Commissioning a film

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Hello everyone! I'm the project coordinator for a small WW1 project and as a part of the project we are going to commission a film. I was wondering whether anyone else has any experience of drafting all the necessary agreements and forms with the filmmakers? I'd be very grateful if anyone could share some ideas or samples we would use. 

Thanks in advance! 


View Tatevik Ayvazyan's profile Tatevik Ayvazyan Jun 21 2016 - 1:44pm
  1. Hi Tatevik

    I had to commission a film a while back for work. As this was something I had never experienced before, I was excited but also a little apprehensive. I spoke to a colleague who talked me through the process and who helped me to think about what I wanted from the film.

    I think it is very important to have a  very clear brief and clear aims that can be easily understood. I provided some context for the film; set out the reasons for commissioning the film, and what we hoped would be achieved from the film. I met with the film company and discussed the brief, to check whether we both understood what was required and what would be delivered. I always like to ask lots of questions to check what the process is and what we might need to consider.

    We agreed on the subject matter to be covered in the film, who should be involved in the film and the duration of the film. The Director actually interviewed some of our committee members and trustees  and  I provided a list of the types of questions that should be asked. We agreed on the date for the filming and where this should take place, what we would do if the weather conditions were not good (as part of the filming was outside); and what our respective roles were before, during and after.

    We agreed when the film would be ready for editing. The film was sent to me for comment and for further cutting/amendments.  We agreed that I could do this up to three times before the final version.

    Sound is important.  Committee members and trustees were speaking about their role on the committee but there were also shots of projects that HLF had funded. For these shots we had music and I was very much guided by the film company on what music might be suitable.

    I think I was surprised how complex the process was. For a five minute film, there was a lot of planning and preparation. I think this is the important part.

    Good luck. I really enjoyed the experience. I have included a link to the film below.


  2. View Karen Macaulay's profile Karen Macaulay
    Offline | Last seen: 11 months 1 week ago
  3. Hi Karen

    Many thanks for your reply, it's very helpful to learn from your experience and go through the checklist of the issues you mentioned. Our (short) film seems to be a much more complex process that I could image, with a number of legal and technical issues involved. 

    Did you sign some form of an agreement too when commissioning, covering legal aspects such a copyrights etc or it was all agreed verbally? 

    Many thanks again,


  4. View Tatevik Ayvazyan's profile Tatevik Ayvazyan
    Offline | Last seen: 8 months 3 weeks ago
  5. in reply to

    Hello Tatevik

    The company we used was known to HLF and had worked with us on many occasions. I told them how  I wanted to use the film and wrote this in the brief.




  6. View Karen Macaulay's profile Karen Macaulay
    Offline | Last seen: 11 months 1 week ago
  7. Hi both

    Very interested to read this thread. We come at things from the other angle as we are film-makers. Over the past couple of years we have become very interested in creating films / media  about heritage, specifically aspects of our local heriatge. It has been a great journey having made projects about Hereford's old livestock market:  our local Hereford Cathderal close project. currently we are in the development stage of a project that is exploring a large archive of photographs that we've entitled Herefordshire Life Through a Lens as the archive does indeed show lots of diffferent aspects of social history in the 20th century: and have just delivered a fab one that involved us working with 6th formers. Noddy Holder from Slade got on board to talk about the heritage of Bloxwich. It should be online very soon at:

    Making a film can be a complex procedure and there are different levels of professionalism out there - from one person with a DSLR camera to a large media company. There are a mix of elements you need and skills you must be able to demonstrate: technical, creative, people and logistical. And you need to be able to LISTEN!

    It can be hard to decipher some of technical terms as well and it's also difficult to know if you're money is being well spent. We like to develop an active and creative relationship with whoever we're working with. Twenty years in the business tells us it's a good idea. I've listed a few things below that have helped us work in successful partnerships over the years.

    Communicate - throughout the process keep up communications - don't just expect a magically fab video to arrive - you need input from all stakeholders.

    Budget - you may see something great on the showreel (a selection of 'best bits') but ask how much did it cost? And how does it compare to your project?

    Approval - are you going to get sent scripts, outlines or approval edits? Are you coming to watch the crew actually film?

    Style - Someone that can make great corporate videos may not have such a rapport with your core group, say with school-children or older people. Do check CVs closely and ask what the specific film-maker actually did on that great video (they may have done it all or just made tea for the crew!)

    Technical aspects - if there is something on a showreel or a piece of work that has been done for you, that you don't like be honest - ask the company why they did this.

    Commitment - making good films is hard to do - ask yourself - is the media organisation or individual going to give their all for your project?

    Trust - people can get very anxious and a high degree of trust needs to come into the relationship as you do not know quite how the film with turn out, but the years of experience of the film-makers needs to be valued.

    Legal - all clearances for use of images, archive materials, films, photos, music  and interviews within a film or piece of media is the responsibility of the media company.

    I hope this helps - I really could have gone on and on - but I'm in the middle of getting the Bloxwich heritage films online as we speak!!



  8. View Julia Goldsmith's profile Julia Goldsmith
    Offline | Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
  9. Julia, thank you so much for your detailed response, it's very helpful. your checklist is a very useful framework for creating a brief and an agreement. What sort of arrangement you have for the copyright issues? Does the copyright belong to the organisation commissioning the film or you retain some right as a filmmaker? 

    Thanks again and good luck with you films!  



  10. View Tatevik Ayvazyan's profile Tatevik Ayvazyan
    Offline | Last seen: 8 months 3 weeks ago
  11. in reply to

    Hi- you will need to create any digital outputs such as films in line with HLF policy- they ask for work to be creative commons. It is essential to get this worked out with the film company in advance as within a business transaction usually the film maker would retain copyright. Read the guidance and agree it with your project officer and the film maker/company.

    Good luck- it is fun too and a great way to communicate.


  12. View Julia Goldsmith's profile Julia Goldsmith
    Offline | Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
  13. Many thanks for all the advice Julia, now we've prepared the agreement - I'll keep posted how it's going. Good luck with your projects too!  

  14. View Tatevik Ayvazyan's profile Tatevik Ayvazyan
    Offline | Last seen: 8 months 3 weeks ago
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