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Deconstructing the Film Crew Deal Memo: What’s Inside and What Does it Mean?

The film crew deal memo is a unique employment contract which represents the agreements and underlying expectations initiated by the film production company and the film crew. Outlining each of the key terms or agreements that are initiated between the film crew and the production company or producer, the film crew deal memo aims to protect both parties while also offering some clarity to the individual expectations that are involved in the plan.

If you’re new to the film industry, the first time you’re handed a film crew deal memo you probably have a lot of questions. What is this? What does it mean? Do I have to sign it? What happens if I don’t? 

All of these questions are common for someone that’s never seen a deal memo before. In fact, if you’re not familiar with the dal memo then there’s a very good chance that you’ll need some assistance in figuring it all out before you finalize the deal – that’s okay!

The deal memo can be used to provide a clear outline of expectations between the crew member and the hiring production company and this alone is helpful to all parties involved.

Additionally, expect the memo to include things like how long the work agreement is for, what the expected work hours are, and how things like compensation and reimbursements for gas or other expenses will take place. 

What’s Included in the Film Crew Deal Memo?

While each deal memo represents an employment agreement made between the crew member and the production company, it is important to realize that these agreements are unique to the project and the agreement between the individual parties.

Thus, while we can list the items that are most likely to be included in a deal memo, it’s important for you to realize that these items can change along with the details of each item, for the memo. Therefore, you must always read the agreement before you sign anything! 

Here’s a list of items that are typically included in a film crew deal memo:

  • Basic information about the film crew deal.
  • A breakdown of services that will be provided by the crew member.
  • The pay rate or other compensation that the crew member should expect.
  • The employment term.
  • Details on meals, particularly whether they are or are not included on shoot days and otherwise.
  • Details on equipment use, any proposed equipment expenses. And whether purchases are paid for by the film production company or the film crew member.
  • Transportation details specific to shoots. How will the crew member get to the film shoot and who will pay for the cost of transportation?
  • Hotel, airfare, and other travel details. As well as incidentals.
  • Availability details including what happens if the film crew is asked to work beyond the employment contract dates. Or if the crew is asked to go home for the day.
  • Details on how the crew member may terminate the agreement. As well as how the production company may terminate. And the implications of both.
  • Confidentiality details including whether an official NDA will be required before production.
  • A no-obligation clause which states that the production company is not obligated to utilize the services of the crew member. Nor are they obligated to release the final footage that is produced by the filmmaker.
  • Information on screen credits and placement of the crew member’s name in the billing block if such will be included.

The Takeaway

It’s certainly a LOT of information that is included in the deal memo. So it’s no surprise that the average crew member has a lot of questions about the various sections of the employment agreement.

Especially the first time they are faced with a deal memo and have never before seen such a contract.

What Does All of This Mean?

It’s important for any film crew member to fully understand every section of the film crew deal memo and the information that is contained within it.

You’ll be expected to sign the memo in order to become part of the film crew for the production company that provides the deal memo to you, but before you sign it is very important that you discuss the various details of the deal with legal counsel.

The purpose of the film crew deal memo is to clarify details of the employment agreement as it is entered between the film crew member and the filmmaker.

Seek Legal Counsel

Thus, to ensure your film crew deal memo includes all of the most important information listed above. You’ll probably want to go over it with a fine tooth comb alongside with your legal counsel. This way you can ask questions about any of the pertinent details involved.

Areas of particular concern include the compensation fields, the terms and conditions of employment, the services section and the payment schedule.

Naturally you’ll probably have questions on many of the other sections of the deal memo too. In fact, it’s best to read your deal memo first and to make a list of questions that you have about each area before you meet with your legal counsel.

Consider the following:

  • Will you be required to carry liability insurance? Many film crew members are required to carry this coverage and it can be moderately expensive. So it’s important for you to determine whether it is required. And if so, whether you must pay for it out of pocket.
  • Will travel and gas reimbursements be provided? Most film production companies will provide reimbursements for travel, airfare, and hotel lodging expenses. 
  • Are purchases of expendables paid for? This would include things like batteries and gaffers tape that you would use frequently through the production. And, as such, many film production companies will cover these costs.
  • Where will your credits be on screen? You’re probably going to have to negotiate your screen credit. It’s quite likely that the details will be included in your film crew deal memo. But this doesn’t mean you will be satisfied with them. Make sure you don’t sign until you are!

In Summary

It’s also important for you to very carefully consider how the NDA works if such is to be provided. While a non-disclosure agreement is customary for film crews, every agreement is different and has different terms and expectations.

You should certainly ask for a copy of the NDA that will be required of you prior to signing both agreements. This way you can be sure that you are able to agree to the terms that are set forth as part of your employment.

Under absolutely no circumstances should you sign the film crew deal memo. Unless and until it has been updated to reflect the details that are specific to your agreement. And you fully understand the terms set forth.

If this means negotiating, and rewriting the deal. Then that’s what must happen!

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