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Defining the Deal Memo

International Distribution
What is "international distribution with financials"? I'm unfamiliar with these terms and I'm try to do some research into distribution deals. I would appreciate an answer you can give me.

Preselling Distribution
I was thinking of including it [Australian Distribution rights] as part of the compensation package to a potential DP, who is too expensive for me to hire at full rate but (since he is Australian) he might see the Australian rights as something of real value. My concern is that I don't know how the foreign sales world works and, if I end up with a good but marginal product, will I have shot myself in the foot by having given away a valuable English-speaking market and make my film an unwanted commodity. (I realize that if I manage to produce Pulp Fiction it won't matter -- and if my movie is awful it won't matter -- but I'm betting on a more mixed outcome).

Handshake Legally Binding
I'm getting ready to edit an independent feature and I have just found an editor that is willing to do the work for next to nothing. The problem is that I'm getting some interest from some independent distributors and I'm not so sure I want to go with this editor anymore. If I shook hands on the deal am I obligated to honor it?

Top Sheet Budget
Do you know the difference between a top sheet budget and a full budget?

Product Fee
Could you give me an idea of what to charge sponsors for product placement? How is the cost determined? Should filmmakers guage it by how many seconds the product is in view; how close the shot is; whether the lead character uses the product throughout the film, ie. brand-name clothing, and cheaper rates for minor characters being connected to product?

Is there some sort of advertising industry standard or guideline for product placement in films, or is it all negotiated between the producer and each individual sponsor? Thank you.

Contributed by Glen Berry

What is a Deal Memo and why do I need cast and crew to sign it?

A Deal Memo is a film industry term for a contract signed between the production and the employee of the production, usually cast and crew.

Like all contracts, the Deal Memo must contain the names of the parties involved, what each must do to execute, or fulfill the contract and a term, or length of time, for which the contract covers.

Typically, a deal memo would include a few key elements like a Work-For-Hire clause, credits and publicity. The Work-For-Hire is the most important. This clause transfers all ownership of the employees creative work on the film to the production and severs the production's obligation to pay royalties.

The Deal Memo will also include what credit the employee will receive and the placement in the film. This is an important stipulation, especially if used for Guild or Union membership.

The publicity clause usually prohibits the signer from disseminating information about the production without permission. It will also grant the production permission to use their name in the promotion of the film.

The producer needs everyone to sign this contract. If you do not, you will not be able to prove to a distributor that you own all the intellectual property contained in the film and you are leaving yourself open to legal action. You are also exposing yourself to anyone who has not signed a contract to use that as a bargaining chip to get more money out of you than you agreed. If you do not include the publicity clause, a crew member could post sneak peeks at your production all over the Internet and ruin the buzz about your film.

Get them to sign it!

Berry started his career as an editor and post production supervisor, having worked on documentaries for PBS and The Discovery Channel. Berry’s award-winning short fiction, documentary and experimental films have screened at festivals around the world. His first feature film secured a rare worldwide distribution deal and received a limited theatrical release.

The publisher of Film Underground and founder of Northwest Film School, Berry has taught production at Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College. Berry was awarded a Master of Arts in Production and Direction from the National University of Ireland and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Theatre Arts from Montana State University.

Berry’s academic work has been published in scholarly journals as well as trade publications such as MovieMaker Magazine, and as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Filmmaking. He is the publisher of Film Underground and has served as an expert source for international newspaper and radio media outlets. Berry twice served as the Director of the Northwest Projections Film Festival and as a panel judge on numerous festivals and competitions.

Glen Berry is the Director of the Northwest Film School where he teaches directing, producing and editing. He has specialized in creative editing and post production techniques with independent film. His interests include the cognitive functions of the mind as it applies to motion picture editing as well as new forms of communications in the visual arts.

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