As well as the financing documentation for feature films / television drama, the producer's lawyer normally prepares the contracts for the director and the main talent including if applicable, heads of department. The producer's lawyer is not normally involved with contracts for the larger part of the cast and crew as there are standard forms which production managers / line producers use for this purpose.
|Domhnall Gleeson and Ian Hart in 'When Harvey Met Bob' (2010)|
Which Contracts do the Lawyers Draft?
The contract is normally prepared by the producer's lawyers if it involves specific credit arrangements (eg a particular position for the credit and credits in paid advertising) and/or if the talent participant is involved in a deferment and/or share of profits in the film.
Specific credit arrangements are a significant part of the delivery elements of a film to a distributor and great care is needed in the drafting of them. Specific arrangements for deferments and/or net profits affect the financing arrangements for a film and therefore have to be taken into account as part of that package.
Normally the producer him/herself have a contract with his own production company in respect of fees being paid to the producer as an individual participant in the production. This is over and above any provision for production fees / overhead payments in the budget which belong to the production company rather than the individual producer. When preparing a budget it is vitally important from a producers point of view to make sure firstly that all development costs incurred by the producer in connection with the production are recovered out of the budget, secondly that there is an adequate individual producers fee (which does not get whittled away by deferments) and that there is a production fee / overhead charge in the budget to cover the producer's ordinary overhead costs and also provide him with at least some seed capital for the future development of projects.
In relation to the directors contract, there will be much discussion about the directors cut, final cut, the directors credit, the fee and expenses and other arrangements for facilities for the director as well as any deferment element in the fee and any share in profits. It is not uncommon nowadays to allow a director a first cut on the film but most producers, not to mention their distributors and financiers, will insist that they have final cut. The producer is very often in the difficult position that the distributor will reserve the right to recut the film after delivery. The main concern the producer can have at that stage is to make sure that this is done at the distributors own expense.
Contracts with leading actors often involves discussion about particular arrangements for shares in distribution revenues / profits to be accorded to high profile actors as well as their credit arrangements. Approval of script changes should not be conceded no more than it would have been conceded to the screenplay writer as any such arrangements can only lead to unhappiness for both the director and the producer. It should be noted that it is a criminal offence to record the performance of an actor without his signed consent under the Performers Protection Act 1968 hence the necessity for signed contracts for all performers in the film. A common problem in relation to actors contracts as regards completion guarantors are so called 'stop dates' where the producer specifically agrees that whatever happens, he will not want to continue to use the actor after a particular date because the actor has another commitment. A completion guarantor will insist that a stop date still leaves a sufficient margin for error in relation to the production schedule.