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Who's calling the shots?

Published on Tuesday, 17th November 2015, contributed by Steer & Co

Funding considerations for film and production companies

Securing funding to deliver a project or series of projects is the Holy Grail for film production companies providing welcome financial security in what is often a high risk business.

What comes alongside this is the challenge of not only delivering on your funding partner’s brief but also navigating the tricky matter of rights issues.  This was the situation that Bristol based film production company, Calling the Shots, found themselves in recently when they became one of four prestigious regional partners appointed to work with Arts Council England and Random Acts, Channel 4’s platform for short arts films.

The three year contract will involve Calling the Shots delivering 72 short films, created by young people aged 16-24, based across the South West. It’s a project that will involve a vast number of contributors from local universities to freelancers and contractors and of course the young people themselves.

When delivering a funded project like this it’s vital that you agree, before any work begins, who owns what, for how long and whether those rights will revert in certain situations.

It’s likely that some rights issues may be more important to you and your contributors/film makers than they are to the funder.  For example some funding partners are only interested in acquiring online or TV rights for a limited period, and then after this period they are happy that the rights can be used or re-sold.  This may be attractive to some of the contributors to the project, who may be interested in these rights post the broadcast window, or for other media.  All agreements on ownership need to be in place before production begins, and you should also ensure that all contributors have signed suitable agreements.

To avoid these types of negotiations holding up the production and exploitation, it’s worth having a suite of relevant documents prepared in advance of the project kick off.  For example we prepared a toolkit of documents and contracts for Calling the Shots, which they can use for all the films being produced under the Random Acts series for Channel 4. 

We also provided training to Calling The Shots on how to complete the contracts.  Of course every project is different, and each suite of documents will need to be specifically tailored to the project to reflect what has been agreed with the funding party. Examples of common contracts, which we may include in a suite of contracts, are: location, actor and presenter contracts, crew and other cast contracts, voiceover and pre and post production service contracts, producer and director contracts and other good practice guidelines.

Taking the time to put these contracts in place will provide peace of mind for all those involved in the project and will pass back contractually the obligations imposed by funding partners.  Doing this early helps to avoid tricky negotiations once the project is underway and leaves you free to focus on the job in hand.  

For further information please contact Rebecca Steer at Steer and Co, email: