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Introducing Shake’s Film & Video Production Legal Bundle

by Eric Spiegelman, Esq.

Introducing Shake’s Film & Video Production Legal Bundle

As an attorney who’s spent years working in the film industry, I know that filmed entertainment is always the product of several people, who each contribute their individual work of creative expression to a single whole.

I regularly advise producers on how to ensure they own the proper rights to all of these individual works of expression so they can distribute their project without fear of reprisal.

That’s why I’m excited to partner with Shake to provide a collection of free contract templates that help producers do just that. Every producer needs proper legal paperwork. All distributors demand it. The last thing you want is to create something you’re proud of, something that someone wants to buy — and then not be able to sell it because you don’t have all the rights you need. But not every producer has the budget for proper legal. That’s who these contracts are designed for.

Every producer needs proper legal paperwork. All distributors demand it. The last thing you want is to create something you’re proud of, something that someone wants to buy — and then not be able to sell it because you don’t have all the rights you need.

These contracts help guide you through the deal points you want to consider when you hire the production personnel you need. They’re designed to be flexible in how you pay your cast and crew. You can pay a flat fee, or give someone a percentage of the profits, or some combination of the two. 

Many of the deal points are specific to the type of creative personnel. Does your director get final cut? In which position does each actor’s credit appear? Are you paying a kit rental fee so the make-up artist can secure the proper equipment? We’ve tried to limit such job-specific terms to the most basic and most common situations.

In addition, this bundle of contracts includes a number of license agreements and permission releases. Use the Artwork Release when you film a poster, painting, sculpture or other work of art that is owned by someone else and wasn’t created specifically for your project. If you film on somebody’s private property, make sure they allow you to do so and ask them to sign the Location Release. If your project is documentary or reality, anyone who appears on camera should sign the Name And Likeness Release.

There are two music licenses, the Master Use License and the Sync License. The Master Use is for when you include an actual recording of a song in your project, like off an album. The Synch License is for the underlying musical composition. Usually you need both. The only time you wouldn’t need both is if you’re including a cover version in your project, or your performers are doing karaoke.

A brief description of the agreements is below.

“ABOVE THE LINE” AGREEMENTS

Actor Agreement

This agreement is for your lead and supporting actors — anyone with multiple speaking lines who you hire for a significant percentage of your shooting days.

Actor Agreement (Day Player)

This agreement is for extras and actors with a few lines or none.

Director Agreement

This agreement is for the director of your project.

Producer Agreement

This agreement is for other producers who help with your project. You can select the type of producer (executive producer, producer, co-producer, etc.)

DEPARTMENT HEAD AND “BELOW THE LINE” AGREEMENTS

Casting Associate Agreement

If your casting director hires an assistant, that assistant will sign this.

Casting Director Agreement

This agreement is for your casting director, someone to whom you give authority to select and hire actors.

Casting Parental Consent Form

If one of your actors is a minor, you need their parent or guardian to sign this.

Composer Agreement

If you hire a composer to create original music for your project (a score, a slate of original songs, etc.), this agreement is for that person.

Costume Designer Agreement

This agreement is for your lead costume designer.

Crew Member Agreement

Any crew member whose title does not have a separate agreement in this bundle needs to sign this agreement. Examples include grips, gaffers, camera personnel, craft services personnel, assistant directors, engineers, production assistants, etc.

Director of Photography Agreement

This agreement is for your director of photography.

Editor Agreement

This agreement is for your editor.

Hair Makeup Agreement

This agreement is for your lead hairdresser and makeup artist.

Production Designer Agreement

This agreement is for your lead production designer/art director.

LOANOUT CONVERSION

Loanout Conversion Letter

When anyone you hire in any capacity asks you to pay them through a “loan-out” corporation, follow this process: (1) have them execute their main agreement as if they were being hired as an individual; then (2) have them sign this loan-out conversion letter.

RELEASES AND LICENSES

Release – Artwork

If your project features a work of art of any kind, be it a painting, photograph, poster, sculpture, etc., you should have the owner of the artwork sign this.

Release – Location

If you film on private property, you should have the owner of that property sign this agreement.

Release – Name & Likeness

If your project is a documentary or reality project, anyone you photograph, record or interview should sign this release.

Master Use License & Sync License

These two agreements are for licensing existing songs. The master use covers the master recording of the song and needs to be signed by the owner of that master recording; the synch license covers the underlying musical composition of the song and needs to be signed by the holder of the music publishing rights.

Click here for more info and to get these templates added to your Shake account.

Eric Spiegelman began practicing law in 2003 at a small firm specializing in motion picture development and production. From 2006-2007 he ran legal for the website This Just In, an early foray by HBO into original video content for the Internet. He took a break from law to produce original web series from 2008-2010. His most successful series was Old Jews Telling Jokes, which was adapted into an Off-Broadway play, a television series in the UK, and a book published by Random House (all of which he handled legal for). In 2011 he went back to law and opened up a solo practice, where he represents film producers and production companies, television producers, and YouTube creators.