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Old January 15th, 2007, 09:46 PM   #1
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WEDDING CONTRACT, is it too long?

My contract for Wedding video services is 4 pages long, and I go into every detail including sickness, death, fire, etc... parking, creative artistry, food, equipment failure, etc. etc

I don't think I've left anything out, but I feel it might scare off potential buyers?

I have combed through it many times but I feel like I need to cover myself in the event anything were to happen, especially things out of my control!

I'm jsut wondering how long the contracts you are using ended up being, and if you're willing to share some tips.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 05:46 AM   #2
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4 pages is very long in my opinion. You can probably give a more general statement that covers all the little details, without getting so specific. This will allow you to condense the contract while still covering all the contingencies.

Deposit: Deposit is non-refundable.

Liability: “your name” reserves the right to determine a refund amount in the event “your name” is unable to perform set services.

Finished Project: Client understands that the DVD presented is the final finished project.
Technical errors will be fixed free of charge. Creative changes will require an hourly editing fee of $$/hr for re-editing & DVD authoring.

Keep it simple, without any room for misinterpretations.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 08:33 AM   #3
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Well, I took your suggestion, and it's 2 and a half pages now (including a reduced font from 12 to 10)

I just can't remove anything else.... All of my statements are general, then include a "but if"...... It may be wordy, but I feel pretty "protected" when something happens because I cover every little detail.

I still wonder if this might me intimidating to a new client?? I can easily go through the contract with them line-by-line and explain every little detail, but I just don't want to scare anyone off with a 3 page contract
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Old January 16th, 2007, 09:07 AM   #4
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I think you need a different mind-set.

You have identified what you believe is necessary to protect your interests in the event that there is a contractual dispute.

If a potential client is not happy with that, let them go to someone else. Don't weaken your contract just to secure a deal.

Also, make sure your contract provides you with the legal protection you think it does - i.e., pay a couple of $100 for a lawyer to validate it.

Does it cover things like legal costs in the event of a dispute, arbitration etc?

And your contract means nothing if you don't have the financial means to enforce it should something go wrong....(I've learnt that the hard way)
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Old January 16th, 2007, 09:34 AM   #5
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IMHO a thorough contract protects your interests but a FAIR contract protects both your interests. Your clients shouldn't have to hire a lawyer to make sure you don't get all the marbles. Come up a fair contract that protects both you and them.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 09:36 AM   #6
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Gotta agree with John. You need to protect yourself, If you explain to your clients and work with them as far as understanding your contract I don't think you'll lose many clients.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 10:15 AM   #7
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A friend of mine knows a paralegal who will look over the contract for free. I might give that a try.

I've almost covered everything, even stuff you wouldn't normally think of, so maybe it will fly. I hope I can come to an agreement with all of my clients without getting legal personnel involved.... so far I haven't had any issues or disputes come up, but I guess you always need to be prepared for the worst huh

I guess I still feel uncomfortable whipping out a 3 page contract to a potential buyer.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 11:00 AM   #8
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It's now or never

The thing is with a wedding - it's a one time event. Only. Never that moment again. Yes, that's sort of true with movie sets and actors, but the truth is if you really want to shoot a scene again, you can (with CG now this is true even if one of the actors dies - see THE CROW).

But a wedding, that you can't reshoot. Okay Okay, so what? Well if anything goes wrong on your end (a fire, SSE, tape malfunction, theft, act of God, loss of sound, etc.), then you could be really opening the door wide open for damages. Big damages. A crying newly-wed bride is a sight to behold - especially in front of a jury.

That's why you might very well be better protected with a longer contract. The caviat is, of course, that the client will see all that legal language and get shy. A shorter contract is, usually, a more vauge contract. It's that vaugeness that allows lawyers wriggle room to sue. Like some have suggested, once you have a basic contract you're happy with, stick to your guns, or ask for more money if they want a clause or something else struck.

Remember, the law still largely abides by the "four corners" rule - which means the contract is what the contract says it is. Contract law is a different animal from all other types of law because it's the parties that decide what the "rules" of the contract are.

One thing to try to put in the contract is a cap on damages. A judge may not enforce this cap, but then again he might. If you're only getting paid $2 grand, it seems fair to ask for a similiar cap. If you're getting paid $50 grand, then a similar cap may or may not be right.

And there is nothing wrong with putting in clauses protecting you from suit if there is a theft, etc. Remember, these clauses won't prevent a suit from happening, they merely give you defenses for pre-trial motions and at trial.

And yes, do try to keep the contract fair - but remember, you're trying to protect yourself, not them. But highly unfair contracts can be tossed out or modified by the judge if he thinks it's "unconscionable." A crying bride might make this easier for a judge to believe that's happened, so don't have a clause that says no matter what happens you can't be sued - this just won't fly.

And yes, I am an attorney :) Good luck

john
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Old January 16th, 2007, 12:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
...
And yes, do try to keep the contract fair - but remember, you're trying to protect yourself, not them. But highly unfair contracts can be tossed out or modified by the judge if he thinks it's "unconscionable." A crying bride might make this easier for a judge to believe that's happened, so don't have a clause that says no matter what happens you can't be sued - this just won't fly.

And yes, I am an attorney :) Good luck

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Just my 2 cents but I do think it's important for a business person to approach their clients out of a sense of basic fairness and equity. The client shouldn't have to negotiate fair treatment, rather it should be offered as the normal course of doing business. That's why I have to disagree with your statement above. Yes, there's nothing that says you HAVE to protect them but IMHO doing so anyway is just part of the admission price to being one of the good guys. The current absence of that approach is one of the great failings of the business community today. People should not have to be forced to do the right thing.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 12:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Steve House
Just my 2 cents but I do think it's important for a business person to approach their clients out of a sense of basic fairness and equity. The client shouldn't have to negotiate fair treatment, rather it should be offered as the normal course of doing business.
Well sure. That's why when you sign on to do a job, you do it to the best of your abilities. And 99% of the time that will get 'r done, both professionally and ethically. If you don't act this way, you won't stay in business very long.

As to what's fair, that normally means asking the question, "What's being delivered for what price?" This is not brain surgery or buying a house - it's shooting and editing a video tape/DVD. Someone paying $10,000 is going to expect (as would any judge or jury) more than someone paying $1,000.

I don't think he was asking how to rip a client off, but rather how to best protect himself should something go wrong - or, in the alternative, if a client is being totally unreasonable in their demands. What penalties should there be for being late with tape delivery? Or delivering in the wrong format? Or with low sound? What if the newly-weds only pay half or not at all? What if someone at the wedding causes problems (throws up on the equipment)? All these types of thing are better dealt with up front in the contract in my experience.

Remember, the other side is FAR more likely to have unreasonable requests than the shooter - the shooter does it for a living, while most people only get married once or twice. The married couple are also far more emotionally involved in every aspect of the day (with good reason), and this can cloud a person's expectations.

Thar's why, IMHO, you do need to protect yourself. Believe me, I see it all the time in court - two parties battling it out over something neither side thought would be a problem. Neither side is necessarily wrong or right, but rather there's (usually) been some basic misunderstanding as to what's expected.

That's why anyone trading in goods in the U.S. (anything from widgets to giant televisions) is governed by the UCC (uniform commercial code). It's a vast, thick book with all sorts of rules that vex law school students. It exists, not because fraud and bad faith are the rule (generally, they're not), but rather because it is SO easy for one side to misinterpret what's expected.

ALL contracts are voidable by the judge if he thinks that there was fraud or bad faith involved. What I'm discussing is something different - when you try your best and something unexpected happens, or you perform to a degree that you consider excellent, but the the party disagrees. It's unfortunate, but it does happen.

So, it's not so much about doing the right thing - it's more (again assuming the shooter is a pro) about doing the smart thing - and avoiding court is almost always the smart thing to do, for both parties. Peace!
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Old January 16th, 2007, 01:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Vincent
So, it's not so much about doing the right thing - it's more (again assuming the shooter is a pro) about doing the smart thing - and avoiding court is almost always the smart thing to do, for both parties. Peace!
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Indeed.

I'm currently in a horrible situation with a contractor who ripped me off, walked off the job and....<pages and pages of my sordid tale omitted>.

We have a contract with him. Going *into* the job, the contract looked reasonable. Coming out the otherside, it might as well have been written on soiled toilet paper....He even admits to much of the stuff. But he knows he will most likely get away with it.

It means nothing unless we can continue the cost of prosecuting the complaint against him. It is costing us a small fortune just to get to the point of mediation. And none of our legal costs are claimable (unless we can prove fraud). Moreover, even if we win, we stand little chance of actually getting our money. Our only potential saviour is the licensing board for this person. They have "a fund".

So, No, don't try to be nice. Put in place the necessary safeguards in the unlikely event that <insert nightmarish scenarios here>.

Oh - and a paralegal's free eyes aren't the same as an attorney's.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 01:34 PM   #12
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Oh - and a paralegal's free eyes aren't the same as an attorney's.

Preach on brother. For real guys, if you have any doubt, or you do a lot of business, or a few jobs for a lot of money, you might want to drop the $500-$1000 to get an attorney to draw up a contract (or at least draw it up yourself and then have an attorney give his comments).

Just as you wouldn't want an first year med student operating on you, you shouldn't use a non-lawyer (and in fact, it's illegal for non-attorneys to give specific legal advise in most instances), especially if shooting is your bread and butter.

There are countless nightmare stories about contractors - a few of my good friends have gone through something similar to your plight - I am truly sorry for your troubles.

But this does bring up one other point - shooters are independant contractors and unlicenced ones at that. Having a well thought out, professionally drawn up contract can and should give a would-be user of your services some confidence that you're not a fly-by nighter.

In the same regard, there is nothing wrong with requiring some up-front money. This should be easier to get if you have a well thought out, fair contract in hand.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 01:40 PM   #13
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Oh, don't misunderstand me - I don't mean leave yourself out on a limb. Absolutely put in all the necessary safeguards to protect yourself. Just at the same time go ahead and also put in the safeguards that will protect the client in the unlikely event you screw up - IMHO you should give that to the client as a matter of course without him having to ask for it or negotiate for it.
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Old January 16th, 2007, 02:52 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Steve House
Just at the same time go ahead and also put in the safeguards that will protect the client in the unlikely event you screw up - IMHO you should give that to the client as a matter of course without him having to ask for it or negotiate for it.
Absolutely. Again, something like this might actually help land you a client. The ultimate goal is to avoid having to hire a lawyer - sad as that is to me :)

For one thing, it let's them know that you understand the pitfalls of the profession; it let's them know you'll try to safeguard against these potential problems; and that you'll be expecting to pay a certain "fine" if a problem does happen. It does serve both parties.

And yes, if it does wind up in a law suit, it can show a judge what both parties expected to pay/recieve if a problem came up. Good points everyone...
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Old January 16th, 2007, 10:57 PM   #15
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Very good info.... I have never had anything in my contract challenged, but I've only been in the business a little more than a year. I hope to avoid anything like this, but it could happen. I was under the impression a paralegal could help with legal situations, but I guess I was wrong.

I'm going to seriously have a look at getting an attorney to help with my contract. I consider it insurance in a way...

Thanks a lot for all of this info and discussion, it really opened my eyes.
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