Last time out, I ran through some of the various types of contracts you’ll typically encounter in the video production business. Signing someone else’s agreement is one thing. But creating your own (and doing it well) can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. Contracts are incredibly important and should absolutely not be treated lightly. There are really two options for creating a solid agreement, assuming that you yourself are not a lawyer:
Hire A Lawyer/Law Firm To Create Your Contract
Kind of a no-brainer. If you’re not a lawyer, you probably shouldn’t be writing your own contracts. That said, good lawyers are expensive – in some cases prohibitively so. As with any expenditure, it’s best to run a simple cost/benefit analysis. There are some documents that are so vital to your company’s operation that you really do need a professional’s skillset to create them. A great example would be a Shareholders Agreement or Operating Agreement (which one you need depends on the structure of your company). These documents are so complex and so crucial that I wouldn’t recommend even thinking about tackling it without help.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous two installments of this series, there are relatively cheap online options for generating basic legal documents like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say again now: buyer beware with these solutions. While they might do the job for something super simple (like creating a lease for your rental property), they’re no replacement for a real living & breathing lawyer. If you use these services for something critical with large sums of money at stake, it’s probably best to have a lawyer (even if it’s a friend or relative) give the document you created online a once-over.
There are, however, other simpler documents that you may be able to adapt from versions you can get your hands on via clients, friends in the industry or even by searching the internet. This leads us to the second option:
Adapt A High-Quality Contract To Suit Your Needs
I have a number of caveats before we really dig into this one.
First off, notice I said “high-quality.” You need to start with a solid document before you adapt it. For example, if you land a job with a large and well-established client, you're usually asked to sign their contract. With that in hand, you now have a document that you know is well-crafted (and likely expensive) as a starting point. Examining other documents is one of the main ways we’ve evolved and improved our contracts over the years.
Now just because you’re starting with a pre-made contract, don’t assume that the adaptation process it will be easy. You’ve got to read it carefully. Then, you'll need to identify the portions that require job/client/business specific information or do not apply to your needs. And finally, you must systematically find/replace/remove what you don’t need. Few things are more embarrassing than sending a contract to client with the someone else’s information in it. That’s about as bad a first impression as you could possibly make.
Another caveat: you’re likely still going to need a lawyer. The good news is you’ve probably saved yourself a good bit of money. Remember: it's much easier to review and revise an existing document than to create one from scratch. The less good news is that you’ll still need to shell out a bit of cash. Your newly adapted document must be reviewed by a pro before you start using it. Thankfully, this should be a one-time expense (per document, at least). Once you’ve had it blessed, you should be able to just plug each respective client’s information into it as needed.
Giving Out The Goods
As promised in my previous post, I’m going to share an actual contract we use here at ECG with you. It’s a Talent Buyout Agreement, and it’s a great example of the second option above. It’s something that started as a document we got from a client, then adapted and expanded over the years to fit our needs. Just click the link below, fill out the required fields, and you’ll be able to download a copy that you can use yourself. I’ve even left the sections you’ll need to fill in yourself blank to make it easy.
A few notes about this particular agreement. This is strictly for non-union talent working for a flat day-rate with no royalties or residuals. Meaning that this agreement is not for every situation. In a case where you're working with union talent, or producing a national commercial that’s going to air for multiple 13-week cycles, you would need a more robust agreement. That said, this is a useful agreement for simpler situations like explainer/corporate/training videos or other cases where a single lump sum payment for the role is sufficient.
So without further ado, please follow THIS LINK, fill out the form and you’ll be using your shiny new Talent Buyout Agreement in no time!
All Good Things Come To End
I hope this series has been informative, and if nothing else, communicated the importance of working with contracts in the video production business. Don't forget that it’s important to seek out professional legal advice from time to time to ensure you’re doing everything correctly. Do you have a war story about contracts? Worked without one and had it bite you in the ass? Let us know in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading!