11 Important Questions Every Nonprofit Should Ask Before Signing A Video Contract

Todd Brown, a former MTV producer and a co-founder of the creative agency YOND3R, shares 11 essential questions that all nonprofits should ask and answer before they pay for a marketing video.


Making a short video for your nonprofit can be an exciting experience. It can also be frustrating.

I’ve made dozens of videos for nonprofits, all over the world. And I’ve learned that asking a few key questions, at the onset of your project, is essential for a successful film and a good relationship between you and your chosen filmmaker.

Here are 11 questions your nonprofit should ask and answer before you sign a contract with a filmmaker:

    1. Who, why, and what?

    Who is the target audience of your film? Why are you making the film? And what do you want the audience to feel and know after watching it? Your nonprofit should know the answers to these three questions before you look for a filmmaker.

    2. What is your project timeline?

    It is imperative to have a mutual understanding of the timeline. How long will it take to shoot, edit, and complete revisions? Equally, if there are edits on the script or final cut, it’s important to determine how long the client has to submit them to the filmmaker.

    3. Who is responsible for what?

    Determining who is responsible for what in the filmmaking process is imperative. Of course, it is assumed the filmmakers will be responsible for shooting the video and editing the video. However, who is responsible for choosing the people to interview, for setting up those interviews, for securing locations to shoot? Determining the aforementioned should be a conversation that plays out in meetings prior to signing a contract.

    4. What process will you follow?

    Pre-production, production, post-production—these three phases guide film production, and each phase can include many steps. Agree together on what steps will be included in each phase. For example, will the filmmaker provide a list of interview questions and a shot list prior to production? Will the filmmaker create an editing script prior to the edit? Or will a staff member take on these duties?

    5. Will your film include animated graphics?

    If yes, be sure to consult with the filmmaker on the look and style before any are made to avoid major changes. One of the most expensive parts of making a film could be graphics. So it is important to settle on a look, feel, and style before the contract is signed.

    6. How many revisions will be included in your contract?

    Make sure to agree on the number of revisions and how long the filmmaker has to implement your revisions. Typically, a filmmaker will provide two rounds of revisions in the original budget, and then charge for additional changes.

    7. Who has the copyright to the footage?

    Depending on the project and subject matter, this can be shared by the filmmaker and the nonprofit. Some parts of the footage could be only owned by the nonprofit (if it is sensitive), yet other parts owned by both. This should be determined prior to signing the contract.

    8. How will the footage be delivered?

    After the film is finished, determine how the footage be transferred to you. Usually, there is more than 200 GB of footage, so a hard drive is necessary to store the footage. It important to determine who pays for the hard drive.

    9. Do you want photos in addition to video footage?

    If you would like still photography in addition to the video production, it is important to notify the filmmakers of this before the contract is signed. In some circumstances, the filmmakers can provide a few shots free of charge. If you need more than a few shots, most filmmakers will charge more.

    10. What video specifications should the filmmaker follow?

    NTSC or PAL? Full 1080P HD or 4k? It is important to determine what the video will be shot in. If you are in the United States, you will shoot in NTSC. If in Europe, Asia, or most of the world, it will be PAL. But what if you are shooting in Cambodia, but showing it in the United States? Work with the filmmaker to determine the format best for you. Likewise, decide if it will be 4k or 1080P. A full HD video (1080P) is industry standard and should be enough.

    11. Who is your protagonist, and why should viewers empathize?

    This is single most important question to tackle. Understanding how humans react to storytelling is critical to creating an emotional impact that will spur empathy and action. Generally, audiences are much more affected by a story told through the eyes of one individual, than we are by broad statistics and surveys of global crisis. Try to simplify the concepts and number of people introduced in your video as much as possible and tell your story through the eyes of one protagonist, or a few if necessary.

There is no single formula for making a successful marketing video for your nonprofit. But if you ask and answer these 11 questions, you’ll be off to a great start.

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