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Whose Contract?

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Greg BallWhose Contract?
by on Aug 24, 2011 at 9:38:25 pm

We always require our clients to sign a contract/agreement detailing the work, the deposit amount, and the payment terms before we start any project. Our attorney wrote this contract.

Now we've been hired by a large company to produce a video, and THEY have sent us what they call their "standard" contract for US to sign. Isn't this backwards?

This is like buying a car, and bringing your own contract for the dealer to sign. What would you do in this case? We're looking at producing videos for them on a bi-monthly over the next 2 years.

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Steve MartinRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 25, 2011 at 12:34:37 pm

It very well could be their "standard contract" but just as your contract was written by your attorney to protect your interests, theirs was too. Read the contract very carefully. Better yet, have your attorney read it. What you're looking for is any language that specifies terms that you might simply never agree to.

When everything goes as planned, the client get's their video & pays the bill. Everyone is happy and there is no reason to go back to review the contract terms.

But when problems or disagreements pop up during the course of the project, it's the contract agreement that dictates what is supposed to happen. Make sure you can live with that contract agreement.

While it's not typical for a client to bring their own contract, it is certainly not unheard of. They're just looking to define the terms of the agreement that is most favorable for themselves. So are you.

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 25, 2011 at 1:30:21 pm

Those "net infinity" payment terms are buried in the very fine print.:-)

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Bill DavisRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:22:30 pm

Every contract is about one thing and one thing only. Power.

Each side tries to wield that power to either benefit themselves or protect themselves from risks posed by the potential actions of the other party.

When you contract with a big, powerful company, you usually have one single decision. Are you willing to work under THEIR terms and conditions or not?

Unless you're providing something unique and critical to them, there's usually no viable reason for them to amend their usual practices to accommodate you. And you can be SURE that their "usual practices" have been written totally to benefit them. After all, what's the point of building a powerful institution if you're not then going to wield that power to in the institutions maximum benefit?

So i'm sorry to report that it's typically sign or forgo the work.

In my experience, even trying to negotiate minor changes is a losing proposition. At best you'll be changing things that won't ever be issues. At worst, you'll be seen as "too much hassle to work with" and they'll move to the next vendor.

I wish this wasn't the reality. But it typically is.

Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor

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Scott CarnegieRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 25, 2011 at 2:28:13 pm

Yes I've had this a few times when I am considered a vendor, no biggie, just read it through and make sure the terms you want are present.

Media Production Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Rich RubaschRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:38:50 pm

And in a few rare instances, we signed their contract and they signed ours. And we issued them a certificate of insurance and they issued us one!

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage

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Gav BottRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 30, 2011 at 12:43:11 am

"And in a few rare instances, we signed their contract and they signed ours. And we issued them a certificate of insurance and they issued us one!"

At which point all paperwork is then forgotten and ignored as the job cracks on with smiles on faces.

Exactly as it should be.

It's only there as a painful and complex backstop when all else has gone wrong for a long time........

The Brit in Brisbane
The Pomme in Production - Brisbane Australia.

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Patrick OrtmanRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 31, 2011 at 4:11:51 pm

And, when you're faced with this, you need to make sure you're paid a bit extra to cover your increased overhead of having an attorney look it over.

PatrickOrtman, Inc.
Los Angeles Digital Agency and Video Production Company

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grinner hesterRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 31, 2011 at 7:54:18 pm

naaaa. Contracts are sunjective to folks who dig em. For this reason, I always skip em. If they furnish one and you are ok with it, sign it and call it done, otherwise revise it than sign it and call it done.
This is a big reason why I skip em. I'd rather spend my time on the clock making video.

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Craig SeemanRe: Whose Contract?
by on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:03:27 pm

... and miss the clause that allows them to take possession of you kittens or you gear if your production causes them financial loses or the non compete clause which says you can't work on a similar product with any of their competitors within the same state for the rest of your natural and supernatural life?

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Greg BallRe: Whose Contract?
by on Sep 1, 2011 at 9:24:15 pm

LOL@ Craig. Thanks all for your advice and comments.

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Craig SeemanRe: Whose Contract?
by on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:25:36 pm

BTW I did see a not compete clause in a contract like that once. It might happen in an employee contract but it shouldn't be there when hiring a production company or freelancer so you should look for things like that.

You should for things about how any arbitration situations are handled as well. There may be a clause that disagreement are to be arbitrated with their choice of arbitrator and that you lose any right to sue.

Liability and related can also be an issue. They may say that they're not liable for any costs if a shoot is canceled for any reason including weather even though you've already hired a crew.

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