Producing a film, television series or documentary is a complex process. There are many steps and legal issues to consider before the cameras can even start rolling. Not only is it necessary to secure talent, but also to comply with all applicable state, federal and local laws and agencies. There are many unknown risks that filmmakers, producers and documentarians may expose themselves to, so understanding the entire process is essential to protect producers and their projects.
When developing a project, producers typically create a corporation or LLC. All aspects of the project should be handled by the newly formed company, including the hiring of any talent and owning or licensing of all intellectual property associated with it. This helps them avoid personal liability for any business operations related to the project and can more easily attract investors. Producing a film or TV series can be a high risk endeavor and personal liability can expose individual producers to the demands of creditors and debtors. Therefore, it’s beneficial to take the time and extra expense to form a company and conduct all business through the new company.
Financing refers to the source of funding for the film and can include interactions with both public and private investors. Additionally, financing often triggers both state and federal securities laws. Understanding all of the necessary legal requirements, such as the necessary filings, will help to protect the project from any sanctions associated with securities law violations.
During production, producers should understand and plan for potential tax issues. Tax issues not only involve state tax incentives, but also refer to any tax obligations incurred during the production and distribution of the project.
Production and Types of Contracts
There are many different types of production contracts that serve a variety of different purposes. Often times the purpose of certain contracts can be confusing, such as a Depiction Release vs. Talent Agreement. Because unexpected legal claims frequently arise even after the cameras have stopped rolling, it’s important for producers to understand the difference between all agreements. Some typical production contracts include:
- Depiction Release
- Location Release
- Nondisclosure Agreement
- Independent Contractor Agreement
- Talent Services Agreement
- Distribution Agreement