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  • Work for Hire for complete production/post

    Posted by Craig Seeman on May 31, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    In consideration for Production/Post Production work, the client wants a Work For Hire to be signed. Normally (by default) I don’t work this way and only assign rights for the final edit to the client while I retain the right to use it for demo purposes.

    Given the work-for-hire agreements gives them control of all source materials I’d charge a much higher rate since the client is now free to make revisions and otherwise do additional editing elsewhere. This also means I’d incur costs for file transfers but the client takes on storage costs as well.

    While I’d hand over project files, I can’t hand over plugins or any stock video or audio files which I’ve purchased. Otherwise, they can certainly purchase stock video/audio on their own.

    How do some of you handle work-for-hire contracts when providing complete product and post-production services?

    Patrick Donegan replied 10 months, 4 weeks ago 3 Members · 6 Replies
  • 6 Replies
  • Mads Nybo jørgensen

    May 31, 2023 at 5:04 pm

    Hey Craig,

    If you are doing the end-to-end production from Producing, Directing, Filming and Editing, then I think that it is more than fair not to agree to hand over rushes.
    And under no circumstances the project file, as it has your methods of working included, which is yours to own.

    Where as if the client sees you as a camera-/editor-operator, the relationship is somewhat different.

    Don’t know what the laws are where you live, but normally if you film it, you have the copyright, and assign them to the client.
    However, if you are on an NDA or similar, then anything that you film for the client may be owned by the client. Unless they release the right for you to use the footage?

    Reading between the lines in your post, would it be fair to suggest that it all comes down to money?
    In which case, if the client wants more than “extras” than you are willing to give, charge more money, or be prepared to walk away from the job.

    But often the client ask for everything because that is what the Corporation ask them to do, or their nephew have told them to. And, nothing necessarily to do with them wanting to re-edit your movie.
    You can to be “helpful” always remove all of the plug-ins used from the edit, so they have a nice and clean version of the edit…

    And yes, do let the client know that the “optional” extras in form of stock footage and so forth, is assigned to you, and if they want to use it in other videos or updates. They’ll either have to come back to you, or replace the footage.

    However, bottom-line is to manage the client and give them a cost for the “optional extras” that they want, or explain to them know why you don’t sell those.

    Just an opinion.


  • Craig Seeman

    May 31, 2023 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for your response. Much of it is similar to my thinking and experience (nearly 40 years) wearing hats as a camera operator or, editor, or production company.

    As a camera operator, in my experience, some clients want all the footage at the end of the shoot and I include that in the billing. As a production company if they want all the video not used in the final delivery I add that to the bill or include that if it’s clear they’ll want that from the start. And I agree that my method of creation which is part of the project files are my own.

    As an editor, they’re responsible for all the source elements and copyright clearance. If there’s stock media involved, I can include timecode or watermarked recommendations from me and they can pay for or pay me to keep searching or, otherwise search on their own and buy.

    As a production company, I have to ask them to confirm copyright clearance on anything they provide. I know from experience I’ve been handed sources that were in dispute (e.g. a dance recording where one of the two choreographers did not give permission) or video the client claimed to own but was of them but owned by a news outlet (CNN, AP, even Getty Images in one case). There are also times when clients insist you use a pop tune (“Hey it’s internal marketing only”) or music from a local performer they claim to own. That’s a legal problem waiting to happen. I know what I’ve shot. I know if I hired musicians or graphic artists etc. I know how to find stock video, and audio and make sure it’s cleared for the purpose.

    Generally, as a production company, they can use (and own) the final editor in perpetuity for any purpose they see fit. Optionally I can sell them source camera files. Obviously, they can use them elsewhere whereas if I were to control they’d be inclined to come back to me for further editing.

    I don’t like work-for-hire agreements when I’m providing all the services. Either I’m responsible for the production or the client is and I’m only the editor.

    Even as the editor if I’m using templates or plugins I’ve paid for I can’t hand over those to a client.

    They also want a non-compete clause for two years after the end of production. That’s dead immediately. If I shoot car commercials they have no right to block me from shooting car commercials for another brand. There are no circumstances as a camera operator, editor, or production company the client can block me from my next job. This is especially absurd given how even specialize such as shooting food commercials, car commercials, medical training videos, etc.

  • Mads Nybo jørgensen

    June 1, 2023 at 12:12 am

    It is a tough one, as you would like the job, but gut feeling tells you that it is not straight forward.
    In which case you need to make more discoveries, before moving ahead.

    Two obvious questions:
    1) Have the client commissioned video productions before, and who was their previous supplier?
    (As in why did they not go back to their previous supplier(s)?)
    2) If they haven’t commissioned productions, what is guiding them through the process now?
    An overeager legal department and/or insecurities?

    If 1st option – run, as they most likely will keep on grinding you down, like they might have done previously.
    If 2nd, which could also go for 1st option; give the client a rate-card of options, including paying for your upkeep for 2 years on a non-compete agreement. One where you can afford to live, whilst building your own projects.

    However, the red flags in all of this is that client wants you as a production company, but not willing to accept only the end-product, or necessarily pay full-rate for all of the work and extras.
    Then there is the “non-compete” demand which is a concern, unless the client is setting up a production company and wants to use your work to promote their future business with?

    Only way through this is to make more discoveries from the client, and when they make “demands” that you can not meet, ask them “How can I do that without hurting my business?”.
    On that note, don’t feel bad for charging them upfront for this “pre-production” work, as this is an expense to you and even if they go with someone else, it would still be valuable.
    Or, you might have saved a lot of money by not spending more time on the project.


  • Craig Seeman

    June 25, 2023 at 6:05 pm

    Two obvious questions:
    1) Have the client commissioned video productions before, and who was their previous supplier?
    (As in why did they not go back to their previous supplier(s)?)
    2) If they haven’t commissioned productions, what is guiding them through the process now?
    An overeager legal department and/or insecurities?

    The client was previously the Executive Producer and featured talent in a reality tv show which never was distributed. Apparently, they also lost all rights to the video shot which was then used elsewhere. I believe there is an overeager legal dept. and insecurities involved.

    In addition, they want a non-compete clause that extends two years beyond the end of my work for them even though it wouldn’t be full-time work. While I think an NDA is reasonable, I will not accept being locked out from working for similar clients especially if the type of client (entertainment based) may be a significant source of my income.

    Personally, I don’t want to negotiate with someone who comes from a position of non-trust. Contracts must have some level of mutual trust with fair recourse and protections for all parties involved.

    As worded there is no information on money offered or the duration of the contract. The client wants me to Produce, Shot and edit. 
  • Mads Nybo jørgensen

    June 25, 2023 at 11:43 pm

    Hey Craig,

    It reads like your client are making programs, without a Broadcaster or a streamer on-board to pick up the bill.

    Unless they are offering you proportional size of the pie in form of ownership, they can not expect you to act as an investor would do.

    A suggested conversation points from your position:

    Do address their concerns:
    “It sound like [they] just lost one big opportunity and then got stood up at the alter and saw their betrothed run off with someone else. That must have been both costly and heartbreaking.”

    Then ask two questions:
    “If you do not have trust in me and the experience and creativity that I bring to the table, how can I trust you?”

    “What benefit could I possibly gain from competing up against you and your project, in the same market, where many of my peers and other customers are based. And who would be offended and not use me again, if I became a direct competitor against any client of mine?”

    Then state:
    “The only way that I can sign over my rights to the footage to your company is for you to pay me in full. If you once the project is fully delivered, wants to sign me up for a further two years, then you will need to pay me the full cost of those two years, in advance”.

    Then give a concession:
    “Obviously as I created the footage and the project will be for public usage. Apart from me having a suitable credit(s) on the finished production where-ever it is shown. I will also undertake not to talk about it, or show my work up until such time that the project has been released and shown in public whether behind a pay-wall or on free-to-air on-line and/or broadcast.”

    It goes without saying, that if you don’t trust the client, and they don’t appear to trust you, both parties might be better off not working together.


  • Patrick Donegan

    June 28, 2023 at 11:04 pm

    This one clients claimed that “the family of …” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole liked their

    school, so they would give them to use “What a wonderful world” …

    luckily > was just the “editor”.

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