Your next production has received the green-light and the crewing up process has begun. But before a single person steps foot on set, it’s crucial to make sure that a crew deal memo has been put in place for each crew member.
The following breaks down what you can expect to see in a crew deal memo, as well as, who typically provides one.
Let’s get into it
Below you’ll find a free deal memo template provided by Wrapbook that you can use either as a sample to compare against other crew deal memos when it comes time to customize your own, or feel free to use this template on future projects.
And while you likely already know what one is, for those that don’t, first things first...
A crew deal memo is a document outlining the terms of a crew member’s employment with a production company to provide clarity of expectations and protections for both the company and employee.
This document typically details the many facets of a crew member’s employment, including their compensation terms, expected availability for the duration of their hire and miscellaneous items like meal schedule and gas reimbursement.
However, a crew deal memo also explains what might be required of a crew member even after their time on set is over, such as retaining confidentiality about the project and allowing their image and name to be used for it.
In this way, a crew deal memo can help to ensure that both the production company and crew member are on the proverbial same page about their collaboration.
Depending on your production, each document will vary but generally speaking the basics are the same. Their purpose is to keep everyone on the same page and to formally lay out expectations before filming begins.
The particulars of what a film crew deal memo template contains can vary from one project to the next, which is why you should never use a contract memo sample without first evaluating the content of it.
In addition, it’s a good idea to have an entertainment attorney review any deal memo template before it is sent out or signed off on.
That being said, below are descriptions of the most common and critical components of a crew deal memo:
A requisite part of any crew deal memo is the section for all pertinent general information: the production company name, project title, start and end dates of employment, crew member name, crew member position title and crew member contact information, including address, phone number, email address and social security number.
A general overview of service requirements should be outlined relatively close to the top of the crew deal memo. You can customize this to be as specific or as general as you'd like.
Though, it's always recommended to consult with a lawyer.
Another must-have for a deal memo template is a section that discusses the details of the crew member’s compensation, including their day rate, the production company’s payment schedule (weekly, monthly, etc.) and any other stipulations that may result in additional compensation, such as overtime and travel days.
Important note: If the production company hires union crew members, it must abide by each individual union’s rules regarding compensation for its members.
Being upfront about how long their employment will last (or won't last) is needed early in the document.
You can customize this section to get as specific or general as possible. But at the very least, outlining the general workweek is important. And if you end up writing a term section that is too general, make sure it's clear enough so they your crew knows when to ask the right questions.
Shoot days typically include meals for the crew, and a crew deal memo should reflect that provision, listing exactly which meals the production will provide.
In addition, depending on whether the project will require a crew member to travel between locations, a per diem for meals may also be included.
Depending on the project, certain crew members such as the cinematographer and/or sound recordist may be asked to use their own equipment for the production. In such cases, a crew deal memo should outline the compensation that the crew member will receive, which is typically referred to as a kit fee.
If a production company decides to rent from an outside business, the crew deal memo may alternately include language that holds the crew member responsible for the safe-keeping of the rentals they use for the duration of the project.
Alternatively, a cinematographer may want to purchase an additional lens for a particular shot for a shoot. Or a sound recordist may decide to buy another lav mic for a certain scene. Depending on how you phrase it, and because these are new purchases, this could fall under expenses that you as a production company can decide whether or not you're responsible for. You might separate these sections on your crew deal memo or you might put it as one section and have other contracts to follow.
Expenses can quickly add up on a project, and production companies are usually on the hook for those purchases. That’s why a deal memo template often includes a clause requiring crew members to receive permission for making a purchase ahead of actually doing so. A crew deal memo can also include language indicating how to invoice for reimbursement for that purchase.
This clause in a deal memo template can read similar to that for equipment usage and rentals. For instance, if a crew member is using their own vehicle for transportation services during a project—much like a PA might be asked to do—a crew deal memo will typically state the terms of gas reimbursement for that usage.
To protect itself, a production company might also stipulate that the crew member is liable for their own transportation during off hours.
If it’s a vehicle provided to the crew member by the production company, the crew deal memo may include language that holds the crew member responsible for the vehicle at any time while it’s in use.
In the case of a crew member having to be put up in a hotel or be flown in from another state, the production company will stipulate how much they will pay for lodging and travel.
Often, the price of the flight, hotel, and taxes are paid for, but all other incidentals come at the expense of the crew member.
The compensation section of a film crew deal memo template might reference what occurs in the event of overtime on a project, implicitly indicating that a crew member is expected to work until the producer or director tells everyone to go home for the day. However, so that both the production company and crew member are on the same page about availability expectations, it’s important to include a section in a crew deal memo that outlines the days and times that the crew member may be required to work.
Include expectations for your crew's hours. It may not always require its own section, but must be somewhere in the crew deal memo.
Probably one of the most important clauses in a crew deal memo is that which outlines the crew member’s termination from a project.
This section can be included within another one, and may not standalone as its own heading, but wherever it is, make sure it’s in there somewhere.
In many cases, this section states that the crew member’s employment is a temporary work-for-hire situation. Moreover, a deal memo template may also detail that the crew member is entitled only to the payment terms detailed in the compensation clause with no additional future payment once employment has ended. Unfortunately, circumstances may arise when a project cannot be completed. Because of this possibility, a crew deal memo should include language that outlines a kill fee for the crew member, which is typically a set monetary figure that would be paid out to the crew member in lieu of any remaining payment should the project get shut down. This, of course, will be specific to your production.
Another unfortunate situation can arise when a crew member acts in an unprofessional manner that necessitates their early termination from a project.
To be clear on the behavior expected from all crew members, a crew deal memo may also outline instances in which the production company is within its right to terminate someone before a project is finished.
Not just cinephiles get upset when spoilers become public knowledge; most production companies want to keep the details of a project under wraps to keep the interest and curiosity for potential viewing audiences high.
That’s why a crew deal memo will generally include a confidentiality clause that requires a crew member to refrain from discussing the project until it is released. However, this clause is not a substitute for an official non-disclosure agreement that a crew member may be asked to sign as well.
On the flip side, it’s often at the sole discretion of a production company to use the name and likeness of anyone involved with its project for publicity and marketing purposes.
For this reason, a deal memo template typically includes a section that explicitly allows the production company to use these assets as it sees fit.
Each crew member is brought onto a project for a specific purpose, but for any number of reasons, a production company may decide not to include someone’s contribution in the finished film, television show or other media.
Perhaps a production company doesn’t use a composer’s score or a graphic designer’s art pieces that were created for the project. For this reason, a deal memo template may have a “no obligation to produce” clause stating that the production company doesn’t have to use what is contributed by the crew member.
Screen credits can be a sensitive subject for many crew members on a project, which is why it’s in the best interest of both the production company and crew member to sort out ahead of time the what and how of that credit.
In a film crew deal memo template, it may state whether the crew member gets their own card, as well as its placement among all the other credits given to those involved in the production.
A crew member may negotiate particular terms and clauses during the drawing up phase of a deal memo template, but once that crew deal memo is made, it typically will include a section stating that the crew member cannot make any additional or future changes to it.
Alternate versions of terms and clauses may be brought up during discussions between a crew member and production company. However, a film crew deal memo template usually includes language stating that what the actual crew deal memo contains overrides any other conversations regarding those terms and clauses.
Putting this in writing in your memo, could be a good idea, but always consult with a lawyer.
No one likes to throw around terms like lawsuit, but should a crew member and production company be engaged in a dispute that requires legal intervention, it’s important that they agree about how to move forward. That is why a deal memo template will usually include an arbitration clause outlining the legal proceedings to be pursued in such cases. If you have a crew deal memo you like, talk to a lawyer to add this section if you think it’s needed.
Though a crew deal memo is generally provided by the production company, it must be signed by an authorized representative of that company. That person is either the producer or unit production manager on the project.
Should an issue arise where the involved parties need to reference the agreement, the last thing you’d want is to misplace it. That’s why whether you are part of the production company or the crew member, you must store a copy of it. That copy can be saved digitally in your Wrapbook account, stored physically in a production office file cabinet, or another secure space.
Wherever you store it, just make sure you can easily access it.
Exceptions do exist where it’s not the production company providing the crew deal memo.
The Directors Guild of America has its own set of contract memo samples and it’s not the only guild to do so. Many entertainment unions and guilds necessitate the use of their own crew deal memos to certify that production companies act in accordance with those guilds’ stipulated employment terms. Simply put, they want to protect their members.
What follows is a list of the most prominent industry guilds that generally require their members to use a crew deal memo issued by said guild:
While likely that a crew member belonging to a union or guild will bring that information to the attention of a production company, it’s still the responsibility of the latter to not only confirm if their crew members are union members but also abide by all rules and regulations that govern the hiring of them.
As a project gets ready to start and the production company begins to crew up, that’s when a crew deal memo will typically be presented to each crew member. As discussed, it’s a document that clarifies what is expected from both parties.
Ensure your crew deal memo states if it is legally binding. While this sounds like a weird ask, in some situations, crew memos can come as a precursor to more formal contracts.
Be sure to include or ask your producer to include a statement that clearly states whether or not the memo is legally binding, or, if it's simply just an expression of non-binding intent.
In some cases, a crew deal memo is a forerunner to the film crew contract template. The memo is a more concise agreement that gives both parties the opportunity to review the terms, and once those terms are signed off on, the production company might enlist the services of an entertainment attorney to draw up the legally binding contract.
It’s important to keep in mind how critical the above clauses are when writing a crew deal memo.
Many of these stipulations might be absent from a document plucked from the internet.
That’s why Wrapbook drafted a comprehensive crew deal memo template—in addition to a host of other agreements —to help make your life as a producer (or crew member) a little easier. This, and more, are all available for complimentary download at our template center.
Additionally, this particular template is available to download as a Word doc, so this way you can customize it as you see fit. You can then store and disseminate it to all of your crew right in Wrapbook. Watch our demo to learn how or reach out to a team member anytime.
Scouting production locations? We’re breaking down 10 states with considerable film tax breaks so you can get the most bang for your budget buck.
Wrapbook's newest resource is our podcast, "On Production," which features experts in the field and tips on how to navigate the production world. Check it out!