Couldn't find any other posts on: how to define the end/completion of the services you were contracted for. Thought it might be a good topic to discuss. However, if there are any good threads already talking about this please post them.

How do you define the completion of your services that you were contracted for? i.e is it more common to state: I will keep on working on the project until the director/producer deems it is finished or I will only do a maximum number of recalls per section/scene???

I understand that this can be seen as quite a wide ranged question where it's almost different in every circumstance but it is important to protect the 'service provider' so that they are not tied into a project because of a extremely pedantic director/producer for a financially harmful amount of time. And like-wise to ensure the director/producer gets a quality service and is happy with the service.

4 Answers 4


Every film project I have ever done is budgeted and scheduled with a clear finish date, and a specific deliveries list. If the schedule changes then the onus is on the producer to pay for extra time eg if an extra day of mix fixes is required they have to approve that extra cost with the mix facility and for each of the freelancers involved. Same goes for overtime, it always has to be peeapproved by producer and/or post supervisor.

I believe in weekly invoicing, one week in arrears, and in 20+ years of work have never had a single problem with payment, because any issue arises and is dealt with immediately. So ie we work week 1, invoice for week 1 on Monday of week 2 and are paid Thursday of week 2. Every week until the project is finished.

The post supervisor provides the list of deliverables, most of which in my case as a freelancer are completed by the mixers/facility.... But for studio films they usually also require copies of all source material, Predub stems and final mix sessions, so time has to be allocated and budgeted to do this work after the final mix is completed.

  • is weekly invoicing an industry standard practice there? we tend to invoices in 3 chunks - 1/3 up front, 1/3 on a midway milestone, 1/3 on delivery of final elements.
    – Rene
    Sep 8, 2012 at 15:23
  • Not sure, but it's definitely the way I prefer as it keeps payments directly tied to the work completed... And all films have accountants used to doing payroll as they have for the shoot,and other post crew
    – user49
    Sep 8, 2012 at 20:39

My personal take on it is that we set out with a turnaround time at the beginning, and we put it in writing as one of the line items within the contract - in some regards its a 'handshake deal' with some clients beyond that in terms of if we have to meet that drop-dead agreed date or if we have some wiggle room but we want to finish around that listed deadline nonetheless.

Planning for accurate turnaround times takes some experience both in time management and having some experience under your belt on similar type shows and also knowing what average industry-wide turnaround times are for those. It also has to take into account budget in my opinion, under the good-fast-cheap-pick-two rule to some degree. Higher budget is likely to have higher priority in my day to day work management, but this also depends upon how quick the client is to turn around materials requests (if they take a while to get back to me about pix updates or dailies or something, for instance, it can slow down the schedule and force me to lower the priority in the meantime).

In my experience, usually contracts for freelance work are simple all-in deals for the show and not day rate, so the budget quote is determined by a lot of factors with the show itself and what it will take to get the job done, both work-wise and crew-wise. This is were some background experience comes in handy too to not sell yourself short but also not gouge the client. A fair rate for them and you. I tend to plan in 'weeks' (such as, a polished dialogue pass averages about 1 reel/wk, sound effects 1-2 reels/wk depending upon how FX heavy, 2 (maybe 3) reels/wk for BGs also depending upon how heavy they are, etc - but these are just what I personally find works for me, everyone's allowances way differ). Taking these numbers into account for my workflow speed, I can calculate from the onset of the show at the time of the contract considerably accurately how long it will take to complete, and that helps us agree upon the delivery deadline and post schedule. or if they already have a deadline in mind, I use these numbers to help figure out where I can strategize the workflow and/or trim things from the budget if needs or hire crew members.

Contractually, I always require a 50% upfront deposit at time of deliverables intake/spotting session. Similar to Shaun, I provide playback and sessions to tweaks as necessary - if I have to work long distance, I send mp3s (sure, not a true 1:1 but close enough but still protects the actual work). Once they approve, either in person or over long distance, and the remainder 50% is paid, the uncompressed BWAV printmasters/stems are released. I allow for 48 hours after approval and delivery for technical fixes free of charge (limited to QC bounces, problematic files, and missing sound elements only if they already exist within the cut tracks, and technical things like that). After that window, anything done creatively or technical is billed per day as overages (or we can form a new contract).

Overall, in my opinion, shooting for a firm, drop-dead deadline is beneficial for both parties. It keeps you on track and it gives them a firm payment deadline which cannot by skirted around.

  • It's interesting how different the same work can be between the two coasts...then again, I'm mostly working on factual television over here. ;) Sep 7, 2012 at 0:12
  • Thanks Stavrossound, that's a really interesting post, it covers a lot of the angles! Sep 14, 2012 at 8:45

When I negotiate freelance projects, I typically give clients a rough mix to review and request changes, plus 1 or 2 rounds of revisions after that to get to final mix. This simply means that this is all that will be completed under the negotiated rate (be that flat project fee or hourly/daily/etc.). Any work or revisions requested beyond that will be done at another rate; either one agreed upon prior to beginning the project (suggested), or to be negotiated after previously mentioned work is completed.

Set some clear expectations as to how much work should go into this in post, and let it be know that you're willing to continue working beyond that should it be required. The point is to make sure that the client understands there is a cost associated with incessant tweaking and projects that never end.

  • Thanks again Shaun, this is what i'd normally do when contracting for the mix of a song in music, just wondered if things were done differently for film as it's a much more intensive job (I find) From what you've explained above this seems as quite a fair way to deal with it! Sep 6, 2012 at 16:53

In comparison to the previous answers, we work on projects with a much shorter turnaround (i.e. 30s adverts, channel rebrands etc.) and so it is much easier to manage timing, mixing and invoicing. Our main challenge is attaining the right style/sound for the client

So with regards to your question of how do you know when the remit of your original engagement is complete, we always try to get the client to commit to references, whether that be a music track, a previous piece of work, a scene from a film or whatever. Not that we are looking to rip off other artists but rather we have something tangible to illustrate a divergence from the original direction. I quite like the metaphor someone once told me; if you fuel up your car and drive 50 miles in the wrong direction, you don't return to the gas station and ask for a refund.

I would say it is normal to have a few rounds of feedback in any project but I guess the issue is at what point are they asking you to do more than they originally requested?

This of course applies to a different style of deliverable than films or TV shows, but might be applicable in some way :)

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