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Film Independent Thu 5.29.2014

FIND ANSWERS: A Top Line Producer Tackles Filmmaker FAQs

As a filmmaker, you know when you’ve hit the line producer jackpot: you can rest assured knowing that every “i” will be dotted, every “t” will be crossed. We asked freelance producer/line producer extraordinaire Angela Sostre to address filmmaker FAQs based on her years of experience in the trenches. Sostre has worked on everything from commercials to music videos, PSAs to feature films. Some of the recent films she’s worked on include Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America; Cold Turkey, directed by Will Slocombe; and the upcoming Camp X-Ray, directed by Peter Sattler and starring Kristen Stewart.

What are some of the basic points that need to be covered in a crew deal memo?

When you create a deal memo, you want to make sure to protect both the production company and the employee you would like to hire. For this reason, you want to make your deal memo as detailed as possible. I highly advise you to work with a lawyer to help prepare the document so that you fully cover all the rules and stipulations for your production.

Your deal memo should include basic personal information such as the employee’s name/company name, address, phone number, email, social security and/or federal tax ID number. You want to outline the terms of the work agreement to include the rate and specify if they will be an hourly, daily or a weekly hire. Indicate whether a day is 10 hours or 12 hours. This way, you can determine when overtime will take effect. Make sure to request emergency contact info. You should also note any additional provisions such as kit fee rental, per diem allotment, mileage/car allowance, cell phone reimbursement, number of guarantee work days, etc.

The agreement should clarify if the project is union or non-union. Make sure the employee initials each page of the deal memo as well as the signature page. Also keep a hard copy of the signed deal memo, keep a digital copy and supply your employee with a copy as well.

My heads of department want to bring their own teams, but I would prefer to have them work with crew members of my choosing. What do you recommend I do?

If you know you want to hire your own crew to work with department heads I would highly advise you to let those keys know this up front when you interview/hire them. This could be a deal breaker for some people, so they should be advised in advance before agreeing to take the position. Typically, I would encourage you to allow your department heads to hire their own crew. As long as their crew is willing to work within your budget rates and can meet the needs of the production you will likely get a good team that work well together. If I have some crew that I really want to be on the production and that I have a proven track record with, I’ll normally ask the department heads to at least include them in their interview/selection process, but I don’t insist on them hiring them. Depending on the position, I may ask to meet with the department heads crew choices so I can get a gauge on personalities and skill levels before they officially hire them. You can also ask for references.

Where can I locate qualified crew members? Which positions are essential to hire first?

The best place to find qualified crewmembers is through recommendations or word of mouth. Almost all crew that I hire is either people I have worked with before or people who come through recommendations. Occasionally, I will put up a posting for a crew position through an online resource like Mandy.com. I would also advise you to use resources such as Film Independent who often have lists of contacts to reach out to. Always ask for references and check both their resume and IMDB credits. This will help you determine how much experience they truly have. You not only want to find out about their skill level but also what their personality and work ethic is like. They are equally important. When a producer starts the process of hiring crew they should typically find the following crew positions first: director, line producer/production manager, location manager, director of photography and production designer.

How do you go about anticipating post-production and P&A (print and advertising) costs prior to shooting?

During pre-production I work with the producer to figure out what their end goal is with the film. Some producers will want their films to end up at a film festival and try to find a buyer. Some will seek distribution before going to a festival. Once we determine what route they hope to take, we often seek out postproduction bids for color timing, DI, sound design, etc. This will help us gauge what we need to allot budget-wise to each area. If it’s feasible I highly advise you hire a postproduction supervisor. They are skilled with post budgets, schedules and deliverables and can help you build a realistic budget for post costs and P & A. You can often bring them on for an agreed upon price during prep and they can get bids together for you. They often have great relationship with post vendors and can get you deals within your budget level. When you wrap the film, you can have them continue the process and keep you on track until the film is complete. Likewise, you can also approach a publicist early on to help you get a sense of costs for P&A.

By Lee Jameson / Film Education Coordinator

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