The art of making films starts with the contracts that must be signed prior to hands-on production starting in earnest. When a Hollywood blockbuster with A-list stars is envisioned, the producers assemble legal teams to draft a collection of contracts that will cover everything from intellectual property to photo releases and from location agreements to a general understanding of liability claims. Here are some of the basic contracts used in film production projects:
When a film studio agrees to host a film project, the executives will approve funding only if the production team can adhere to the budget. Some of the most infamous Hollywood productions in history went astray because the terms of the budget adherence contract were either insufficient or were not properly enforced; a classic example was the 1963 film "Cleopatra," starring Elizabeth Taylor, which went terribly over budget and was only saved from total financial disaster thanks to the tabloid and gossip industry.
Agreements to Produce Cover Shots
Production teams that do not want to risk their artistic integrity to the whims of film distributors should pay close attention to the contract terms dealing with cover shots, which are used to create different versions of films for hotel chains, airlines, foreign markets, festivals, and other venues.
Established screenwriters may demand that their intellectual property be produced to the very letter of the script. Film studios often demand more flexibility, which leads to negotiation of terms whereby the screenplay authors may agree to receive monetary compensation or promotion in exchange for allowing some leeway in adapting the script. If the studio has faith in the artistic vision of contracted filmmakers, executives may feel comfortable in spending additional funds to secure the rights to significantly alter the screenplay.
These contracts are usually drafted during the post-production and marketing stages. In essence, footage release agreements refer to scenes that have already been shot and edited; in some cases, they may include footage that is created specifically to use for promotional purposes. When a production is screened at film festivals, footage release agreements are mandatory since the festival organizers often wish to show as much footage as possible in order to create excitement prior to the scheduled screenings.
Working closely with entertainment and contract attorneys becomes essential for production teams. The agreements listed are just a few of many legal documents that aspiring producers can expect to become very familiar with during their careers.