12 Jan 2022

5 MORE Questions You Must Ask Your Video Production Partners

We already posted 5 questions to ask your video production partners. We thought of 5 more and these are questions you really need to ask to make sure YOUR areas of liability and exposure are fully covered.

Question 1: What is the file backup plan?

There are two types of production company in the world. Those who have had a catastrophic data failure and those who are going to have a catastrophic data failure. Once you’ve had one (ours was back in 2011, in case you’re wondering and it cost us $10,000 to fix), you make sure you will never have one again.

So ask your production partner when theirs was, and if it hasn’t happened yet, make sure they’re double and triple-backing up all their files, preferably with one of those backups being offsite, so you don’t finish your shoot then lose everything to a hard drive crapping out.

Question 2: What are the on-set safety precautions, including against COVID?

At this writing we’re still reeling from the aftermath of the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, so safety is top of mind. Film sets – even small ones like ours – can be really dangerous places if good, reliable safety processes are not in place.

Add in COVID and you want to make really sure that everyone who steps foot onto your shoot – crew, talent, people from your team – all leave safely at the end of the day.

Question 3: Are you permitting?

If you live in LA you’re used to the sight of streets being closed down and giant HMI lights being flown up in condors while stunt cars race around.

But even if you’re being neither Fast nor Furious, and even if your shoot is small, in many cities across the US you are still technically required to pull a permit.

Can you get away without one if you’re not out on the street, potentially causing any disruption to traffic or passersby? Sure. But as the client, you should understand what the risks are if you get caught without a permit, and what the benefits might be to staying strictly within the law. Have your production partner at least explain the reasons why they recommended permitting or not.

Question 4: Is your music licensed?

There’s a common misconception that if you “buy” a copy of a song from iTunes or Amazon, that you are then free to use the track however you see fit, including as the soundtrack to a video.

In fact any music you “sync to picture” needs to be properly licensed. Luckily there are dozens of amazing licensing websites that make the process of finding good music easy and affordable. Make sure that budget for licensing has been set aside and that you’re on the same page with your production partner.

Question 5: Who owns the footage?

Intellectually, speaking, that is. Who owns the copyright to the artistic work that is created when you shoot and edit your project. The correct answer should be that you own it all, so that you’re completely free to use as you please.

But unless you include a clause in your contract that this is a “work for hire” (N.B. we are not lawyers and this does not constitute legal advice), the copyright belongs to the “author” of the work, i.e. the production company you hired.

Are there any other questions that you have asked your production partner that you think we’ve missed? Let us know – melissa@longhaulfilms.com