Before You Can StartAfter you have decided what film you are going to make and you have obtained in their entirety the rights to that film property However, before you can start recruitment and organise for film production, it is essential that you consider the following points:

Product placement

One way of saving precious cash on the all-important props and set decoration is by getting manufactures and/or advertisers to pay for them. In essence you agree that an organization will supply you with a product, trade mark or service in return for you including that commodity in your film. If you are involved in a bigger budget film or program, with correspondingly established or well-known actors, which therefore have the potential to reach a large, possibly global audience, you may be paid a fee to feature the commodity on screen. This process must start and be finalized during pre-production, that is before the first camera has started rolling.

Now is the time to start casting, sign up your director (unless of course it is you) and finally you can get your crew hired.

Production services agreements

Should you find that another organization wants to hire your production company to produce a film or TV show, it is essential that you negotiate a production services agreement with them. These agreements clearly state and display the budget and size of the project as well as how and when your company is going to be paid. In addition, the agreement dictates the exact technical and legal compliance standards of the program in question. Finally, be prepared for an eventuality (but not certainty), where these agreements dictate to you who you are going to hire, direct or even who your principle actors or stars are going to be.

Hiring cast and crew

One of the more complex legal areas that you as film maker need to appreciate is how to hire and manage your employees and independent contractors. The simple reason is that there are myriad laws in place which apply to the employer / employee relationship. For Example:

  • Service Contracts: This exists between the production company and the employee (worker). It dictates the relationship between the parties concerned and dictates responsibilities such as (but not limited to), the employees responsibilities and salary, the film credit the employee will receive and any benefits the employee is due. You must remember that a film worker can be an employee or independent contractor. In addition the worker may have their own loan-out company, which is also covered by the service contract.
  • Union Collective Bargaining Agreements: If an employee is a member of an entertainment union, for example the SAG, WAG or IATSE and the production company is a signatory to that union. Then the working and contractual arrangements are determined by the rules stipulated by that union. In other words the collective bargaining of that union agreement will supersede any conflicts contained or arising from the provisions in the service contract.
  • Federal and State Labor and employment law: This also supersedes the provisions of the service contract and will impose further conditions on how a production company is legally obliged to conduct its business relationships with its employees.

This section of the book provides information on:

  • Negotiating a production service agreement.
  • Negotiating a product placement agreement, when you establishing the level of financial compensation after featuring a product in your film. A concise summary / overview of employment law.

The production services agreement

Let us suppose that your production company has been outsourced by a larger organization to produce a TV program or webisode for them. Such a program can take a variety of forms ranging from a documentary to a reality TV series. Whatever the context, there is one incontrovertible fact, the larger media company is paying your company to shoot and deliver to them (on time), a program according to their detailed specifications. The production services agreement between the larger media organization and your smaller production company dictates how the program will be produced and the technical and legal parameters that direct its production.

Networks, Studios And Television Media Companies,

In this modern age of global production there are many agencies involved in program production. For instance TV and media companies, the production wings of distribution companies, the broadcast divisions of a motion picture company and so the list goes on. The boundaries between the agencies involved are becoming less and less delimited. For the sake of clarity, in this chapter, I will refer to the larger media organization that is commissioning a program from your production company as “the network”.

Getting A Network Interested In Your Project

In general a network will only commission programming from a smaller production company, that is your organization, if you have a proven track record in producing the type of material or program they are looking for. In other words if:

  • Your company has previously worked with the network or its executives
  • Your company has the exclusive rights to an essential element of the program, for example life rights to the subject of a documentary or drama.

Consider the following scenario. Your company “Pleonasm Pictures” has an exclusive option for the biography of the octogenarian demolition derby driver Maude “The Marauder” Jackson

You pitch to the “Carnage Network” an idea of a 60 minute biography exploits of this vehicle pulverizing grandmother. Now, the network can quite happily produce an “un-authorized” documentary on the “The Marauder”, but Carnage really wants her cooperation in the making of the program because they want genuine, current and unique interview segments with the subject of the documentary. You have exclusive rights to the story of “The Marauder”; therefore Carnage has no option but to work with your company if they want her to participate in the making of the program.

Now that you have the undivided attention of the network you can pitch your program idea. If you come prepared with a short trailer to the meeting you will be able to present both your concept and your company’s ability to actually execute the program. It goes without saying that before you to pitch your idea that you have full and detailed knowledge on how to protect your rights and interest. If Carnage likes your idea, they can choose to market and promote it. Secondly, if they have confidence your company can produce the program; you can get on with the business of negotiating the production services agreement.