PATRON ONLY EXCLUSIVE #FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Stay in your lane!

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As an artist, I really, really hate the “stay in your own lane” mantra that’s been floating around. I didn’t become an actor (or a writer) to exclusively perform in my wheelhouse. The argument for it is that there are fewer opportunities for <insert minority here> and I understand that. I respect that we want […]
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#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Being TOUGH.

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Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon. R

You have a very straightforward sort of personality. Did you develop a tough love attitude because of the way the industry treats women?

Yes and no. 

If anything, the industry expects women to be MORE patient, so I’m sure that my “tell it like it is”ness is a reaction to that. There’s no meanness involved, I’m not red-faced angry at someone for asking questions, but I see no reason to sugarcoat things.  The film world is a high stress world; there’s no time for that! The lessons I gleaned are to say what you need, ask for what you require, and be clear — works better for a man, admittedly, but if ENOUGH women do it… 

When I answer questions on forums like https://community.stareable.com, I’m answer as though I am speaking with professionals who are requesting assistance — they don’t need their hands held. Why waste everyone’s time? That said, I hope I do so with KINDNESS, because my goal isn’t to make anyone feel bad.

Of course…I think I’ve always been pretty aggressive. I remember at age 8, I turned to a girl in a Saturday rehearsal for a play and blankly told her, “We are not here for friendships. We’re here to …REHEARSE.” because she wanted to talk to me. So to some extent, that’s always been there. If anything, at this point, I think I’ve tamped it DOWN and THAT is entirely because of how the WORLD, not just the industry, treats women.

I can’t tell you quite what personality style works best for you — or for your set because different groups of people will need different things. I do know that I’m not afraid of being direct, but I am also (hopefully) encouraging. Every set is a new learning opportunity for EVERYONE, even the very best of us, and embracing that is important! 

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – What’s Fi-Core?

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Rounding out my union series… Let’s talk fi-core. Financial Core allows employees to work in a union environment without becoming full members. It is a federal law and SAG has to play ball with it. Actors go Fi-Core for a lot of reasons, but the bottom line becomes: they can legally work non-union jobs. They do not have access to voting rights in SAG and they do not get screeners, but everything else still stands. According to SAG, you become a “fee paying non member” but you can still work union jobs. It’s weird. 

SAG obviously has a vested interest in making sure union actors do NOT go Fi-Core and there is a shitload of misinformation out there. So with as little overture as possible, here’s the deal:

Unions depend on their members to strengthen their bargaining position. If EVERYONE refuses to do their homework, can the teacher get mad? – that kind of thought process. If EVERYONE is union, producers HAVE to pay. But obviously not everyone is union, there’s a gatekeeping process, so you get your nonunion actors who then undermine SAG actors by saying: sure, we’ll work for less!

Ideal world, the nonunion actors are green; they’re not union simply because they have not earned their spot yet. Once they can join, they will join, thus strengthening the union’s position further.

But we live in the real world and that’s not how it works. A lot of actors choose to stay nonunion for a long, long time because there are jobs there — and they aren’t green actors anymore. So the union loses some strength. Other actors go fi-core to get more jobs (or whatever). And the union loses more strength. And eventually, the bargaining chip becomes: oh, you want these specific actors? the names, the big stars? okay, deal with the unionand it erodes the union’s middle class.

So, sure, you can go fi-core. It’s a personal choice you CAN make, legally, because the law says you can do it. You can also come back from it (you pay a reentry fee) if you decide you want to be SAG again. Again, that’s the law: they are legally required to permit your reentry. You lose a few “membership” rights, but not the big important stuff. You still get collective bargaining, you still get healthcare if you qualify. 

Sounds kinda sweet, right?

HOWEVER.

If you choose to go fi-core, it does hurt the union and all the actors in it. That’s really the biggest, most tangible drawback. 

So you have to ask yourself: do my needs supersede the needs of the collective? 

Big question.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Union vs Non Union: why?

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This is a big question for indie productions — not just howto go union (which I covered here) but also should wego union.

My answer is yes. Always. For a few reasons:

  • Your talent is stronger
  • You’re protecting your cast by agreeing to adhere to union rules
  • Your production is professional

For short project agreements (new media, short films under a threshold, etc.), you don’t pay SAG anything – you just fill out some (granted, annoying) paperwork and agree to give your actors meals every six hours and other union mandates that really aren’t that hard. You aren’t required to pay your talent either; you can defer their payment — which is a whole other discussion that I will sum up right now: you will get BETTER talent if you are paying them though; please pay your actors. They are oftentimes the first to be asked to work for free and 100% of the time they are making far less than crew members if/when they ARE paid. Pay. Them. 

So for short projects, there’s no reason NOT to; SAG is a headache, we’ve covered that, but a headache that grants you the right to use union talent without asking them to break Global Rule One (union actors CANNOT work on ANY non union project) is insanely important. You can even use nonunion talent on these projects ALONGSIDE your union cast. There is absolutely no drawback. Be professional, cast professionals.

On projects with a bigger budget, I urge you you budget for SAG actors; that means paying their scaled wage, SAG deposits, etc. You have the money. You’re going to spend it. Spend SOME of it on your talent. Yeah, I’m sure those lenses are great, but you know what makes or breaks a lot of movies? Bad acting.

And that’s not to say there aren’t talented non union actors. Of course there are. In general, however, non union actors are typically greener. They’re less experienced and less practiced; your union actor has been on sets before (you have to be, that’s how you get in!) and is ready to work. A non union actor is most likely just starting out; everyone eventually joins SAG-AFTRA, so if you’re non union, you probably just haven’t had the opportunity yet. 

Bottom line though: there’s no reason not to take your short projects union. None at all. 

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday Navigating Your Indie Project Through SAG-AFTRA

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How do you get through SAG red tape? – Ben Roethig

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make posts like these possible. If you’d like to join me on Patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. If you have questions you want to see answered, please consider tossing in a few bucks to the Patreon.

I’m going to answer this both as a tutorial on how to get your film / new media project to be a SAG film and I’m going to answer how to prong SAG into actually finishing your paperwork because they’re two different things.

First of all. GO UNION. Your talent is better, you’re supporting living wages for actors, you’re helping pay into a Pension & Health plan for those actors, you’re promising to adhere to basic safety & wellbeing rights, and most importantly: we do not work without union projects. So support talent and support us by just filing the damn paperwork. Grit your teeth while you do it, SAG’s a whole basket of stupid, but for the small price of your everlasting annoyance, you can have some of the best actors you’ve ever worked with.

(Seriously though: go union. stay union. We can talk all day long about the problems with SAG, of which there are many, but they are what they are so: go union.)

So! Once you’ve decided to make your talent union, that does not mean your crew needs to be union. Crew unions are a whole other beast that operate completely differently and they don’t necessarily have our “Global Rule One”, which states that SAG actors cannot take non-union jobs, so I’m not going to address them. This is just SAG. And honestly, once you SAG successfully everyone else is a piece of damn cake.

The first step in this exciting process is to visit https://www.sagaftra.org/production-center. Do this early. It takes SAG for fucking EVER, so do this at least a month or more before you shoot. SERIOUSLY. DO IT EARLY. DO IT YESTERDYA.

Certain productions can sign online — how easy! — including New Media, which is generally what I’ve used. You can always convert your contract later if you discover that, for example, after filing New Media, you want to play in festivals. SAG now offers a “short project” agreement, which is basically what you want to nab if you’re not sure where your project might live. It is replacing New Media and Short Film agreements 

Generally speaking, you want to file the following ways (as of 2018):

Short Project – something that lives online or a short film. max budget 50k, max run time 40 min. RATES: negotiable (must be min. wage to fulfill state law), can defer, no consent required for distribution, 125/day & 18.5% Pension & Handling due before “subsequent use”. That just means that after you distribute your short project once (say, online), you have to fulfill your base rate of pay before airing it elsewhere (ex: a film festival). If you’re here, this is probably where you will want to file. 

Student Film – accredited university project, less than 35k, run time less than 35min. RATE: 125/day, can defer (up to 12 hrs/day), Pension & Handling (P&H) 18.5% of gross salary. Stunt coord. cannot be deferred.

Ultra Low – Budget under 250k. RATE: 125/day, 1.5x after 8, 2x after 12. 18.5% P&H, clips available to performers at performer cost

Modified Low – Budget under 700k. RATE: 335/day, 1166/week; 1.5 after 8, 2x after 12 for day performers, 1.5x after 10 and 44hrs in a 5 day work week, 1.5x after 48 for weekly performers. 18.5% gross pay P&H, clips.

Low / Theatrical – Budget over 2.5 mil or shooting outside USA. RATE: 630/day, 2190/week. Save overtime as modified low. 18.5% P&H. Clips.

There are also TV contracts that come into play if you have a project living on television, but that’s generally not something an indie producer can do. There are also sound recording contracts, music videos, interactive (video games), educational, and commercials. All these different contracts really have to do with the rate of pay for your actors and their residual schedules. It’s usually pretty clear if you’re shooting a commercial vs a narrative short, but just so you’re clear: branded videos DO COUNT. The second you say “visit XYZ”, that’s an ad. Be careful.

Let’s also talk insurance: SAG will ask for worker’s comp & proof of insurance because those are state law requirements; you’re technically an employer. Also… you don’t want to be sued for an accident on set! Get a quote & send it to them. 

SO! You find your contract (or if you aren’t sure, just do your best and ask your rep, they will help guide you to the right department) and use the SAG website above to find the correct starting place. You’ll initially complete a preliminary sheet for the contract and email it to signyourpicture@sagaftra.org. After that, SAG will send you MORE paperwork to fill out and you’re in God’s hands now. It’s basically just a mountain of paperwork, none of it is hard, you just have to stay very organized. Once you complete their second packet, you

Wait.

wait.

W  a  I t.

And eventually, probably 10 minutes before your shoot, you might hear back. DO NOT WAIT FOR THIS. EMAIL. CALL. Their phone number is all over the paperwork you signed. You HAVE to (politely) stay on top of them. SAG is comedically understaffed and this is your project — GET IT DONE. Here is a fun form letter I send every single project about a week after I send in the paperwork:

Hi! My name is Kate Hackett and I’m the producer on NAME (Project # XYZ if you have it). I haven’t heard back from SAG and we go into production soon; I’d like to make sure we are all squared away — can I confirm that you have our paperwork?

Odds are, no one will answer. So pick up the phone & give them a call. Say the same thing. It will take at least 3 phone calls.

Why is this like this? I could not tell you. Stick with it. 

Once they approve you, you’re all set! Just don’t forget the paperwork (DON’T WORRY THERE IS MORE, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE) on set: you’ll need to sign your cast in & out, give them time sheets, and get usage rights. All normal, easy stuff, honestly, you just have to remember to do it. 

After wrap, email SAG again with that final paperwork and you’re done, the nightmare is over. 

The only logical conclusion is that SAG hates trees and wants you to murder them one signature at a time, but once you’re done, you’re done, and you’ve worked with stellar actors. Congrats!

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Moving to Los Angeles?

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If a person isn’t in LA but wants to get into the film industry, how necessary is LA?— Meg

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make videos like these possible. If you’d like to join me on patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. 

I think being in a hub is important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Los Angeles anymore. There are lots of other cities scattered all over the place with a film industry — Atlanta, New York, Vancouver, Northern Ireland… If there’s a television show filming in the state / city, there is enough of a film industry to dip a toe in. You may eventually move to a major city (including Los Angeles) when the jobs dry up, but you can certainly carve out a good little life for yourself without moving to L.A.

The jobs that kind of require an eventual move to LA, in my opinion, are the more creative jobs. Directing, writing, acting – they hire out of LA and fly you wherever, if they have to. Yes, some acting jobs do cast out of the shooting city, but you’re restricting yourself to costar roles for the most part. I think they’re great to get a start in, but eventually you want to level up and that does mean moving. 

You can also start wherever you are, especially if you’re in a college town and especially if that college town has universities with film/tv departments. Take a class, get involved, hook in with people making stuff; you can create your own or you can work on their sets for a little experience. 

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Filming Stress!

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What’s the best way you have found to handle the stress that pops up while filming? – Jairo

Thank you so much to my supporters at patreon.com/katehackettwho help make videos like these possible. If you’d like to join me on patreon, I’d love to have you: you get BTS, weekly posts about the industry, and way more. 

Let’s talk about stress and filmmaking! Inevitably, even though you’re playing pretend and surrounded by people (some of whom you even like!), you’re going to get stressed out. Of course you are: there’s a lot of money at stake, things go wrong, and no matter how well you plan your production, you’re going to be surprised by SOMETHING.

I personally tend to get more stressed out BEFORE production; that’s when you have eight hundred balls in the air and every one landing in your hand depends on the one before it making it there first. I have a very Irish-person/East Coast mentality when it comes to stress: suck it up, get it done. It’ll only last X weeks, then you’re filming, so just finish what you have on your plate. I highly recommend delegating — ask for help. Get help. Pay for help. The more you try to do everything alone, the worse everything becomes. 

Once you’re on set, things kind of are what they are, and getting upset about stuff tends to help no one. Can you put out the fire? No? Find a way around the fire. Can you get an extra whatever light to do the hickey with the doo dad? Yes? Okay, go get it. Just keep things very matter of fact, straightforward, and simple: is this fixable? Can I work my way around it instead? 

I am also a HUGE fan of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and keep “thought journal” worksheets (linked) for myself to fill out if I ever feel overwhelmed. By the time I work my way through, I feel much, much better. I also turn my brain off — books are generally my go to for that. 

Knowing how to react under stress is a very personal thing; I encourage you to know yourself, find what works, and embrace it. Maybe you need time alone; maybe you love going to a bar with the cast; maybe you need non-industry friends! Find your happy stuff and make sure you always set aside time to DO THAT too.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Would I get Naked for a role?!

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Today we’re talking about something that’s incredibly personal to actors — your comfort zone — and I answer the age ol’ question: would I get naked for a part. How much do you push, where do you go? And I want to say up front that my answer might not be another artist’s answer…

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Is Facebook Killing Comedy?

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Welcome to #FemaleFilmmakerFriday! Today I’m going to talk about how Facebook is killing comedy — this is a big topic and one I may branch into other posts because it does get pretty unwieldy. 

First, check out this link —   splitsider.com/2018/02/how-facebook-is-killing-comedy/

The crux of this argument is basically that Facebook has squeezed out other website distribution for (specifically) comedy videos. Here’s why it’s particularly troublesome for women:

Women aren’t brought in to play with the Hollywood Big Boys, so we elbow our way into the industry by finding backdoors and loopholes. We access the jobs we want via creative avenues, and one of those ways is and has been indie digital series. You saw it with me, it’s actually probably how you FOUND me. This very Patreon is exactly that: it’s a backdoor to help someone without the leg up. 

So it concerns me when those avenues are squeezed out. This isn’t specific to Facebook; YouTube has also become a closed door for indie producers. Amazon just fucked us over. Since the Dawn of Digital Series, indie producers have struggled to find a way to even just break even while getting their work distributed and seen. This is the part of this discussion that is a MASSIVE topic for another time.

Pulling it back to Facebook and comedy specifically…

I think this move (Facebook requiring native videos & not paying the producers of those videos AND requiring you to PAY to get those very videos seen) is a (large) drop in a big bucket. Facebook has a lot of power; if you do well there, it CAN transition you to something bigger. But you can’t do well unless you pay them and it seems to be one of the only options. But. It is not the one single thing that has hurt comedy distribution online because if it were, creators would just go elsewhere. Instead, we’re seeing kind of a perfect storm — YouTube is not a viable option, Amazon is not a viable option, Vimeo isn’t really “sketchy comedy” based & doesn’t have the reach… so where the fuck do we upload? What do we DO with things after we make them?

I put Not a Plan on Funny or Die and it did fine. I didn’t make a dime.

I put it on Amazon, where it did fine and I made a few bucks.

Our goals in indie creation are twofold: first, don’t lose money. Big goal. Second, get this nonsense in front of the right peopleso they can, hopefully, start to become fans of our work. Maybe we get a mentor. Maybe we get a traditional job. But if Facebook is the only avenue for that, and we have to pay in order to promote our content, that just became infinitely harder and though I have no actual evidence for this, I wouldn’t be surprised at ALL if it disproportionately hurts women and minorities. 

Sounds hopeless, I guess, and the question becomes: well, what can I do?

First, just by being here on Patreon you’re helping provide an alternative avenue for creation that actually gives people who aren’t riding along in the current system real capital, so thank you. Second, I think voice this concern — voice it ON Facebook, voice it TO Facebook, but know that it isn’t JUST this one single platform. 

And beyond that? Maybe you guys have some ideas because I am fresh out of ways to fight these giant companies who make money off the sweat & labor of underrepresented talent.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – BUDGETS!

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Alright! Budgets! How does THIS work when we’re talking about filmmaking?

I like to put everything into an enormous, flexible spreadsheet doc. I think it’s really valuable for you guys to be able to actually see what it looks like, so this is a blank version of what I use:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KHFmOiQlQ46lqyyUNy5poNtE84VYJTR-dvRZNHyPa88/edit?usp=sharing

It’s a lot, right? I like the flexibility of a GDoc/Spreadsheet because as things change, and things will change, I can easily make adjustments and return to backers with updated figures. 

The first thing I do is I take a script and start to break it down. For our example here, let’s use The Long Dig. Our initial thought was that we would make this movie in 1 day (ha) for 5,000 (ha!) and with minimal cast/crew (HA!). I budgeted for that, then, as I looked at where our script was going (it kept getting longer) and what our actual workload was going to be, I made a multi-day budget for Tim, our contact at Electric Purple, and said: hey. I think this is a better idea. He agreed.

No way in hell this would take 5k and one day.

But rewind a little bit. 

First, what’s ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’. As you can see on the spreadsheet, above the line includes writers, talent, directors, and producers. Below the line is pretty much everyone & everything else.

Every script is different. Shooting ten 5 minute episodes in my kitchen with minimal/no camera movement is very different from shooting a monster movie. The former, I could break a budget with enough for sound, a DP (maybe), and some food. The latter, we needed to pay people for the time & work they put into things BEFORE production even began.  

Productions usually plan for 3-4 pages per day; more than that starts to get crunchy. Knowing how many days you need severely impacts the budget — every extra day is another X amount of dollars. But you need to know roughly how much money you have in order to figure out how many days you can shoot. Budgeting for films is kind of like having to put the cart before the horse & hoping the horse catches up to it. 

I always fill out an “estimate” and an “actual” spreadsheet, so we can track what went over, what came under, and where we can (or can’t) spend extra dough.

As I go, I fill out costs of things I know — actors are 168/12 hour days. Our writers get 200 bucks for the script. Producers get 400. Stuff like that. Usually these are my paychecks, which I don’t have to really negotiate about. I then start to fill in what we can pay crew members — I start by expecting a higher bid and, of course, try to negotiate them down. Once I match crew to $, I fill out the finalized spreadsheet. At this point, I SHOULD be under budget.

A note about salary — legally speaking, if you are employing people, you do have to pay minimum wage. Whatever that is where you are. SAG sets our actors’ minimums and we can’t pay them less than that — SORT OF. If they are deferred, we can. SAG’s a whole other thing. Other unions probably set wages too, but I haven’t dealt with them. 

Big rule of thumb, always tell people there’s less budget than there is — with salaries, I hate doing this, but with stuff like rentals? your DP will ALWAYS want the biggest best tech… and he probably won’t need it. 

Important line items we all like to forget:

  • Publicity
  • Contingency
  • Festivals

Don’t forget those. 

Finally… ballpark numbers vary way too wildly to ask people for general ideas about how much things cost. Best thing you can do is talk to people you want to hire, get quotes, and budget from there.