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Film Law: What Does Filmmaker for Hire or Work for Hire Mean?

Filmmakers frequently face contractual issues. In which tiny details in wording can have big impacts on the final outcome of a project. Cinematographers interested in getting involved in a film project might respond to a filmmaker for hire solicitation. And after doing so there’s an equally strong chance they’ll be offered a work for hire agreement. But what does filmmaker for hire or work for hire mean?

What Does “For Hire” Mean?

When a cinematographer takes on a task as a filmmaker for hire? They’re accepting that they’ll provide a service. One that is likely to be backed by a “work for hire” clause.

In an agreement that is made “for hire” the general consensus is that the filmmaker will perform the work. And when the project is complete, ownership is immediately granted to the production company that hired the filmmaker. 

Fee For Service

When a filmmaker for hire provides their skills for hire, there is an agreement that money is commissioned from a funder or investor, paid to the filmmaker, in exchange for the services.

Sometimes called a “fee-for-service” project or a “work for hire” clause. Filmmakers for hire provide a contracted service in exchange for a set fee. In doing so they also relinquish rights to the intellectual property that is produced during the paid contract. 

What Filmmakers For Hire Should Discuss Before a Project

Prior to engaging in a project, filmmakers for hire must be prepared to discuss particular details about the project with the producer or individual in charge of hiring them.

There’s a lot to cover when taking on a new project. Therefore it’s vital for filmmakers for hire to discuss the finer details of the project. And the rights that will be established for the production company or otherwise after the cinematographer’s work is complete.


First and foremost, a filmmaker for hire must be prepared to discuss the arrangement that is most suitable for them, for the producer, and for the individual project that they’ll be working on.

Funders might require a particular arrangement. In exchange for any payments that are made for work provided. The agreements that are made in advance of the work actually happening are incredibly important and are to be put in writing.

The filmmaker for hire will execute a contract. This includes key details regarding their investment into the project. The payments to be made for their contractual work.

And any arrangements regarding distribution, screenings, or the rights of the works after the filmmaker for hire has done their part. 

In Summary

So, what is a filmmaker for hire and what does it mean for the cinematographer? The filmmaker for hire represents a key designation. It represents the agreement made between a production crew and a contracted cinematographer to provide their skills for a project.

That will ultimately be the property of the film production company. There are a lot of details to figure out, but it all starts with a work for hire contract.

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