Client Service Agreements
The number one legal mistakes that filmmakers make is not having a client service agreement signed by every single client that you work with, so that should be a top priority for you and your businesses toe have a solid client service agreement and then to use it with every single client that you work with and of course, you know you can customize it, but essentially you want to have a template that you use that has all the important clauses and it will talk about what's important to include and then use that with every single client don't skip it okay? Because then that enables you to preserve the rights to the films that you're creating to the footage that you've created and collected on dh to use that in a way that can drive revenue in your business. So that's why this is super important and like I said earlier, this will solve ninety percent of the legal issues that could come up as you're, you know, creating films so it's important to have so let's talk about what should be in you...
r client service agreement so items to include in your contract include how much interaction with you can the client expect that's sort of toe, you know, give people an expectation of you know, how much time will you be devoting to working with them? How many appointments will you have ahead of time what type of work will you be doing and how many phone calls can they get from you? You want to be really specific about what you're selling because you're selling a service nine times out of ten you're selling a service that's also connected to intellectual property rights you're selling the service and then you're either selling the film itself or the license to use the film in some limited ways so that's what you're serving so in your client service agreement you want to protect your time and you know what you're giving to them in terms of the service and then you also want to protect the actual asset that you're passing over to them which is either a license to use the film or the copyright which means all the creative rights to the film in general ok, so one thing is you know how much interaction with you can the client expect? Another thing to include is how much footage from the client expect to be shot and showed all right? So I think what you want to do here is not create really high expectations that are going to be hard for you to meet so you want to do something reasonable if you're being hired to create you know, a three minute riel for a business, then you wantto guarantee on lee that you will provide that film that three minute film but you don't want to guarantee what's going to be included in there what kind of shots you'll definitely get you want to limit the amount of guarantees that you make to the client here then the other things that you want to include our will you be for providing hair, makeup wardrobe and set stylists if that's part of it then you can let them know that andan also what you'll do in your agreement is in a no guarantees clause which we'll get to shortly you will limit your liability for the work of these contractors who would be involved in the project ok so if you're gonna have hair and makeup and wardrobe stylist miss that stylist involved that's all good but just you want to limit your responsibility for their work you know if the client isn't happy with their hair or their wardrobe or the set stylist then of course you're going to take steps to make them happy but you don't want to be liable if in the end they're not content with it right? Because that's the contractors work so that's one way to protect yourself with your client service agreement another will be when and how will the footage be delivered? S o that's another specific thing so the whole goal here is really to think through the entire you know client relationship that you're creating here and think about all the different ways that it could go wrong right all the different points of confusion or points where the client will request something that doesn't make sense for you to provide or that you don't have the ability to provide or that will cost you a lot of money to provide you just want to create clarity that's the whole point of contracts is to just create a situation where everyone involved all the parties to the agreement are on the same page so that's what we're doing here on dh then what rights do you have over editing decisions and ownership of footage that isn't included in the final video and film? This is incredibly important I want you to really pay attention to this piece the footage itself is highly valuable it's something that you could use in other films it's something that you could use in a you know, marketing and business development riel it's something that you could you could sell to a stop footage company or license to a stock footage company. There are a lot of different ways to create revenue streams from this footage and so that's why I would highly encourage you to preserve the rights the footage if at all possible. So what you want to sell to the client is a license to use the footage in their business or in their personal context would ever make sense for what you're creating the video for right? If you're a wedding videographer and you're going to be making you know wedding films then they would be using in a personal context if you mostly work with businesses for advertising or creating sort of many commercials and that type of thing then you would allow them to use it in a commercial context but you would limit that ability to use it in a commercial context and the whole ball of that's to preserve your rights as the filmmaker you are the creator it's your baby okay, so even though this client has hired you to create this it's still your baby you've created it okay? You are the artist behind it and so I would encourage you to reserve the right to that film if at all possible and every context you know is different. So for some clients they might really want to own the copyright to that footage and for others they might just want to purchase the license and you would have different sets of fees for that and we'll get into that and what that should look like in your actual contract but you know that's one thing I want to drive home is that that footage is highly valuable intellectual property and so if you're going to sell the copyright to it and the all the ownership rights that come with it then you want to charge a lot more okay? So here's some other things to include in your contract when and how will the client pay you obviously very important making it super clear when you expect to get paid and in what context you know how you get paid matters right? Are they paying you through paypal are they sending you a check all that affects your cash flow so be very very specific about how you want to get paid and then it's super clear if a payment is late you know and then you can tell them what happens if payment is late and you might want to reserve the right tio either cancel and you know you know if you're planning on shooting on a particular day you might wantto have the reserve the right to cancel that date if you haven't been paid in full you know up to three days prior or a week prior however you want to do it this is your business it's your time that you need to protect so be very specific about your policies and set clear boundaries for your business. Okay there's nothing wrong with doing that and the whole goal is just to let clients know right up front all right here's how I work and this is how you know these these air the requirements okay? And these are the terms of our relationship and as long as the client knows that up front they know what they're getting themselves into they know exactly what they're paying for and it avoids a lot of issues that could happen s o the other thing is, you want to include what is and is not included in the price, so this is also related to editing. You want to limit the amount of editing that you're including in the price so, you know, you might have really demanding customer that requires tons and tons of editing, which takes up a lot of your time. So you want to put a clear limitation on the amount of editing that you will actually d'oh? Um, and then, you know, the other thing that I highly recommend and what I often do with my clients is also include a clause that says entity, any editing that goes beyond let's, say, three rounds of editing um, then that would be done at an hourly rate of whatever the client's hourly rate isthe okay, I mean, sorry, whatever the creators hourly rate is, so you're just letting clients know right up front. All right? This is how much editing you get if you demand more editing that's no problem. I'm willing to do it, but just expected invoice. Okay? And this is what the invoice will be worth its, you know, whatever your hourly rate is bill that right into the contract that's, the whole point is sort of differ. Foresee issues that could arise and just build it right in. So that way, if something happens, everybody knows what's going on, you know, if they go over in the editing than they know, ok, this is what's going to happen, I'm going to have tio, um, I'm going to have teo, you know, charge you more. So the other thing is the copyright, which, you know, I'll talk to you about in a second, we're going to actually look at a grant of rights clause, um, and so in the copy, right, you know what you're basically letting the client know is am I giving you the entire ownership rights to the films, or are you just purchasing a life insta use the film in a limited way, and then, you know, you want to have things that protect your business and the flow of your business, like what happens with a client when a client fails to show up to their appointment? What happens if a client isn't satisfied with the resulting video? You know, you wanna have those things in there? And, like I said, I would recommend no guarantees they're paying for a service, and then also the resulting piece of intellectual property, the piece of creative content, that's, what they're paying for. So, you know, if you've done the work and you've provided the service, you still deserve to get paid, even if they're not satisfied with it. And what you want to do is sort of build into your process. Thes, sort of ways to make sure clients or satisfied, right, so that we could drive. How you actually work with clients, whether you have them, fill out questionnaires or how many, you know, meetings. You have with them ahead of time, just to make sure you can give them what, what it is that they want. And that's, probably the piece that you know really well. But these are the types of things to include in your contract.