There are a couple of reasons why filmmakers create short films. To gain experience with filmmaking or because the filmmaker doesn’t have the budget to make a longer film. I can explain the first reason better by analogy.
A Chef right out of culinary school isn’t going to land a job at a top restaurant, like “Cut by Wolfgang Puck” (one of the elite restaurants in LA). It takes time and a lot of trial and error to gain the experience necessary to compete with top Chefs. The same rationale applies to filmmakers.
A new filmmaker fresh out of film school isn’t going to have the experience to make a blockbuster motion picture as his or her first project (no offense…but I use to teach at New York Film Academy so I believe that I have the right to give my opinion here).
Most filmmakers start by producing a short film so that he or she can try different techniques, learn the process, and experiment with all those creative ideas.
Basically, hone their craft by gaining experience. The second scenario (lack of budget) can affect various levels of filmmakers.
A short film is a way to create a visual that is more elaborate than a trailer and showcases the filmmakers abilities so that he or she can possibly attract the funding to do a longer version of the film.
You will find short films that are derived from both scenarios at film festivals across the world. In fact, my firm is sponsoring one this week on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts called Northampton International Film Festival.
If you happen to be in the area (its about 2 hours north of New York City), come check us out! There are always excellent short films and those that leave you scratching your head wondering what you just watched.
In this post I will give filmmakers a brief overview of the SAG-AFTRA Short Film Signatory Agreement, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
This allows you and your production to use professional SAG-AFTRA actors without all the regular restrictions that are more designed for big budget productions. It is intended for workshop/training settings and film festival exhibition.
What types of films are covered under the SAG-AFTRA Short Film Agreement?
The Short film Agreement covers:
- Films produced to show before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science for a possible Award consideration
- Films displayed to non-paying, non public, established entertainment industry members to showcase his/her talent
- Short Film for limited distribution on public access television.
Short Films are required to have:
- a maximum total budget of $50,000
- a maximum running time of 35 minutes
- a maximum shooting schedule of 30 days of principal photography. This does not include retakes, added scenes and looping, and
- the film must be shot entirely in the United States.
Here is infographic to help you quickly digest what the SAG covers and what your short film is required to have.
Quick Guide: Tips; SAG Short Film Agreements and Requirements Info-Graphic
What types of films are excluded under the SAG-AFTRA Short Film Agreement?
Here is a list of projects that are excluded under the Short Film Agreement. Please note that SAG-AFTRA has discretion to exclude any projects that, for any reason, does not meet it definition of acceptable projects.
- Any project not mentioned above.
- Any project intended for exhibition, sale, release, distribution or other public display in theatrical motion houses, free television, basic cable, pay cable , videocassettes or discs, holography, internet, interactive media of any type, or in educational or industrial markets.
- Any exhibition into new or emerging technologies such as portable media players, sell phones, ringtones (this criteria is obviously changing ongoing)
- Any trailer or demo produced for the purpose of fund-raising
- Animated projects and music videos
What you’ll need to complete your SAG-AFTRA Short Film Agreement?
You will need to have the following documents before beginning the process:
- A copy of the final script. Unfortunately, a treatment will not suffice.
- A detailed budget listing all deferred and current expenses necessary to produce your Short Film. This is required to be more than a cover sheet.
- Shooting schedule
- A Preliminary Information Sheet
- A list of all professional performers to be employed in the Short Film
Preliminary Information Sheet:
Here is the information that you will need to complete the entire form.
- Start date
- Estimated wrap date
- Intended number of actual shooting days
- Medium to used
- Current expenses
- Crew salary deferrals
- Above the line (other than performers) deferrals
- Equipment, stock and processing deferrals
- Total budget
- Sources of financing
- Intended distribution
Below are things to keep in mind about the Short Film Agreement
- The Short Film Agreement must be submitted to you nearest SAG office one month before that date you intend to start working with the professional performers.
- A SAG-AFTRA representative will need to review a copy of your script, shooting schedule, and budget. After this is completed the SAG AFTRA representative will mail a packet of document that you will need to sign and return.
- You should not leave any blank fields as that may cause your application to be delayed.
- Sign the form on the line for “Producer/Legally Responsible Party”.
- Be sure to sign the name, which matches the name on the copy of your driver’s license you’ve included with your preliminary information sheet.
- Hand sign and return the Short Film Agreement, along with a competed Pre-Production Cast List, to your local SAG-AFTRA office.
- Make three copies of the executed Agreement. Keep one for yourself and submit the other two to SAG-AFTRA no later than one week prior to any work by professional performers.
Where can you exhibit your film with out having to pay performers under the SAG-AFTRA Short Film Agreement?
Your Short film can be exhibited without compensation to the performers at each of the following:
- At film festivals
- Before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for possible Award consideration.
- To non-paying, non-public, established entertainment industry members to showcase talent.
- On one public access channel for not more that one year from the first run date, provided neither the producer, nor any principals in the production receive compensation and SAG-AFTRA is notified of the first air date and the station on which the Short Film will air.
Compensation prior to exhibition of Short Film under the SAG-AFTRA Short Film Agreement, excluding the ones listed above.
- All professional performers employed by the Short Film must be paid no less that $100 for each day worked. Note that if the professional performer does not appear in the distributed version he/she shall receive the deferred payment.
What are some of the Production Benefits under the Short Film Agreement?
- No consecutive employment, unless on overnight location
- Deferred salaries. This is only for short films!
- Cover only professional performers
- No premiums
For more information visit the SAG-AFTRA website. http://www.sagaftra.org/production-center/theatrical/signatory-information# Source: SAG-AFTRA I hope you found this information useful. If you are using SAG-AFTRA talent you really want to be careful that you are following the proper procedures so you do not jeopardize all your hard work!
I will be covering some of the other SAG-AFTRA agreements in my next post.
Also, if you are interested in doing a New Media project, be sure to check out my post on the SAG-AFTRA New Media Signatory Agreement.
Also check out my packages of entertainment agreements.
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Take Care, Richard