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5 Legal Contracts Your Video Production Company Needs

Disclaimer: As a Melbourne video production company, we’re not qualified to give legal advice. Like our article on managing a production company, below are the learnings we’ve made since launching Enamoured Iris in 2013; these are not designed as legal counsel. The information and sample contracts contained here are a starting point for discussions with your legal representative.

Before starting your video production company, the only thing you’re likely to have contracted is that STI from an exotic local during your three-week European Contiki Tour. While that error of judgment was easily treated with a sprinkle of penicillin, there’s no immediate cure for your business when faced with the consequences of inadequate or nonexistent legal contracts. This time that slight tingling sensation is protracted pain that burns your bank account and business relationships. This time you can’t hide it from mum and dad. 

A video production company without contracts is like sex without a condom. Whether you’re managing a “corporate video production company” or “video marketing company”, in lacking contractual contraceptives you leave yourself unprotected from unexpected consequences. While fine today, relationships can sour; in nine months you don’t want to be receiving a court summons for something you did without protection. To protect the growth of the baby you do want (ie. your business) you’ll need to obtain at least the following five specialised legal contracts. Doing so will protect yourself from loss (money, time, energy) and ensure your stakeholders don’t leave you holding an emaciated baby.

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Claiming absolutely no legal liability, below are the five specialised contracts you’ll want to investigate for your video production services:

  1. shareholders contract
  2. employment contracts
  3. client contracts
  4. crew contracts
  5. cast contracts

1. Shareholders Agreement

If your video production company has multiple partners or shareholders, a legally binding shareholders agreement should exist between you. Outlining the rights, responsibilities and relationships between the shareholders, this document helps your business prepare for hypothetical scenarios in which a disagreement may happen between founders. While your relationship with shareholders may be stronger than that of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in 1994, creative and collaborative environments like video production services can cause the breakup of even the strongest Scientology marriage.

2. Employment contracts

In following the hiring process of billion dollar hedge fund manager Ray Dalio you can diminish the rate of bad hires, however as a business owner you’ll still make mistakes. After making explicit the rights of the employee, crucial for you as a video production owner is to have provisions for: (a) your company’s culture (b) the employee’s responsibilities and (c) the employee’s performance targets. These serve the dual role of communicating expectations and freeing you to sever a contract with any underperforming member of the team. 

3. Client contracts

Every business is a relationship. While clients help lift you from the University student poverty line of canned tuna and microwaved rice sachets, sometimes clients may need to be protected from themselves. In offering video production/video marketing services, arguably the biggest risk to your business are video editing blowouts. Blowouts eat up the finite resources of both you and your client, creating massive opportunity costs; how do you gain new clients if you’re stuck in the editing room cutting final-final-grade-v4.mp4

In writing a client contract prior to a project, the top clauses you’ll want to include are: the number of amendments, ownership of the raw video, what constitutes a complete product, what happens when an outdoor shoot is washed out, when a project is to be delivered and whether animation will be required. 

4. Crew contracts

Working with Australian music festivals as diverse as Beyond The Valley, Falls Festival, Big Day Out, Stereosonic, Future Music and Grapevine Gathering, we’ve learnt firsthand the importance of contracts with crew and subcontractors. While you might deliver corporate video production services removed from such a fast paced environment, contracts with suppliers are just as relevant. These don’t need to be phrased to make you look like an arsehole, but they’re crucial in: outlining the level of quality expected, removing legal liability for any accident and ensuring confidentiality. 

5. Cast contracts

Cast can be fickle to work with. One moment they’re turning up late to a casting audition, the next they’re requesting raw footage for their showreel. Simply having cast sign a document makes them more accountable and ensures they arrive on set as per the call sheet; potentially saving you from an expensive, awkward conversation with your client. In your cast contract ensure to make explicit ownership of the footage and the additional marketing services it can be used for beyond the single video production. This may be required by your client, or may allow you to use the content for the purpose of advertising your own video production company. 

Enamoured Iris is a creative video production company producing online video content marketing for lifestyle brands in the Travel, Health and Entertainment industries. The company’s head office is known as “The Owlery” and is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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