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Considerations for a low budget short?

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Jeffrey BurasConsiderations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 19, 2008 at 3:08:35 am

I'm looking into producing a low/no budget short. By this, I mean that the cast, crew, equipment, and locations will all be pro-bono. What considerations should I have for this kind of project? My first thought is insurance, because I would hate to have someone get hurt or something break and not be able to cover it. What else am I going to need?


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walter biscardiRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 19, 2008 at 3:17:59 am

Good food. If you feed everyone well, they will be happy and a happy crew does a good job.

I speak from experience. We did a very hard three day shoot for our independent short two years ago with the entire cast and crew pro-bono (12 people). In lieu of pay, I had breakfast, lunch and dinner catered by a friend. We purchased all the food at Costco and she took care of the prep, setup and teardown of the meals, again pro-bono.

We had salads, sandwiches, hot items, etc... I think the food ran me about $1,000 but it was money well spent.

If you can't pay them, feed them, and more than just donuts and coffee.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

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Gav BottRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 1:35:59 am

Walter has it right (as usual).

The power of good catering can't be overestimated - it's crucial on pro work, and even more important for freebies.

The Brit in Brisbane
The Pomme in Production - Brisbane Australia.


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Steve WargoRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 3:01:15 am

Will Work for Food - But don't tell anybody

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

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Christopher WrightRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 4:00:12 am

Make sure you make VERY CLEAR who actually owns the project when it is finished, in case it ever goes anywhere. Also MAKE SURE you have contracts for any SAG actors BEFORE YOU EVEN SET ONE FOOT ON THE SHOOTING LOCATION. I have been burned by both issues on two separate projects. Everyone is very amenable to almost everything in the beginning, but you don't know what havoc certain individuals can wreak until you have the final project in the can!

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Jeffrey BurasRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 4:05:31 am

These are my main concerns. I'm comfortable with my ability to coordinate and keep people happy, but I know nothing what kind of legal/tax issues I'll encounter.

What can I do to make sure everyone knows what is expected and how can I protect myself? Release forms? Contracts? Are there any examples I can follow?



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Christopher WrightRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 4:54:54 am

I don't know how heavily involved you are on this project, but you need to address your concerns (and expectations!) going in. If any SAG actors are going to be used, there are various SAG contracts for indie and low budget features that you can use, but you need to start the paperwork and approval process at least a month before you start shooting. (We still can't screen a very good short film I shot and edited, because the "producer" didn't get the SAG clearances ahead of time). Usually SAG is very helpful if you give them enough time to look at your project. You will have to submit a script to them before they will approve their members working on anything. You of course need release forms from everyone else, and even need to think about how people want to be listed in the credits. This step can also open up what people think their contribution really is to your project. I actually contributed around 60K to one project in HD equipment, crew support, posting hours, acted as director, d.p., location wrangler, set designer, etc., and an acting coach, who contributed nothing but pain, angst, bad "instruction" for the actors and complete obstruction on the set, wanted to be listed as producer and director! You have to watch those old theater majors. Anyway, make sure you understand what you are getting into before you leap. It is a LOT of free work, equipment mangling and time to throw away otherwise. When and if you decide to commit yourself, then jump in and create magic!!

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Todd TerryRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 1:29:51 pm

[Christopher Wright] "SAG...you will have to submit a script to them before they will approve their members working on anything."

Huh??? Is that right? I've never ever once submitted a script to SAG, and never had them request one. I'm not saying Christopher is wrong, just saying that's never happened to me.

Degree of helpfulness also depends on which local office you are dealing with. I'm afraid that in general I have not found them nearly as helpful as Christopher. NY and LA, they semi have their act together. Other locals (Nashville, Atlanta, etc.) are much more haphazard and you usually end up talking to five people before you finally get one who sorta knows what you are talking about, and then still isn't very helpful. Sorry to be on a bit of a soapbox, but personally I'm a bit of a non-fan of SAG... they should try to make it easy to hire their members, but most of the time they just make it harder. And I speak from experience on both sides of the table, not just as a producer... I'm a SAG member myself.


[Christopher Wright] "We still can't screen a very good short film I shot and edited, because the "producer" didn't get the SAG clearances ahead of time"

I don't quite understand that either. Even though they'd like to think that they do, SAG has no authority over producers. Only actors. If a producer wants to hire a SAG actor but is only going to pay him in paperclips and a pat on the back, if the actor accepts that deal the producer is in the clear. SAG won't be happy about it, but there's nothing they can do to you. There's no SAG Jail for them to put you in. Now, they might make the red tape mountain higher on the next project... but that's one of the reasons that most production companies make one film only (and re-form a "new company" for the next one, and next one, etc.).


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Christopher WrightRe: Considerations for a low budget short?
by on Aug 20, 2008 at 8:49:41 pm

Even though they'd like to think that they do, SAG has no authority over producers. Only actors.

That is my point exactly. The producer can show the film anywhere he/she wants. The problem is that the SAG members can lose their membership and/or get fined if they don't get SAG approval for the project they are acting in. For some non-active SAG members like yourself, this may pose no problem. And yes to get a SAG okay for a student, indie or low budget feature, you have to send in the script; it's right in the contract.

I also prefer not dealing with SAG actors in these low budget productions for exactly the reasons you mention. It is a major pain going through the process with them. But then again if you actually want the film to be seen by anyone besides your family, the cast and the crew, it is often wise to at least have one well-known entity to draw some outside interest in your film. I have also found out the hard way, that most of the SAG talent I have used really do know how to act, can hit their marks, and can take direction much more readily than newbies on a set.

And yes the New Mexico SAG representative (out of the main Denver office)actually has been quite helpful for indie, low budget, and student film projects here in NM, even giving free seminars for producers and actors on how to streamline the application process.
NM is really active in attracting all levels of film productions here, and the process really seems to be paying off.

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