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Deal memo/agreement ?

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#1 Pedro Guimaraes SOC

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 08:06 PM

Hi guys,

I'm relatively a new steadi-operator, been operating for little over a year on rented/borrowed gear. Recently purchased my whole kit and went straight to work (thankfully).

Most of my work so far has been for a handful of repeat solid clients(well paid). I've been dealing with them for so long that we just mainly work out a deal on the phone and then I just invoice them.

But now that I have my own rig, am out in the jungle searching for work. Since my recent purchase pretty much cleaned up my bank account, I've accepted a low paying indie movie (red) for the next 2 weeks. Literally have to pay my rent! Luckily I was able to buy my rig in cash so I don't have any loan payments to make. Also have some things lined up so I don't plan on making this a frequent occurrence, life too short and my gear too expensive to work for peanuts. They just called at the right time.

So I feel like I want them to sign some sort of business/deal memo before we start. Something that set out terms of the service....3-day week (no pro-rating), cancellation terms (within 24hrs/24-48hrs etc), The rate, overtime, damage info....etc...

Would any of you be willing to email me what you have production sign if anything before you start a job?

What are some things to MAKE sure to be included in such a document?

Usually their deal memo is covering their ass, I wanted them to sign something to cover mine ass and address my concerns.

I guess since this is the first low budget job I've ever taken I'm understandably worried. Especially when they said payment will be made at the end of shooting...usually I'm used to getting paid on a weekly basis so...just looking to be professional and do my part and get some stuff in writing because talk is cheap and doesn't hold up in court :) but contracts usually do.

Thanks in advance for any help,

Edited by Pedro_Guimaraes, 15 July 2010 - 08:11 PM.

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#2 Janice Arthur

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 09:38 PM


Congrats on getting work.

Contracts, good idea, but in the real world no one will sign one.

You can't get anyone to sign one on/before a job to do it. If you do get someone to sign it the production company will claim they had no authority to do so and therefore the contract is null and void.

Deal memos, are a contract between you and them and it explains what you've both agreed to. Get a copy. Hold onto call-sheets, crew lists so you can contact them after the job about pay if you need to.

Most of the time though small companies don't use them.

So your best bet is find out who other crew members are, network, ask about the company ahead of time. Figure out what others are doing and how they're getting paid etc.

Sadly that's how it works, and it usually works out ok but being this new world who knows how many "bad" companies will spring up.

On a longer, low budget jobs, ask for pay at the end of the day/week/etc. and if they don't pay then you can say I'm not coming back tomorrow. If they don't come up with it tell other crew members because they'll start to bolt too if they know the money is dicey. UPMs will also start to freak because they expect you tomorrow.

Just my thoughts.

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#3 Brian Freesh

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 05:06 AM

I actually find the opposite to be true of deal memo's. Maybe it's especially because I tend to work in the low budget world. I lose out on about 50% of the jobs I negotiate with, simply because I'm "too expensive" even after a discount. The ones I get tend to really respect what I offer them. I only do the lesser rate as the result of discounts for considerations. If you show them what you're worth, and discount for a reason, rather than just because they won't pay you any more, they respect you more and appreciate your help. When I get hired, that whopping 50% of the time, I find that they are more than happy to sign a deal memo and always follow through on the terms. My terms always include something that says they owe my full rate if such-and-such terms are not met. And I usually ask for same day payment depending on the discount, and I've recently started asking for payment at the beginning of the day. No one ever complains about these terms.

Again, maybe it's just the low-budget world I work in, where they don't realize they could get away with lying about it later.
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#4 Dan Coplan

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 10:00 PM

I feel this one out depending on the job. Obviously if it's someone I've worked with before and trust, I don't bother. If it's a referral from someone who says the client is OK, I usually go on faith, but will sometimes draw up a contract. And if it's a totally new client, most of the time I'll have them sign something. My feeling is this: if you work out an agreement and they're not willing to sign their name to it, BIG RED FLAG! What's the problem?

I ran into this recently. I discussed my deal with the PM. It was a low budget deal so I negotiated a compromised rate for fewer hours and cash paid in full at the end of each day. She agreed. I drew up a simple contract and sent it over to be signed with the polite and respectful, but firm, position that I had to have a hard copy before starting work. They signed, I worked. At the end of the day, the executive freaked out. Didn't matter. I had a signed contract and the exec had no choice but to honor that contract. Had I not done this, I easily could have gotten screwed on the deal with no recourse.

Here is an example of the type of contract I draw up. Simple, to the point, and no reason for the producer to not sign it if they agree with the terms when you first talk to them.


Date: June 2, 2010

Client: XYZ Production
Joe Shmoe
123-456-7890 cell

Project: "Title of Production" - Steadicam

RATE: 6/9/10 – 6/11/10: *whatever your rate is*


For this project Dan Coplan will serve as Steadicam operator as directed by Client.

Client will cover expenses related to the job such as parking, transportation as it relates to production, and any unforeseen expenses.

Client agrees to full responsibility for rental equipment provided by Dan Coplan. Any loss will be covered immediately at full repair and/or replacement cost including associated charges such as shipping, handling, fees, etc.

Payment is due upon completion of the project.

I fully understand and agree to the terms of this agreement.

Joe Shmoe Date
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#5 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 11:38 AM

remember, if the production has a contract with a union that covers your position, then they legally can not change the terms of that agreement with the union. You CAN however negotiate above and beyond the rates (scale) but not the working terms.

now I believe (speculative), you can also take the 1099 approach with the production company as an independent contractor via loan out, which actually means your responsible for your own insurance and workers comp. Beware, this could mean that you could be liable for nearly anything they try to dream up and throw your way... and sadly, it would would up to a court to decide if so. Any one got any legal knowledge of this?

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