Why Filmmakers Need Contracts (Even You!)

Have you ever made any type of video content? Even something as straightforward as a sit down YouTube video? How long did it take you? I bet it took you some time…and effort.

Now imagine if someone took that video you had just edited after hours of work…and deleted it forever!

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have produced video content and then been asked to take it down. 

This has ranged from short films, to music videos to full on TV documentaries. Some have been productions with a budget, others without. 

Either way, it is one of the most infuriating things in the world to spend days, maybe months, sometimes years, pouring your time, energy and sweat into a project, only to be asked to delete it from history after you’ve finished. 


Why did this happen? Well, usually, the people I’d asked to be in the film, who at the time were more than happy to take part, had second thoughts, once it was released. I lost several beautiful pieces of my portfolio due to not taking contracts seriously.


Don’t trust ANYONE you film.


People may love the idea of helping you, but have no concept of what being “on screen” means in reality. They seem to forget that you make films to be watched…by other people.  

I’ve had people asked me to delete videos because they were getting hate, because someone who seemingly had integrity on a programme turned out to have stolen money and they don’t think he/she should feature anymore, because they are embarrassed, because they suddenly don’t like the project anymore…

Sometimes, especially when it’s someone you know, it’s hard to say no. If I believe that a friend is struggling because of my film, of course I don’t want to insist on leaving it online. 


It takes a lot time,  money and energy

to make content

However…there is something that the average person just does not understand about filmmaking. 

It takes a lot time. It takes (often) a lot of money. Or a lot for you. It takes ALL your energy. 

When you are asked to delete or hide a film you’ve created, you are essentially losing part of your portfolio. Its like an artist burning one of their best pieces of art. Every well made video speaks to what you can do. 

All that time and effort you put into your future - GONE. At the whim of someone else’s changeable feelings. They continue, happy, and you…you’ve lost a lot of valuable work.  


So how can you be understanding

and still protect your work?



I don’t know the legal ins and outs of contracts. I do know that they protect both parties. 

Make sure everyone on your production signs a contract, releasing your work to you. 

This means before filming you can ask participants to sign a contract which gives them some time to think more seriously about what they are doing and their willingness to participate. It also shows them that you have thought about their rights, that this is a consideration you made and when they come back to argue about it later, they can’t say they didn’t know about the consequences of them being in your film. 

If nothing else, make sure your contract states that the film footage AND audio you film, may be used by you and shared online, at festivals and anywhere else you decide to use it. If you have behind-the-scenes photos and social media content with your talent or crew in it, put that in the contract too. 

Actors are generally used to being in projects they may not look back on with fondness and I don’t think I’ve ever had an actor come back to me and ask me to take them out of the film or to delete the film. To them, feelings that come after production are irrelevant to their career. They, the valiant heroes they are, storm on to the next film, until they hit the gem they’re looking for. (Still, make them sign a contract. You never know.)  

Non-actors are different. They are not familiar with the industry, they have usually never been in front of a camera and they have no understanding of what happens behind the camera. BE WARY OF THESE PEOPLE! They will ruin your life - at least for a while. 

A simple signed contract can save you so much heartache.  



My name is Jay, I'm a writer and director, currently directing my first feature film, a musical. Watch the behind-the-scenes and making of our film here and subscribe to the channel for weekly updates.