Producer’s Corner: Respect, Praise and Payment for Crew & Talent

Producers – you are responsible for all the action or lack of action that goes on your self with pre, mid, and post production.  You are the rudder of a ship and you have the choice to take your project out to sea or run it into the rocks. It is you that is the business person, not Dad or Mom of a crew. Your crew are people you hired as a contracted filmmaker to get a project completed in some cases, you bond with many and return over and over which is a nice compliment by the way.

Like in my last blog on describing what a Producer is – not everyone is cut out to be one. You can’t be a land-shark in this industry either. If you’re out to make the big bucks on your own project but pay your crew with dog stool dollars, you’re hurting yourself in the long run – remember?  You are responsible for all the action, feeling, thoughts and energy that goes on with the production.  Here – read what a Producer does just in case you don’t know or need a refresher course.  Producer’s Corner: What is a Movie Producer.  Make sure you’re seeking to be a Producer for the right reasons.

Below are some topics that I borrowed from a previous blog I wrote last year that always seem to be an issue with the film industry.

DISCLAIMER:  When I write blogs, they also teach me a lot of things.  So when it seems I’m pointing fingers at people, I am a firm believer in looking in a mirror.   So my blogs also teach me things to better myself as a human being above all, to keep me from being an egotistical narcissistic nightmare, a better fillm maker, friend and colleague.

Crew Titles
Give credit where it’s due and don’t take advantage of people who may have more knowledge but are hired for something lower – like someone is normally a Producer but volunteered or paid to be a Script Supervisor and you start picking their brain for information. That’s not what you hired them for and it’s not cool. Crew – protect yourselves with contracts. A Director is a Director – not a PA. An AC is not a PA. A PA is not a 2nd AC. If they have to switch gears on set, be sure to give them full credit for what they did. I don’t care if it’s an independent film – there are plenty of people out there who are willing to help out for experience so hire them – stop with the ‘tight ass’ crew syndrome.  Know the difference between a UPM (Unit Production Manager) and an LP (Line Producer).  That’s research for you.

Crew Praise
You didn’t make that film. Your crew and cast did – this is the biggest pet peeve I have experienced and won’t ever tolerate this self-glory crap again. This is why I set the standard of everyone seeing on movie fan pages that I’m the Producer on to see ALL crew/cast members.  Yes, it’s the Director’s vision but without crew/cast – wouldn’t have happened.

Crew Respect
“I’m working as hard as I’m getting paid” said a DP once on set as he was receiving no pay but being ordered around to hurry and such by the AD/Director. At the time, it might seem disrespectful, but a couple years later, I clearly understand why the DP made that comment.  We could pick this apart by saying that the DP should be working hard no matter if it’s volunteer or paid but there is a different attitude when you’re paid. Now, if the DP was working for close colleagues, I’m sure he would have done everything possible to bust his hump, but was he out of line as he uses a $2,500 camera outside when the production has no equipment insurance to protect the gear? I don’t think so.

However, there comes the factor that we are all our own contracted business and how hard we work reflects on who we are. Personally, I give 100% to any gig – paid or non-paid because it’s just right to do so for the best interest of yourself and of the film. What if due to your slacking off on a non-paid gig that YOU volunteered for caused the film to look like crap and what if the whole crew had the same attitude? Nothing would get done.  What would have been better for the DP above is to pull the AD, Director and Producer to the side and gave a piece of his mind for some resolution about the lack of planning.

I will point out that if you’re volunteering on a flaming ship that is sinking due to the Producer/Directors on board, there is nothing, not one thing you can do – it’s your choice to jump ship or keep going if you really need something on your reel.  If you stay, just do the best you can at your job – you owe it to yourself.

Paid gigs are the priority – absolutely! I am a firm believer of paid gigs and family is a priority over a pro bono gig.

Payment – Contracts
It’s one thing to do a pro bono gig for close colleagues and another thing to do something for experience, but when a production company has full intentions of sending their movie to a film festival in hopes for it to be bought and made into a feature film or have full intentions of the movie going into distribution – crew, protect YOURSELF. Make sure that the contract you sign has the language of at least deferred payment with a base pay and a percentage depending on your position. Cast – this goes for you too.

Payment – DVD
This is the biggest complaint I receive on the Seattle Area Filmmakers emails or hear from colleagues. Why is it so hard for productions to just squeeze out a copy of the DVD for their crew/cast who have worked so hard to make ‘their’ dreams come true? Shelved or not, give your cast/crew a copy of the movie they worked on and save your reputation. Give them something so they can use it for their demo reel – you OWE it to them no matter what.  Otherwise, don’t be so shocked when they won’t return or others won’t work with you.  Word does get around fast – no matter how good of an excuse you create.

Payment – IMDB
Please don’t promise this unless you have full intentions of going to film festivals or DVD distribution. Oh and by the way – that’s IF a festival considers the film to get an IMDB credit – must be submitted AND considered in order for them to validate your work. It’s a really lame excuse for payment as well and I would never offer it as a serious form of compensation. It just shows a filmmaker clearly know nothing about how the industry works and screams amateur.

Payment – Experience
Just because they work on your production, does not mean they get treated like the new kid to haze or make them bust their hump harder. There are a lot of people who would like to work in film – give them a chance to fill in a position. Don’t forget about interns from colleges. Treat them good!

Payment – Volunteer or Intern
Let’s look at it this way, you apply to a job at Microsoft or Boeing an they ask you one of two things: 1. What is the lowest pay you will accept or 2. Can you work pro bono for this job. Huh? You mean they don’t do that? Oh that’s right they don’t because as a legal/licensed business within the State of Washington, they follow the legal guidelines for hiring people.

What’s the legal guidelines you ask – here it is:
WA State:
See (d) for volunteerism. If they are working for IMDB credits and a DVD – you might want to give it to them. But we should all take a look at the few lines before (e) – for profit. This is an eye opener for us all.

http://www.lni.wa.gov/workplacerights/files/policies/esa1.pdf

http://www.lni.wa.gov

I talked with the Labor and Industries to make sure of what I read and what I posted above IS correct information. If a filmmaker is seeking to profit from the film (distribution), then people can’t volunteer. They suggested that a filmmaker (with a business license) pay something to their volunteers and also with their Industrial Insurance to get Volunteer coverage as well to protect their business because volunteers have grounds for small claim suits and file worker right claims.

Payment – Food
Some people got PB&J food for lunch and most people are pretty cool with this if they know ahead of time. There’s also a problem with this that many of you didn’t see already.  It’s legally in your best interest to ASK your crew about dietary restrictions (not requests).  If someone has a peanut allergy, someone is Jewish and you serve pork, someone is gluten free, someone has seed restrictions, etc – you have to be aware of these things as a someone in the production team.

Burning Bridges
Burning bridges in this town, in this town…..please. Listen, no one is big enough to screw your career up. The only person who can screw up your career is you. You can do that by how you treat people. First of all, no one is on the level of Mr. Lucas or Spielberg and even then, they are not jerks about their status either.

If people turn their back on you because you can’t work on their production for some reason various reason – you don’t need to have those people in your database.

If they don’t like you because you don’t booze it up and take a line with them – you’re not screwing up or burning bridges, you’re looking out for your career.

If you did any of the above things like not paying crew when it was a paid gig, not giving their DVD (raw or completed), lie, cheat, steal, or not giving their credit where due – expect a cold shoulder and no referral with good reason. Don’t expect those crew people to be pleased to see you.  That’s a legitimate reason that you burned your own bridge.

There are people who have bailed on me over and over but their reasons were legit – I don’t shun them for it. Who am I? Just a filmmaker in an area trying to get my work out. No one controls any area – no one is the boss of film in any city.

I don’t see Mr. Spielberg acting like a 15 year old kid claiming to be the King of Hollywood. It doesn’t matter if you’re broke or wealthy trying to do film – do it! No one owns you, no one controls you and this is a free country with a lot of filmmakers. Just always remember, treat your crew/cast with respect.

Be upfront with your crew/talent. Most people are pretty understanding about things but hate being lied to.  Do the right thing in the first place and it will help you in the long run.

Things need to change.  They need to change fast.  We are a city that is trying to look as professional as Hollywood, Atlanta, New York City or Vancouver BC – so, start acting like it.

Cheers!

Send hate mail to:  officialginalockhart@gmail.com  Yep – have a chat with me through email or call me if you don’t like what I said above.  I’m not an expert but I’m doing my best to learn as I go.

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