Henry Ford once said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success". This is true of any relationship including a co-production relationship.
Working with another party can bring with it many advantages, such as sharing risk, dividing resources, and increased opportunity. However, the enthusiasm shared at the conception of a production can soon be dampened if, later down the line, one or both parties' expectations are not met.
Therefore, it is important work together from the start and to document clearly how the co-production relationship will work.
So what are some of the key issues for consideration and documentation?
- Have you looked into the other co-producer and their background? Are you satisfied that they are the right co-producer for you and your organisation?
- Is there a natural division of responsibilities between the parties? If so, what will each party be responsible for and when? If not, agreement should be reached between the parties, for example, who will be in charge of marketing and promotion and who will choose the cast and creative team.
- How will the production be managed and who will have the deciding vote? Productions often have strict timelines to adhere to, so what happens if the parties reach an impasse on an issue? One way to address this is to give one party the deciding vote on key issues. This gives one party a significant amount of control over the other and so it usually rests with the producer that conceived the idea, or in some circumstances, it may rest with the party that has made the greatest contribution to the budget.
- What is the budget for production and where is the finance coming from? What happens if the production goes over budget? What should be paid to financiers, the co-producers and third parties before any profit share is payable?
- For the purposes of any applicable Theatre Tax Relief/Credit, has consideration been given to which party is the "Theatre Production Company" (TPC)? There can only be one TPC and this should be clarified in the agreement so that claims can be properly made and accounting maintained on the basis of the right entity making the claim notwithstanding the ultimate benefits of any credit may not simply flow to one party.
- What happens if one or both parties want to bring the production or the co-production relationship to a close? Should there be penalties payable in the event of early closure? If one party wishes to continue to produce on their own, what do they need in order to allow them to do this?
As with all business relationships, there are many complex facets to a co-production relationship, but that should not put parties off co-production. Co-producers should discuss, agree and document the issues highlighted above at the outset in order to minimise the chances of either of them being upstaged.