"What should be in the contract?"
Contracts often provide extensive protections for clients. But a good contract protects both parties. It clarifies issues of time, money, authority, and responsibility. Sometimes we base a contract on the client's form, sometimes on ours. Though lawyers are infinitely creative, typical provisions include:
1. An accurate description of the project, including a timeline, formats, language versions, and an itemized budget.
2. A payment schedule beginning with a down payment on signing of the contract, and often including payments on approval of the final script, completion of original shooting, and approval of final master.
3. The naming of a sole representative of the client who is given total and unquestionable authority to sign off on each stage. Everyone involved in the project should understand that revisions after approval of any stage will cost time and money.
4. Provisions of what to do when additional work is required not budgeted or planned for, what happens if the project is cancelled or delayed, how the contractor is to be reimbursed if payment is delayed beyond 30 days for any stage. Production companies are small businesses and cannot carry the costs of production or withstand long delays in payment.
5. What kind of help, facilities, etc. the client must provide if the project is to proceed efficiently. If the Client fails to provide these, the producer won't be held responsible for delays in production.
6. What kind of insurance is required. Always Liability. Sometimes Errors and Omissions. Rarely completion insurance, which is extremely expensive. (It is usually cheaper to go back and re-shoot if your tape originals are stolen for example.)
7. Who owns the rights to what elements in the program. In Work for Hire, the client owns the graphics, video footage, voice recordings, the script, etc. But often payment of talent (especially union talent) varies for non-broadcast vs. broadcast, or national vs. world rights. If these change later, more $$ may be owed. Often you only buy the right to use music for a program, not own the music to use and sell as you choose forever. Producers provide release forms for all principal talent, creative artists, musicians, and other contributors assuring that the Client has legal permission to release the work.
8. The Producer agrees to produce a videotape adaptation in keeping with the quality of previous work shown. Client agrees that it is satisfied with the professional competence of the Producer.
9. The Producer should have screen credit for the work, and to show the work or include excerpts in sample reels, brochure, or web page for promotional purposes.
10. The Producer is defined as an independent contractor. All contracts and arrangements, including those of employment, shall be made by the Producer as principal and not as agent for the Client.
11. Delays by the producer due to war, fire, embargoes, strikes, laws, lockouts, government orders, industrial actions, illness, accidents, laboratory failures, public disaster, Acts of God, or other cause beyond his control will not make him or her liable.
12. Description of how and where differences will be arbitrated.