Why you should know how to read a video production contract

Aug 14, 2015 1:12:00 PM

Ambient Skies Productions Blog

Posted by Trenton Massey


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.


  • Service Hire vs. Full Production Execution:

    Video production companies provide different levels of service. The first is 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, 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.

  • Contingency Costs:

    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:

    A major area of contention between clients and producers is 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. This is a place where contract language is crucial. 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.

  • Payment Procedures:

    The biggest issue in video production services is 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.


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.



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Topics: Corporate Video Production, Music Video Production, motion picture production, company video production, Video Production Legalities, Business Growth