’s clear. When your best friend wants to hire you as a DP on a project, your contract between you makes it clear that while you’re willing to shoot it, you’re not going on a tech scout, too.
Good Video Production Contracts Keep Scope Creep Under Control
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that scope creep is like fear to a Dune character, it’s the not the mind-killer, it’s the profit-killer. When three revisions turn into six, you’re not making money anymore. When a 10hr shoot day goes 14 and your crew wants overtime but you didn’t arrange with your client, you’re not making money anymore. Contracts that clearly state hours you’re going to work, the number of revisions you’re going to do, etc. really, really help with this.
Good Contracts Assign Rights Properly
You want to know what really sucks? When you bust your ass making a video for cheap only to find out you cannot use it in your portfolio. Having a rights section in your contract is critical to determining who gets what from the raw footage to the finished files, and what the rights are associated with those. You can also use rights to create extra flexibility with your project billing. Maybe the client doesn’t have a ton of $$, but the project is really cool. Well, say – we’ll shoot it for you, and give you the final, but we get to keep the raw and use it for whatever we want.
Good Contracts Protect You From Cancellations
While I never had a client not actually pay more than like once, I certainly had a lot of clients cancel at the last minute for not very good reasons. It’s a really good idea to have a great cancellation policy in your contract. It doesn’t need to be mean or anything. The standard for us was always that they let you know at least two weeks in advance to reschedule, otherwise they’d have to pay some fees. And – you’ll really want to be sure that the rest of your team is good with these terms, too. It’s important that your teams cancellation policy and your client’s are in agreement or you get caught in the middle. Also, we found that having these cancellation policies really made the client think twice about cancelling randomly.
And the best reason of all:
Good Contracts Will Get You More Work
If you get a contract to your client quickly, that is professionally presented and covers all of the bases – they’re going to be impressed. They are going to sign with you before the other 5 people they called who are either yet to get back to them, or simply threw out some random numbers in an email. What you’re showing is that you take their business and their money seriously. You are showing you’ll be accountable and careful.
That’s it! The important thing isn’t that what you’ve got is the Magna Carta, or even that you have a lawyer write it for you (but it wouldn’t hurt). The important thing is that you just get started with SOMETHING in the form of a written agreement between you and your client.
To get you started, we’ve created a resource page that covers all of the aspects of client contracts. We also included on that page downloads for a number of other types of contracts you may want to consider.