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Freelance Video Contract


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#1 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 06:34 PM

I'm fresh out of film school and have been commissioned to direct a commercial for a local business and want to make sure my legal flanks are protected.

It’s a bridal boutique and they seem to have their ducks in a row, but I want to be certain creative ownership and distribution rights are clearly defined. There’s a lot of things that pass as “implied” in these situations, and I don’t want to imply myself out of a job.

Has anyone else run into this quandary, and what rights are typically retained by the videographer in these instances? Also, is there a chance someone might have an example of a standard contract that could be shared?
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 06:46 PM

I think you'll find that the only people who can advise you on that are expensive lawyers.
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#3 Brian Rose

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 08:56 PM

Well it's their product, their concept, and they've hired you to make it for them. I don't think you have too many rights when it comes to ownership or use, if that's what you mean. You certainly should be able to use it for your demo reel...heck, that's basic, standard practice, cause how else to you get more work unless you have previous work to show?

Really, just make sure you've got the money thing worked out and clearly defined, and you might see about getting an upfront payment, half now, half upon delivery of the final piece, in case they bail on you, it's not a total loss.
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#4 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 10:19 PM

Well it's their product, their concept, and they've hired you to make it for them. I don't think you have too many rights when it comes to ownership or use, if that's what you mean.


That's along the lines of what I was thinking. I just want to make sure it's communicated that I will be using it for a reel, that it will be edited for that reel, that people they've never met will end up seeing it, so on and so forth. Like you said, it's standard practice. I just need to get it in writing that they are aware that it's standard practice.

Good advice on the payment method. That's how we figured it should work.
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 12:18 AM

Are you directing the commercial or are you the DP... or both? I was confused a little by your description. :)
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#6 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 02:11 AM

Are you directing the commercial or are you the DP... or both? I was confused a little by your description. :)

Sorry. I'm more of a DP at this point, managing the storyboards and procuring the equipment. That would be another beneficial part of having something on paper, being able to define the roles on set. The employee who came up with the concept for the video will be directing choreography during rehearsals, though she may want me to direct during the shoot since she's also acting.
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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 08:27 AM

Sorry. I'm more of a DP at this point, managing the storyboards and procuring the equipment. That would be another beneficial part of having something on paper, being able to define the roles on set. The employee who came up with the concept for the video will be directing choreography during rehearsals, though she may want me to direct during the shoot since she's also acting.


So you want to have a clause added to the agreement that says, "SF retains the right to use any and all footage(?) for non-commercial purposes, to promote his services." I've always found situations like this, "she may want me to direct during the shoot since she's also acting." , to be a Red Flag, a sure sign of impending problems. Difficult to be on both sides of the lens and be effective, it will certainly slow the production down.
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#8 Bill Totolo

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 12:02 AM

You're work for hire. You have no claim to their product. You show up, do what they ask, submit your invoice and collect a check in 30 days.
And if they're very nice they'll send you a DVD for your reel, but they don't have to.
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 12:21 AM

You're work for hire. You have no claim to their product. You show up, do what they ask, submit your invoice and collect a check in 30 days.
And if they're very nice they'll send you a DVD for your reel, but they don't have to.



Yep. On rare occasions, I'm asked for a reel, but anyone who knows what I do should know better. Getting footage is next to impossible. Cameramen I know who have reels generally pull their shots from DVDs or second-party sources.
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#10 Stephen Floyd

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 12:49 AM

I think I left out too many details. They’re basically treating me like the head of their advertising department and I will be heavily involved throughout production. I’ve been amending lyrics, hiring actors, getting equipment in line and I will be editing and mixing and burning during post.

As such, I want to make sure my responsibilities/compensation/expectations are clearly defined for both myself and them. They don’t have any paperwork prepared because this is a new strategy for their business and I want to bring something next time we meet, because I don’t think it’s at the forefront of their minds.

I guess that’s a very vague request, and I was hoping someone here is in the routine of drawing up contracts for clients so guidelines are clear and easy to follow. If that’s not normal, I’ll understand and ask them to draw something up.
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 08:31 AM

It isn't that it's not normal, it's just that nobody's going to be willing to help you out with "legal language".

In any case, in my experience what tends to be important here is not what clever form of words you've used. While there are some useful ways to avoid being caught out, which only a lawyer can tell you about, there is nothing intrinsic about "legal language" that makes it somehow impossible to argue with in a court. In those circumstances, the person who wins will be the person who can keep paying lawyers for the longest period of time, and that will probably not be you no matter what you have written. Writing a contract is one thing, enforcing it is quite, quite another, and people often get very concerned about the wording of a contract that they will have no realistic prospect of enforcing even if it came to that.

Better, then to ensure you never get to that point. Be specific. If they don't like it, well, maybe they were downright intending to rip you off in any case. If you end up negotiating over what's your responsibility and what isn't, best to do that ahead of time, where that sort of discussion is entirely normal.

But what do I know.

P
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#12 Bill Totolo

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 03:24 AM

I would outline the basic services you're willing to offer for an agreed upon fee, after which they pay extra.
If they need additional DVD's burned that will equate to more time in the office for you, etc.
Never agree to work for a flat rate.

My experience is the more responsibilities you take on in a corporate environment the less they pay you.
They look at you as a handyman and not an expert.
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