Tag Archives: SAG-AFTRA short film

Shooting a SAG Short: Contractually Speaking, Part II

3 Jul

In my last column, I outlined the steps a producer must follow in order to become a signatory for a SAG-AFTRA short film.  If you’ve received the “Agreement Cleared and Activated” e-mail from SAG-AFTRA, pat yourself on the back!  You have completed the most confusing and laborious part of your contractual obligation!  However, though the hard part is over, there’s still a bit more paperwork remaining.  After receiving your letter of clearance from SAG-AFTRA, your business representative will contact you with a second signatory packet that will include the required production documents.  P

Step 3: Production

While the production packet will initially seem a bit daunting, most of the documents are purely informative or for “in case of….” scenarios.  Included are:

  • Accident Report to fill out in the event of an injury
  • American Humane Society Mailer that must be completed if you employ any animal actors
  • Pension and Health Memorandum (an FYI form, unless you’re paying actors)
  • Studio Map to indicate boundaries of where you can ask actors and crew to drive without reimbursing for travel expenses.  The zone extends 30 miles in each direction from the center, which located at the southeast corner of Beverly Blvd. and La Cienega
  • Production Notices and Resources describe policies on anti-sexual harassment and discrimination, guidelines for employing a minor, safety bulletins, title changes, and requirements for screen credits and placement of the SAG logo

The documents that are required for all producers to fill out within the production process are:

  • Performer Contract – Four original copies.  You must give this to the performer to sign at the end of the first day of filming.  One copy will go to the performer, one copy to the performer’s agent/manager, one to SAG-AFTRA, and one for your records.  You must deliver these contracts to SAG-AFTRA AND the performer’s representative within 4 days of the first day of work!  You may be fined $10/day for any delay to submit the contracts.  Also, keep in mind that the name as Producer/Production Company must match the name that the agreement is filed under!  In my case, it was filed under my name rather than production company, so I filled out “Emily Callaway” under both “By” and “Proudcer”.
  • Performer’s Confirmation of Receipts must be signed by all performers to acknowledge receipt of Performer Contract
  • Production Time Report.  You must have a separate time report for each day of rehearsal and filming, and each actor must fill out the time sheet at end of a day of work.  Keep track of when each actor goes into make-up and when you break for meals.
  1.  MVP – number of Meal Penalty Violations that day.  Remember that you must feed your performers within 6 hours of their call time or else    you will receive a meal penalty violation!  Second meal must occur within 6 hours of performers returning to set after first meal.  Meal penalties are a state law in addition to a SAG-AFTRA law, and as a producer, you will be penalized for not feeding your performers appropriately at a rate of $25/half hour (for short/student/ULB films only – more for features!).  It adds up!  Disgruntled and hungry SAG-AFTRA actors will report you, so stay on top of your time!
  2. Forced Call if you required performers to report back to set less than 12 hours after wrapping.  Forced calls mean that you have to pay your actors their day rate, which for a SAG-AFTRA short would be $100/day, which is the amount you agreed to defer to actors.  FORCED CALLS ARE NOT DEFERRED MONIES, and you will owe each actors $100 immediately.   I didn’t chance it to see if SAG-AFTRA would actually enforce this on a low budget short, and I wouldn’t recommend rolling the dice on this one!  You DON’T want to get on SAG’s bad side!
  3. No. of Outfits Provided indicates the number of outfits the performer wore that day that came from his/her own wardrobe.
  4. Minor Tutoring Time/Stunt Adj.: Fill out as N/A, unless you’ve employed minors/stunt actors.  In those cases, you’re aware of the additional stipulations/requirements of you
  5. Deferred pay under the short film contract only allows for 8 hours of work!  Overtime UNTIL 12 hours can be deferred and added to the $100/day contract, but overtime AFTER the 12th hour will be double the hourly rate and owed to the actor upfront!  Do not go over 12 hours!
  • Final Cast List 

Step 4: Post-Production

Breath a sigh of relief… you’re almost there!  Very little paperwork remains once you’ve reached the Post-Production stage of your film.

  • Make copies of Performer Contracts, Performer Confirmation of Receipts, Time Sheets, and Final Cast List for your records, and submit the originals to the attention of your business representative.  In my case, I was able to do all at one time, as we only shot one weekend.  But, do remember the rule about returning the contracts within 4 days of the first shoot date!
  • If you encounter issues with clarity of dialogue in post-production, you may have to schedule an ADR session.  If ADR is required, you’ll need to fill out the ADR MEMBER REPORT and return it to SAG-AFTRA within 48 hours of your ADR Session.
  • Credits:
  1. You must include the words “”Special Thanks to SAG-AFTRA” in your credits.  Additionally, must include the SAG-AFTRA logo or union bug in the credits.
  2. Note that all credits must be of a readable size and font, and that there are time standards that must be observed as far as the speed of at which the credits can be exhibited.  See Production Notices and Resources from your production packet for a breakdown of the time standards.

That’s it!  You’re done!  While the paperwork can be overwhelming for a first time filmmaker, supporting your fellow union actors and creating your own film at the same time is an incredible accomplishment.  Congratulations!

Shooting a SAG Short: Contractually Speaking, Part I

25 Jun

In this second post in the series, “Shooting a SAG Short,” I’ll approach one of the most arduous tasks for the beginning filmmaker: The Contract.  I’m a proud, card-carrying member of SAG-AFTRA, and thus operating without a union-backed contract was not an option for me.  Other than sifting through the paperwork, there’s really no reason NOT to go SAG-AFTRA when shooting a short film.  Both non-union and union actors may perform under the contract, and you are able to defer payment to your principle performers to keep budgets low.  However, despite the best efforts of the union, the process of becoming SAG-AFTRA can be confusing and overwhelming.  In this blog, I’ll be guiding you through the first steps of pre-production and providing clarification from the filmmaker’s point of view.

Step 1: Become Signatory

You must become Signatory AT LEAST four weeks before your anticipated shoot date, and preferably six weeks or more out from your shoot date to insure the paperwork is completed.  You should allot as much time as possible, as SAG-AFTRA reps are often very busy!  Start the process online here: Sign SAG-AFTRA Online.  You’ll fill out a series of questions about the purpose of your project (i.e. for film school vs. for film festival), the locations, your anticipated run time, budget, and number of shoot days .  Run time/budget will be estimations, and you can approximate the run time with this formula: One Page = One Minute.  The purpose of these questions is to determine if you’re applying for the appropriate contract (i.e. anything over 35 minutes is not considered a short under the SAG Short Agreement).   Fill them out to the best of your ability, and do not let the questions paralyze you!   My original budget breakdown was VERY simplified and was modified as I moved closer to production, and my original Cast List had an actor listed as “TBD.”   THEY DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO KNOW EVERYTHING AT THIS POINT!!!!  After filling out the forms and uploading the required documents (Script/Budget Break-down/Driver’s License/Pre-Production Cast List), your application will be submitted and a SAG-AFTRA representative will be assigned.  You can check the progress of your application by visiting the same link and looking under “Application List.”    

STEP 2: Pre-Production 

Your SAG-AFTRA business representative will contact you by e-mail within several days of your application.  She will alert you if she’s missing any documentation and will provide you with information for the next steps to take.  In my case, I had to revise the Pre-Production Cast List once I completed casting.  She’ll also attach the Adherence Letter Pension and Health Plans and a .ZIP file with the Short Film Agreement, Pre-Production Cast List, and a Producer’s Guide to filling out the paperwork.  The Health Plan is just protocol; while it sounds complicated, there’s nothing technical to be concerned about!  You should be able to download and fill out all of these documents electronically (the forms have been enabled to allow electronic data entry) and e-mail them back to your representative as you complete them.  However, while I had no issues with the Cast List or Health Letter, I did had problems e-signing the Short Film Agreement via Acrobat.  My representative alerted me of the issue and sent me a link to e-sign via the Online Signatory Application, thus I was able to complete the paperwork.  Your representative is there to answer any questions and help guide you through any of these technical issues!

Additionally, you’ll need to print out and hand-sign original copies of the Short Film Agreement and Pre-Production Cast List to either overnight or hand-deliver to the attention of your representative.  Be sure to complete your casting BEFORE filling out the Pre-Production Cast List!  You’ll need to list the name of all actors and either their SAG or last four digits of their Social Security numbers on the List.  All actors (union or non-union) who have headshots, etc, should be considered professional performers and listed on the Cast List.  You’ll receive an e-mail from SAG when your agreement is cleared, and you’re ready to go… into production mode, that is!  Eventually, you’ll also receive the counter signed Short Film Agreement and Pre-Production Cast List in the mail to keep for your records.

A note on Workers Compensation:

My representative alerted me to the state law regarding Workers Compensation.  While not a SAG-AFTRA enforced rule, the state of California requires employers to have Workers Compensation for their employees.  Workers Compensation is very expensive (i.e. usually in the upwards of $1000 for a weekend).   For features and paid projects, workers comp is mandatory and is often provided within the package of a payroll company.  SAG-AFTRA doesn’t enforce mandatory Workers Compensation for shorts where pay is deferred, but be aware that you are legally responsible in the event of an accident.  Many of my filmmaker friends who’ve produced simple, deferred pay short films have opted to pass on Workers Comp with no issues.  However, use your discretion and steer clear of stunts!

This concludes the section on Pre-Production Contracts.  Not too terribly daunting, right?  Next week, I’ll delve into the documents required for actual production!

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