Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SAG: The First Nightmare

Once I had my cast, crew, location, and equipment all set, I got to begin the real fun: dealing with all the legal hurdles between me and making a movie!

More appropriately, these would be labeled "SAG," "Finance," "Publicity," "Contracts..."

The Screen Actors' Guild (SAG for short) is the union that represents actors. If you wish to use a single SAG member in your film (and not have them banned for life from all other union productions), you must make the whole production a union piece. As Schoen and Ben were both members, this was something I'd have to do.

What this means is paying every actor, member or not, as though they were one. As an employee. Through your legally established company with an Employer ID number from the IRS. Through its own bank account. Tied to a payroll company. So after you've spent a week running around to all the banks and payroll companies and filling out the right paperwork, you're rewarded with even larger stacks of paperwork from all of these places.

Welcome to the production office. Make yourself comfy behind the W-2s.

Now, all of the companies you have to work with are fairly efficient. It's annoying that they all want the same information, but at least they only each want it once. Also, most of their stuff is on digital forms, so copy and paste become your best friends.

SAG likes to take this nightmare to a whole new level. They give you copies of scans of faxes that are off center, frequently cut off, and almost wholly illegible, and they explicitly demand that they be filled out BY HAND. I tested the limits on a lot of this by using Photoshop to type stuff in, but creating my own cells and rotating things to fit these horribly set boxes took forever.

Now, a lot of the things they ask you for are good for you to have planned anyway (a specific shooting schedule, what actors you'll use on what days, etc), but in their effort to never cross reference any of your other papers, they require EXTENSIVE amounts of duplicated information on every page.

This is astonishingly good practice for being a producer.

This was only the beginning of the SAG nightmare, though. Stay tuned for the rest of the saga.

No comments:

Post a Comment