Film Production Agreement Template

Long before a film can become a film, it has to be gestated in the mind of its creator. Sometimes, that gestation period takes a lifetime. Other times, it takes no more than a day. But no matter how long it takes, there’s no guarantee ink will ever hit paper. In fact, most film ideas go unrealized. That’s why it’s a big deal when film production agreements are made. Film production agreements are the first step in making a film idea a reality.

Definition of a film production agreement

A film production agreement is a contractual statement between two or more parties agreeing to the payment of film-related work. Film production agreements lay out the finance-structure and general scheduling for productions.

Facets of a film production agreement

There are a lot of different facets of film production agreements. This mainly comprises the financing of above the line/below the line personnel, cast, location, and other related production fees. There is some conjecture as to whether or not “film production agreements” include the associated costs of pre-production and post-production – for the sake of completeness, this paper is going to break those costs down too.

Pre-production/development in a film production agreement

Pre-production is where a film/TV show is built. Development is the stage in pre-production where the basic idea for a film/TV show is expanded into the blueprint for production. Depending on the production, development can cost anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars. Here are some costs associated with development.

  1. Rights agreements in a film production agreement

Rights agreements are agreements between a production company and an entity (living or deceased) over the rights to produce a story. That story may already be written (as a book, play, or screenplay); or merely exist as a real-life event. This next video from entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner explains the process behind acquiring life rights.

  1. Writer’s Agreements

Writer’s agreements are agreements between a production company and a writer for the purpose of producing a story for production.

  • Options Agreements

Options agreements are agreements between a production company and a writer. Such serves the purpose of having the option to purchase a script in the event of funding. Optioning can be a tough business for screenwriters – but it’s a good way for writers to attach their name to a project.

Production in film production agreement

Production is the stage where a project is made. That is a film being shot, a game being programmed, among others. Film production agreements are agreements between a production company and a financier over the budget and timeline of a film’s production.


Post-production is the stage where a project is finalized; i.e., edited, marketed, and distributed.

  1. Editing agreement

Editing agreements are agreements between a production company and an editor/editing house that outline payment for editing services provided.

  1. Marketing agreement

Marketing agreements are agreements between a production company and a marketer/marketing agency that outline payment for marketing services provided. If a movie studio is big enough, it usually handles its film’s marketing in house. That means including marketing costs as part of the film production contract.

  • Distribution Agreement

Distribution agreements are agreements between a production company and a distributor. The distributor guarantees the rights to distribute works in certain regions/formats.

Other film contracts and agreements

Protect your Film

Agreements need to be set in place with your production team, cast and crew even from before principal photography begins.

Pre-production / development contracts

Pre-production refers to the period of a film before production and shooting begins when those in charge of getting the film up and running finalize the rights and the script, get financing in place, put together the cast and crew and prepare for production. The early stages of pre-production are often called “development”. The development stage can last for many years, as rights are acquired and cast and crew are slowly assembled. Agreements that are commonly needed during this period are those for the purchase of rights, the development of the script, and the hiring of writers to finalize the script. The film production agreement could comprehensively include all the foregoing.

Rights purchase agreements and screenplay option agreements, writer “work for hire”. Also, film production agreements entail collaboration agreements and co-production agreements. The preceding necessary to engage talented individuals to develop a script for production.

Production Agreements

Production refers to the period of movie making when “the magic happens” and principal photography starts and the movie physically gets made. Typical film production agreements needed during this period are engagement agreements for hiring cast and crew. They are also used in renting a venue for shooting scenes, and other needs.

Crew provisions in the film production agreements

There are two types of crew members. Above the line crew members are those who control the aesthetics of a movie, such as the director, producer and cinematographer, just to name a few. Above the line crew members are generally paid a flat fee, as provided in their employment agreements. These agreements most likely contain very complex terms and provisions than those needed for their below the line counterparts due to the nature and extent of their work on a film.

For example, a director’s employment agreement would include compensation for development and production, depending on when the director was hired. The film production agreement might also include a provision to share a part of the profits if the film does well at the box office. Moreover, it is not uncommon for above the line crew to receive a daily stipend, or per diem, to cover their expenses while on-set. The film production agreements generally also include provisions for how above the line crew are credited in a film, which can sometimes become highly contested.

Also, an agreement of this type might confer the right for directors to hire other crew members and to decide on the cast. A director might want to have control over the editing and final cut of the film and the extent of such control should also be memorialized in the director’s employment agreement.

Finally, a film production agreement with a director might have a “a right of first refusal” provision that gives the director a right to choose whether to direct any prequels or sequels of the film before the producers can hire another director. Like writers, many experienced directors are members of the DGA.

Their agreements would be subject to DGA rules and their Basic Agreement. A film production agreement with a producer should also cover the basic terms of employment, such as a description of the producers’ obligations and compensation. The film production agreements should cover how the producer will be credited in the film.

Often, it is wise to have an exhaustive list of applicable terms memorialized in the agreement, rather than risking the possibility of running into problems in the course of the film production which could be catastrophic, especially at or near the end of the filmmaking stage.


Crew – below the line- in a film production agreement

“Below the Line” crew refers to those crew members who deal with hands-on aspects of filmmaking, such as lighting and sound technicians and script supervisors. Below the line crew members are generally paid hourly, as opposed to the flat fee above the line crewmembers receive. Therefore, film production agreements with below the line crew are often less complex than those of their above the line counterparts.

Accordingly, a crew deal memo can be used instead of a full contract for below the line crew members. Deal memos include personal information of the crewmembers such as their name, address, and emergency contact information and social security number. The deal memo also discusses individual crewmember’s job title, rate of compensation and expense reimbursement. The memo also covers what if any credit a crewmember will receive.

A deal memo is usually only one page long. Deal memos are often a good idea. This is because they clearly set out all the important information on one page and copies can be made available to all crewmembers. Because of its length, a deal memo is easy for reference, which is especially important in the event a conflict arises.

Cast agreements in film production agreements

Film production agreements with the cast will vary depending on the type of cast member. For example, a SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) actor will have a different contract that a Non-SAG actor because the requirements for these two cast members might differ due to the rules and regulations imposed by the guild. Further, if you plan on hiring minors or extras, you might need a different agreement for each group. A SAG actor’s standard contract includes regular terms such as compensation.

However, one wrinkle imposed by SAG is that actors under guild protection are guaranteed a certain amount of compensation (regardless of the actual hours they work) and in return, the producer of the film gets the exclusive right to use their likeness in the film. The producer must also agree to pay all SAG contributions, such as the actors’ health and pension plans. Generally, agreements with SAG actors also provide for how they will be credited. This will often include a section addressing the dressing room and other similar amenities. The preceding are key aspects of the film production agreements that should not be left out.

Importantly, a SAG contract is explicit about the types of promotion and publicity services to which the actor must be engaged. Also, a SAG actor will also often have approval over the types of publicity photos and other materials the producer can use to promote a film. Non-SAG cast members can have their agreements memorialized in a cast deal memo, similar to the deal memo for below the line crewmembers.

Importance of cast provisions in film production agreements

A cast deal memo is one page agreement which includes contact information, job obligation, terms of compensation and other amenities provided to individual cast member, such as travel and accommodation expenses and reimbursement, if any. A cast deal memo for a non-SAG actor will also set forth the type of credit the actor will receive and whether or not the cast member will be paid for the subsequent use of their pictures or likeness for future promotion of the film.

Because these actors are not represented by a union like SAG, they enjoy relatively less protection. Non-SAG actors negotiate their employment contract terms with less bargaining power and legal knowledge than would a SAG actor or his representative. An important clause that is often included in all contracts with any type of actor, SAG or non-SAG, is a clause stating that the actor’s services are unique and the producer has the right to seek remedies in the form of injunctive relief if the actor were to breach the contract.

These clauses should be included in the film production agreements. They essentially prevent the actor from acting in another movie project during the time frame set forth in the original employment contract. Generally, New York courts allow film production agreements with such clauses so long as they are reasonable in time and scope.

If you plan on employing minors to work on your film, you must use yet another type of agreement. Moreover, the minor’s legal guardian must sign the film production agreements on behalf of the minor. The agreement, usually one-page in length, gives the producer the exclusive right to use the minors’ image and likeness in perpetuity. Certainly, it is possible for child actors to be in SAG and in that case, the minors would be covered by not only the terms of the employment agreement but also the rights and protections set forth under SAG rules. Consequently, this class of minor SAG actors would require a more complex agreement.



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