Why you should know how to read a video production contract
Have you ever looked at a contract and not know what every line means?
When you’re working outside your comfort zone, especially as a client dealing with video production, these oversights and misunderstandings can cost you thousands of dollars in hard lessons.
That’s why it’s paramount that you know how to read a video production contract.
Today’s video production services are more involved and technically demanding than ever. Years ago amateur filmmakers could deliver a video with reasonable quality, but now, with the improvements in digital video editing and modern cameras, you need a professional.
Hiring a professional means entering into a legal contract to protect yourself from poor quality and inflated fees. The contract language can seem overwhelming at first, but there are a few areas of the contract that deserve a long look.
That’s why we want to take you through some of the most important lines within a video production contract.
So you know how to read it and can best represent your company.
What is Service Hire vs. Full Production Execution?
Video production companies provide different levels of service when it comes to filling jobs on set.
A ‘Service Hire’ is the first basic crew hire, where they send a camera crew and deliver only raw footage. You (client) are responsible for the pre- and post-production work, including video and sound editing, as well as creative direction, script, casting etc.
In the second level, (Full Production Execution) the company provides full video production services, and carries the project through from conception to final delivery.
If you don’t have a background in video production, or you don’t want to be consumed by the minutiae of production, you need the second level of service and must discuss the language in the contract concerning pre- and post-production.
Make sure the crews’ responsibilities are clearly defined.
One of the most important lines in the contract can be contingency costs. They cover all the unforeseen issues that can arise and add up quickly on a shoot.
Video shoots that run for more than a couple of days are likely to hit a hiccup, where it’s impossible to move forward with the planned production.
Problems can be anything from inclement weather, to sick cast members, or other issues outside of the producer’s control.
Contingency day costs can add considerable expense and are not considered part of the production company’s original bid price. The contract should include a maximum per day figure for which you are liable, and which contingencies fall under your sphere of responsibility.
Edits and Approval:
This is a place where contract language is crucial.
A major area of contention between clients and producers is the approval of the final product.
You may decide that the video needs a tweak to achieve what you had in mind, or you might think it’s a train wreck that needs a full overhaul before the public sees it.
Go over any part of the contract that details how many edits you can request, who is financially responsible for those edits, and what constitutes an edit versus a re-shoot.
If you aren’t careful, your requests may be construed as permission to go well over budget to make a completely new video or purchase new assets, which can more than double the total cost of the project.
Always decide upfront who has the final say on the edit. And you might want to ensure all raw footage is turned over to you regardless of the outcome.
The biggest issue in video production services is the payment.
The most common payment procedures include a schedule, where you are responsible for a percentage of the project budget during various steps of production.
Usually, payments occur after agreeing on contract terms, script approval, project completion, and final approval. This gives the production company cash to pay vendors, while you don’t pay for a video that doesn’t meet your standards.
The other option is to place the budget in escrow and hold payment until the video is finished.
The escrow account shows the production company that the money has been set aside, and they won’t get burned by a client who can’t pay while giving you the power to withhold payment until you are satisfied.
Whichever payment procedure the video production company prefers will be in the contract, and it’s up to you to understand when your due dates arrive, and how much you must pay.
Summing up Why you should know how to read a video production contract
Just because you understand contracts more doesn’t mean you’re an expert. You still want to have a good lawyer who has your back.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Any company not willing to answer your questions is not one you want to work with on any level.
As with any contract, take your time, especially with a video production contract.
Talk to your lawyer and the production company for clarification on any points you don’t understand.
Doing so will protect you financially, and ensure you have control over the quality of the product that you purchase.