If your case is the one of a very indie filmmaker that has to ask for favours here and there to get his movie finished, the question is “Should you have a written contract with every person that is involved in the shooting of your film? Is it worth the effort?”
Well, first things first.
For a lawyer or a judge the most important tool they can work with is evidence.
Imagine that you have finished your film and that fortunately it is a hit.
You’ve done it! You’ve accomplished what you were after!
Now, a “friend” of yours in which you trust, as he has noticed that the movie has won numerous film festivals and that has done well in the box office, as he has played as an actor in your movie and as you haven’t filled in a contract in which you explicitly specify how he will get paid, he decides to sue you for a percentage of the earnings in the box office of your movie.
This is when problems beggin.
So? Big deal… You are 100% sure that you are going to win because you remember perfectly that both of you agreed that it was a non paid job.
But let me tell you, although you “remember” that is not going to help any lawyer defend your case and even less convince a judge!
Every lawyer knows that the first most important thing you have to implement and not only remember when doing any kind of agreement on something is to… PUT IT ON PAPER!
This way, you got your back covered and you have way more chance of winning any kind of dispute or trial that could come up if your movie is successful.
First of all, for the most types of contracts we, as independent filmmakers, are looking for there are templates you can download from the internet that work just fine in front of a lawyer or judge. For the most part anyway… Please read everything and ask people that know about this topic before choosing a contract template.
You have to be careful which template you choose for your actors to sign as there are many points of the agreement that may no suit your specific situation.
In my case the one I chose was one similar to this one (of course in Spanish because I shot the whole film in Spain):
This particular paper I wrote it out myself.
It is just a paper in which you specify when and where is the owner of X location giving you permission for filming in his or her property.
I did this because it was only me by that time. This meant that I didn’t have a business or brand that represented/produced the movie.
But there are a lot of templates out there on the internet that fit this particular permit. You just need to type in on the browser “permit for filming on location” and you will find several forms/templates that will suit your particular needs. After choosing one is about filling in the gaps with the necessary information.
These two are the contracts that I mainly filled in and signed before shooting anything.
But if you have “borrowed” gear from a friend or you are renting it or you are filming in a friend’s house or whatever, always find a template that has all the necessary legal information for the agreement. Then get it signed by both parties, give a copy to each party and save that document!
Always get everything on paper and KEEP COPIES of every contract you fill in and sign!
See you next time!