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I have found myself in a situation where we are not really working under contracts. I am approached about working on a project, I say sure, and I am handed an OMF. There is email communication, but that is about it.

I just ran in to this project where it was put on hold for budget reasons(they don't have the money to pay me). This put a nice big whole in my schedule where I am not getting paid. I also have had project in the past that run long or want the mix done earlier. All this has made is VERY difficult to keep my schedule full.

So my question is this... Do you guys work under professionally written contracts? and is there a clause for a "50% upfront and n% late cancellation fee?"

Thanks for your help!

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Never work without a contract. Hire an attorney to draft one up for you, it won't cost that much money and you can probably re-word and use the same contract for all of your clients. Consider it a small investment. Without a contract, you have little (or no) legal ground to stand on when something goes wrong.

Be sure your contract explicitly states payment terms, delivery schedules, materials that you require from the client (OMF, etc), specific dates, cancelation terms/fees, etc. The contract needs to state what happens if there is a breech by either party. You should also have language in the contract that states who retains rights to the work you create (99.9% of the time this goes to the client, but it still needs to be stated).

If a project goes past the schedule that is stated in the contract, then a new contract (or addendum) needs to be drawn up. Otherwise, you are no longer contractually obligated to continue work on the project and are free to remove yourself from the project and move on to something else.

  • Thank you so much for your response, Chuck. I am honestly have a much harder time with the business side than the creative/technical side now. There is a definite fear that ALL my work will disappear when I raise my rates/make people sign a contract..etc. Especially after working in such a mad house for so long. – Chris Davis Mar 6 '12 at 0:36
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I have had this happen once in the past. The best advice I can give you is...

A) GET CONTRACTS FOR EVERYTHING. Signed by all parties.

B) If you have completed work for a client and they have not paid you and you know there are budget issues like you mentioned, hold on to the work. Do not give it to them until you are paid in full for the services you provided them. If they want their project and the work they hired you for bad enough, they will get the money. Usually they have the money already and are playing games with you.

Since you have no contract its going to be hard for you to file a claim of any sort, since its just 'he say'. Good luck with everything, I hope it works out and you get paid!

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With film, having a contract is only a description of intent: as with the production crew it will have provisos for schedule delays, which can and do happen, and there is rarely any fees paid for delays. (In the absence of a contract, a deal memo is a good starting point just so that both parties are clear about rates and intended schedule, but as I said delays can and do happen)

In the worst case having a contract is only worth the paper it written on eg if their funding disappears or the project falls over (which is what you are describing) what point is there in litigation? You will likely achieve nothing other than racking up lawyers fees and permanently damaging your relationship with the production company (who are under huge duress even keeping their project afloat). Under those circumstances you can only be supportive and be clear with both yourself and them as to your degree of flexibility and commitment to their project and to other projects. I've seen people be delayed six months or more for a project, and meanwhile they have turned down other work. Only you can know your commitment to any one project.

  • @Tim I agree, it's something I've faced more than once and I fully agree about being supportive and understanding of their situation. As for keeping one's schedule full in light of these situations, I have found that this where calculated risk is very important, and also having a strong network 'support system' so that all the eggs aren't metaphorically in one basket should something like this happen. – Stavrosound Sep 25 '12 at 8:42
  • AS well as also having the foresight, and experiences from previous gigs, to play things forward mentally with different scenarios considered - although I guess this thought falls under calculated risk. – Stavrosound Sep 25 '12 at 8:44
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I have faced similar problem with an animation company, as Benjie Freund said, they play games while they still have money, It took 7 months to get half of my payment & the rest is still pending & i completed the work @ feb 2011 - all this'casue i had no agreement for my work, So never work without an agreement.

Have you read the book by Aaron marks "complete guide to game audio", it has an agreement look-alike & it has been really useful to me.

If you don't have the budget for an attorney to prepare an agreement for you, i can send you the one from the book & you could add or edit this document for your needs.

Hope this is of some help for you, Let me know if you need it:)

Cheers.

  • @Bala this is a prime reason I never release printmasters of the mix-session-approved mix until final payment has cleared. The printmasters are usually our last (and only) respectable bargaining chip. – Stavrosound May 7 '12 at 2:11

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