A film production agreement is an important legal document for writers, directors, producers, and financiers – but what is a film production agreement? We’re going to answer that question by defining the term and its associated contracts. We’re also going to explore some real world examples. By the end, you’ll know why film production agreements are important – and how to use them.

Importance of Film Agreement Contracts

The basis of film production agreements

Long before a film can become a film, it has to be gestated in the mind of its creator. Sometimes, that gestation period takes a lifetime. Other times, it takes no more than a day. But no matter how long it takes, there’s no guarantee ink will ever hit paper. In fact, most film ideas go unrealized.

That’s why it’s a big deal when film production agreements are made. Film production agreements are the first step in making a film idea a reality. So, let’s jump into some more information on film production agreements.


What is a film production agreement?

A film production agreement is a contractual statement between two or more parties agreeing to the payment of film-related work. Film production agreements lay out the finance-structure and general scheduling for productions.

Film Production Services Agreements Explained

Primer on film production contracts

Contracts, contracts, contracts. Oh, how you hold indelible weight! Chances are that if you’re not a lawyer, you’re probably not too familiar with contracts. I can say that because I’m not a lawyer. But I can also say that if you’re interested in working in entertainment, you should study contracts. Why? Because they’re the lifeblood of your bank account. 

This next video breaks down the basics of film production agreements, from rate of pay to front-load/back-load pay.

Film Agreement Contracts  •  How to Create Film Production Contracts by TheBuffNerds

Perhaps it might be helpful to think of film contracts this way: you’re in front of a judge pleading for retribution because your employer refuses to disburse payment. The judge says, “let’s see the contract.” You say you don’t have a contract. The judge says, “you’re out of luck.” 

There’s no doubt about it: it’s a cruel world out there. We may want to trust that others will abide by their word – but the truth is, they often won’t. Moreso, they may want to abide by their word, but they won’t be able to due to financial distress. But if you have a contract, they will be held legally responsible.

Writers, directors, producers, editors, technicians, etc. need to protect themselves from abuse of power. 

Film Production Contract Testimonials

Facets of a film production agreement

There are a lot of different facets of film production agreements; mainly the financing of above the line/below the line personnel, cast, location, and other related production fees.

There is some conjecture as to whether or not “film production agreements” include the associated costs of pre-production and post-production – for the sake of completeness, we’re going to break those costs down too.


Pre-production is where a film/TV show is built.

Development is the stage in pre-production where the basic idea for a film/TV show is expanded into the blueprint for production. Depending on the production, development can cost anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars. Here are some costs associated with development.

Rights Agreements

Rights agreements are agreements between a production company and an entity (living or deceased) over the rights to produce a story. That story may already be written (as a book, play, or screenplay); or merely exist as a real-life event. This next video from entertainment lawyer Larry Zerner explains the process behind acquiring life rights.

Film Agreement Contract  •  Do I Need to Buy Life Right Before Writing a Screenplay by Larry Zerner

If you want to learn more about life rights, check out our article on how to write a biopic screenplay.

Writer’s Agreements

Writer’s agreements are agreements between a production company and a writer for the purpose of producing a story for production. 

Options Agreements

Options agreements are agreements between a production company and a writer for the purpose of having the option to purchase a script in the event of funding. This next video explains optioning in further detail.

Film Production Services Agreement  •  Mark Heidelberger Explains Optioning A Screenplay by Film Courage

Optioning can be a tough business for screenwriters – but it’s a good way for writers to attach their name to a project.


Production is the stage where a project is made (i.e., a film being shot, a game being programmed, etc.). 

Film Production Agreement

Film production agreements are agreements between a production company and a financier over the budget and timeline of a film’s production. 


Post-production is the stage where a project is finalized; i.e., edited, marketed, and distributed.

Editing Agreement

Editing agreements are agreements between a production company and an editor/editing house that outline payment for editing services provided.

Marketing Agreement

Marketing agreements are agreements between a production company and a marketer/marketing agency that outline payment for marketing services provided. This video explains everything there is to know about film marketing.

Film Production Contracts  •  Marketing in Film Production by Crash Course

If a movie studio is big enough, it usually handles its film’s marketing in house. That means including marketing costs as part of the film production contract.

Distribution Agreement

Distribution agreements are agreements between a production company and a distributor that guarantee the rights to distribute works in certain regions/formats.

Up Next

Consider This Before Signing a Contract

If you’re serious about signing a film production contract (or associated pre/post contract), check out our next article where we break down legal language and negotiating tactics. By the end, you’ll know what to look out for and how to maximize your worth with film contracts.

Up Next: Things to Consider Before Signing →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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