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Director Contracts

The director is often one of the first persons engaged on a motion picture, and generally the last person to complete services on a motion picture.  The negotiation of the director’s deal depends on the personality, the status of the director in the entertainment industry, and the budget and nature of the production.  Serious negotiations with the director begin only after the producer has acquired all the necessary rights to produce the picture.  A common condition in a director’s agreement is a requirement that the producer has obtained all the necessary financing for the motion picture project.  Another condition precedent of the director deal may be the requirement that the producer has engaged one or a number of principle cast members, and has approved the final screenplay, the production budget and the production schedule.

The issue of how much time a director will have during pre-production and post- production is generally a subject of negotiation.  Negotiations will include in the director’s contract the specific number of days the director will have to shoot the film.  The negotiations will also include a specific period of time allotted to the director to edit the film and deliver a director’s cut.  Director’s compensation is customarily dependent on the budget and/or the director’s prior quotes.  Most of the directors will ask to have at least consultation and sometimes approval over the location of the editing and post production of the picture.  The producer will also want to have a special clause indicating that the director has approved the budget and will direct the picture and post-produce and edit the picture in accordance with the budget.

On modest budget films, the negotiation will generally focus on the number of weeks that an assistant will be available to the director during the production and post-production.  Most directors’ agreements allow the director to be suspended and/or if applicable, terminated in the event of the director’s incapacity, death, the occurrence of events of force majeure, or any willful or negligent failure or refusal or neglect by the director to report to work and render director services in accordance with the terms of the directing agreement.

Generally, if the director is terminated for any sort of material default or breach, no further sums would be payable to the director.  If the termination is based on an event of force majeure or disability, the director is customarily entitled to receive and retain all compensation which has been due or is accrued prior to the termination.  It is customary for directors to negotiate a clause that provides that so long as the director did not breach the agreement and timely completed and delivered the picture in accordance with the budget and the shooting schedule, s/he would have at least a first negotiation and sometimes the last refusal, to render services as the director of a remake, sequel, prequel or television movie or pilot for a television series based on the picture.  When a director must travel more than fifty miles from principal place of residence to render services, a provision will be included in the director’s contract to provide for first class transportation as well as a first class hotel.  On the other hand, director’s agreements also have restrictions on the director issuing any publicity or statements which are derogatory to the picture.  Furthermore, the director’s agreement will always have a provision which states that the producer will have the right to control any and all publicity relating to the picture other than the director’s incidental reference to the picture.

Director’s agreements generally require the director to submit to a medical exam, so that the director can be insured against losses arising out of his/her incapacity or disability as well as for purposes of obtaining a completion bond.  The director will usually negotiate a provision providing that the director will be entitled to a free copy of the picture on videocassette, laserdisc, videodisc, and DVD when each such device becomes commercially available.  Directors’ agreements also provide that the terms and conditions of the agreement are strictly confidential and will not be quoted to any third party unless required by law.  Director’s agreements are often the most sensitive agreements negotiated on a given motion picture.

Inside Director Contracts