Oftentimes, when working on a production, my smaller clients ask me about the necessary paperwork, including the dealings and rules around working with models, actors and music licensing. I have seen many small companies surprised and overwhelmed with the ‘backend’ needs of creating professional video content.
This usually happens when a company takes that next step up from shooting in-house content or using one freelance videographer and friends as models, to the professional level.
Once you start working with professionals, there are a few rules or guidelines you should be aware of. You can always hire a professional production company to take care of those things, but in reality there are a lot of small businesses that fall between the cracks of being just under the budget of what’s feasible for a production company to take on. So here are a few things to watch out for:
1. Be on top of your Release Forms: When you shoot any content that shows people’s faces clearly as the main characters of your campaign, whether that’s video or still, you should ask the model to sign a model release form. This should be completed before the shoot. This is a definite case of better safe than sorry! You don’t want to put all the money and effort into shooting amazing content and then have your main cast change their mind about being in the video. A release form doesn’t have to be complex or difficult. It should clearly state your production name and details, the model’s details and what you agree on in basic terms. That being said, ensure to include the timeframe for which you will be acquiring the rights to use the footage, where it will be released, whether you will be allowed to sublicense it to third parties, and possibly for what agreed fee. If you shoot with underages persons, you should always get a legal guardian to sign the form. A great place to book professional actors from is the directory of Mandy.com
2. Agree on Usage Rights: As stated in the release form, you will usually acquire the usage rights to the footage for a period of time, rather than the copyright. Those are two very crucial distinctions! Always clarify the terms of usage with your creative supplier and your models. Moreover, 1-3 years is a common timeframe, limited to a geographical area. If you require global and perpetual rights, you will be looking at a so-called buy-out which is costly! As a general rule of thumb, the longer and more global usage rights required, the more expensive.
3. Supplier Contracts: Consider making a contract with your main creative supplier. Again, in reality I know there are a lot of shoots done without any contracts signed. But you should at least have a verbal agreement or the main agreements in writing via email. Those points can include the delivery timeline, the agreed material to be delivered, the fee, the usage (like on release forms with your models), general terms and conditions, what happens in the case of having to reshoot etc. A contract can seem like a daunting task or an annoyance to most, but it is a security for both parties.
4. Music Licensing: Don’t forget to pay for your music. In the world of online content, we cannot do without music. But equally important as your video content, the music you use must be legally purchased as well. Social media platforms have become increasingly intelligent at cracking down on video without acquired musical rights. Depending on the size of your business, the usage over time and where you use it, can vary the price. But with the growing demand of online videos, there are plenty of great platforms out there that offer good options for video creators. Some will let you purchase the rights to individual songs, while others will have a subscription model where you can use unlimited songs. Additionally, the Youtube audio library for Youtube creators will let you use the music royalty free.
5. Insurance: When you start putting some serious dollars behind your campaign, you'll start shooting with a professional crew, hire equipment from a rental house and secure a shooting location (whether indoors or in public spaces). You will want to make sure you have insurance in place. The shoot insurance should cover the value of the equipment in case anything breaks or gets lost. Moreover, it should cover both a public liability and an employer’s liability. (This will also cover you when working with freelancers) Don’t take chances on risking people’s health or equipment loss.
I have been using IMS insurances for years.
These are just a few examples of important checkpoints when running your own production. The list is not exhaustive, nor is it legal advice.
A video production has many moving parts and if you have the budget behind you, it’s always great to let a production company handle this work. After all, that’s what they do. And you can continue doing what you are best at with your own business.