JO GODMAN - Managing director, Godman
I have never felt there is any point in having expensive legal contracts
with directors. The hope is that directors are with you because they
want to be; when they don’t want to be then it’s best they’re not. Why
prolong the agony?
There is always a risk that you spend time, effort and money nurturing a
director, then, as soon as they make their name, they leave for what
they perceive as greener pastures. If this does happen, there are
usually grievances on both sides and both welcome the split.
Putting a director on a contract would not eliminate these
The mutual trust between a production company and a director is a
contract in itself and legal paperwork would not strengthen it.
Maybe I have been lucky, but I have never spent time, effort and money
on a director that I feel has been wasted. If the moment comes for a
director to move on, it is often in the best interests of both
I cannot imagine that legally binding a director to stay against his
will to fulfil a contract happens very often, even in the US. All
contracts can be broken - again an expensive procedure that creates
nothing but bad feelings and wealthy lawyers.
EMILY BLISS - Joint managing director, The Brave Film Company
The problem of directors ’jumping ship’ just as their careers take off
is something almost every production company has had to face.
A system sometimes used in the UK is a contract requiring directors to
stay with a company until profit-making jobs cover launch costs
However, this does not take on board the energy, passion and commitment
needed to get a director’s career going - unquantifiable but more
valuable than any financial input.
A standard director’s contract might be useful in deterring ’serial’
movers who believe the next production company will solve all their
career problems. But their problem probably lies with their attitude.
Most production company managing directors will recognise this and will
be wary of taking them on.
Ultimately, however, the UK production industry is all about people and
relationships. Producers take on directors because they believe in their
talent and ability. In turn, directors join us because they believe in
our commitment to this talent and our ability to manage their
I doubt even London’s biggest production companies would want an unhappy
director constrained by the law to stay.
MARK LETHEM - Managing director, The Clinic
The time-honoured arrangement between production companies and the
directors that they choose to represent has always been based on the
principle of mutuality. If a director likes what’s on offer from a
production company, they will join. If, for whatever reason, they then
change their mind, there is nothing that can, or should, keep them from
leaving. Holding a creative person such as a director to a restrictive
contract is not going to make for a fruitful relationship.
The recent departure of one of my newly launched directors proves that
this approach does not come without risk. It takes considerable
investment from the production company to create a ’brand name’ for a
director. Frustratingly, if they choose to leave before the investment
is returned, it is a rival production company that reaps the
The only positive side to this is that one day you might be the lucky
one who gets the established director with the ready-made reel. This may
be a tough system but it is still a preferable agreement to one based on
contracts and potential litigation. I would prefer to represent
directors who are reasonable enough not to take advantage of this
goodwill. Those that choose not to are best shown the door as quickly as
STOR REDMAN - Managing director, Eclipse Productions
Contracts between directors and film companies result in two opposing
forces pulling in opposite directions. Yes, film companies are
businesses run for profit, but their product, the skill of their
directors, is an entirely human one. It is impossible to reduce the
talent of the directors down to a secure contractual term that is more
appropriate for a ’widget’.
A director and a production company have to be able to work together in
what is a notoriously risky business. The bottom line is that if one or
other party wishes to terminate the relationship, it is best done
If we applied a stricter American form of contract, we would be unjustly
tying individuals to companies in which they no longer feel happy. We
all have experience of the legal dross we have to wade through when
dealing with American agencies - such experience is best avoided.
Directors join companies because of the personalities of the producers
and management involved. These individuals often change and it seems
unreasonable to me to tie the director to the company long after the
individuals that attracted them have left.
It is upsetting and costly when a director you have invested in leaves
and joins a rival. But this is a fact of life in the risky world of
production companies - a world we entered knowing the risks.