A film production agreement is a contract between an investor or client and a production company. It sets out the basis on which a production company will produce a film and describes the stages of that process. These stages can include development, pre-production, filming, post-production, delivery and distribution.

In advance of negotiating the agreement, both parties should consider preparing a briefing document. This describes how the film will be developed conceptually and artistically, which helps a production company understand what the investor or client wants to create. That should assist with negotiating the agreement itself. A briefing document usually includes information about scripts, voices, storyboards, design, music and any technical specifications.

The agreement can go into as much detail about the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties as is appropriate to the scale of the project. There are certain key issues, however, which it is always sensible to consider.

Budget and financing

It is a good idea to include a budget which is as detailed as possible. It should cover areas such as facilities, equipment, locations, personnel, third party copyright material and the production fee. For complicated arrangements, financing might be dealt with in a separate agreement. For straightforward arrangements, this can incorporated in the film production agreement itself.

Production Schedule

The Production Schedule sets out the timetable for completion of each stage of the overall production process. Spending time on agreeing a realistic timetable at the outset manages everyone’s expectations and should assist the parties in adhering to the budget by avoiding costly overruns.

Intellectual Property Rights

The parties should decide who has rights in the finished film. It is also important to ensure that permission is obtained to use any third party material in making the film, such as the script and music. Obtaining clearance documents will avoid any last minute rights obstacles causing delays.

Creative control

There is potential for disagreement in relation to creative control. An investor or client funding the project will want to ensure that the film created meets their requirements. They might be content to entrust creative control to the expert production company but also might not. A production company will want to have artistic and editorial control and has after all been engaged because of its creative expertise. It might not want to deviate from its house style or compromise the quality of its work caused by being forced to adopt a client’s or investor’s conflicting stylistic approach and production values. Mechanisms for consultation can be introduced in case of any disagreement.

Termination and takeover rights

These provisions give an investor or client power to intervene in the event that a production company performs very badly. This prevents more money from having to be spent and money already spent from being wasted by potentially having to start again or losing location and talent bookings. Similarly, termination rights provide a production company with an exit plan in the event that its client or investor turns out to be impossible to work with.

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