Producer Agreements

We’ve all heard the word, we’ve all watched a movie or tv show, right? The producer’s job is pretty important, and in fact quite integral to the process of making a movie. If you’re in the dark about what the producer’s responsibilities are and how they function as part of the overall production, look no further – we’ve got you covered!

What does a Producer do?

A Producer is the individual who originates a film or television project by engaging a writer to prepare an outline or treatment of an idea or buying an option on a book.  It is the role of the Producer to ensure that everything is done to enable the film or programme to be produced in accordance with the budget of the project and the production schedule. 

The responsibilities of the Producer include arranging for the development of screenplays, working out the budget and production schedule, selection and contracting of artists, director and the production team, negotiation with financiers, raising the finance for the project, negotiation with distributors, sales agents and broadcasters, overseeing principal photography and post-production up to delivery of the completed film or programme. 

What is the difference between an “Executive Producer” and a “Line Producer”?

An Executive Producer is the person responsible for securing finance for a production which has been originated by another Producer.  They may include people whose reputation alone is such that their support of a project will be sufficient to gain a “green light”, for example Steven Spielberg.  Or they may be executives of corporations, for example the Film Commission, who have been responsible for giving the project the go-ahead and wish their name to be attached to it.  Equally, they may be third party financiers who wish to have their name attached to the project.

On a bigger or international production, a distinction may be drawn between negotiating deals with the talent, raising finance from distributors and broadcasters and, on the other hand, the nitty gritty aspects of being responsible for the physical aspects of the production.  They are in charge of logistics for the shoot, for example, hiring the crew, ordering supplies and equipment and making sure the Director has everything they need to make the film or programme.  The former type of function is often performed by the Executive Producer and the “hands on” function carried out by a Line Producer.  In practice, however, on smaller productions, both the “executive” and the “line” function are usually performed by one Producer.

Is the Producer responsible for signing all the legal documents?

In the case of an independently produced and financed film or television production, the Producer will form a company to be the production company for the project.  All the rights and contracts secured or entered into during development will be transferred to this new company, and all production personnel, facilities, finance and services will be contracted by that company.  The company will then contract the services of the Producer to the production.

Does the Producer contract as an individual?

It is usual for the Producer to provide their services through their own trading company, who will “lend” the services of the individual Producer to the production company.  This is normally referred to as a “Loan Out” Agreement.  The form of the Agreement used is virtually identical to that used where a production company directly engages the services of an individual Producer in their personal capacity, i.e. one that does not have a trading company set up.  However, the Producer will be asked to enter into what is known as an “inducement letter” with the production company.  An inducement letter effectively “locks in” the Producer to the commitments undertaken by their company, and will contain acknowledgements that their company is the owner of all rights of copyright in the Producer’s services.

How long does a Producer Agreement last for?

The services of the Producer are normally required from the commencement of pre-production, i.e. the time needed beforehand to prepare for filming, until the end of post-production, i.e. editing, and delivery of the film or programme to the distributor or broadcaster. 

Can the Producer work on other projects as well?

Often the Producer’s services are non-exclusive during development and pre and post production, and exclusive during production.  Financiers will usually insist that the Producer works on the particular project exclusively until actual delivery of the film. However, the Producer will typically want to get on to the next job during post-production. The usual compromise is that the Producer will be available on a first-call basis during the post-production period.

 

Does the Producer own the copyright in the film?

It is usual for the Producer to assign to the production company the entire copyright in their services to the production throughout the world on an indefinite basis.  The company will then, in turn, assign all copyright generated in the production, for example, in the actual film or programme created, as well as the rights generated by the director and other production personnel, to the financiers of the production.

Does the Producer have the final say in hiring the cast?

The Producer will normally have rights of approval in respect of certain matters, principally the choice of talent.  Generally, however, the financiers will have the last say as to who is selected.

How does the Producer get paid?

The Producer’s fee is typically paid out in stages.  This differs from an actor’s or crew member’s fee, which is generally paid out on a weekly basis.  Producer’s often get paid as follows:  firstly, when financing for the film has been agreed and completed, or upon signing of their Producer Agreement if they are not involved in the financing arrangements; secondly, upon the start of filming; thirdly, upon completion of filming; and, lastly, upon completion and delivery of the film.

Where a Producer has negotiated this, they will also be paid a share of the “net profits” of the film.  Net profit means any money that is left over after all expenditure, for example production costs, distributor’s fees and investor’s finance, is deducted from the income received from sale and distribution of the film. 

Does the Producer receive a credit in the film?

The Producer Agreement will typically provide for the Producer to receive an individual credit in the film.  The position in the credits is often heavily negotiated.  It is customary for the Producer to be given a credit before that received by the Director.  The Producer may also attempt to negotiate a credit for their company, e.g. “a [Company] production”, or want to include the company’s logo.  Another issue for negotiation is whether the Producer’s credit is to be included in advertising and promotional materials.

Is the Producer in charge of publicity for the film?

The main production company will want to control the publicity for the film, and will typically insert a clause in the agreement preventing the Producer from issuing publicity statements without the company’s prior agreement.  The company will also want the right to use the Producer’s name and photograph in any publicity, promotional or marketing materials for the film.

The Producer will also be expected, subject to their then current work commitments, to be involved in all promotional and advertising activities free of charge, but will be reimbursed for any pre-approved expenses that they occur in attending any of these events. 

What other things is the Producer expected to agree to?

The Agreement will typically contain a number of standard warranties.  The Producer will confirm that they are free to enter into the agreement and grant the main company the various rights, and that there is no restriction which might prevent or interfere with the provision of the Producer’s services.  They will also agree that the script or any other materials used in the production of the film are original and will not infringe anyone else’s copyright, and that they do not contain any defamatory comments.  Particularly on big budget

photos by Chris Murray and Joel Muniz – Unsplash