Since I recently completed my first indie film, The Great Intervention, I thought I would begin by giving you some “quick” and “simple” steps for you to “greenlight” your own project.
1. Come up with your idea.
Okay, this is the only part of the process I cannot specifically help you with (at least not in this first column); however, I can help you get inspired. First of all, let me suggest: write what you know. Additionally, consider taking ScreenwritingU.com’s Pro Series. True, the full series is upwards of $500, but this six-month online course takes you (at least in theory) from concept to pitch. The first part of the series is especially good, as it forces you to create literally hundreds of screenplay ideas using a simple formula. This is where I got the seed of the idea for The Great Intervention. If you can’t afford the full course, keep an eye on their stand-alone courses that may inspire you and are considerably cheaper, especially ones focused on creating winning concepts.
2.Register your idea/script with the Writer’s Guild of America, or if you’re East of the Mississippi,The Writer’s Guild, East.
For about $25, this will protect your idea from theft. In theory, if you are producing and shooting the movie yourself, the creation of the movie itself will be your copyright. However, if your shoot date is a ways off, this will establish a registration date for 5 years and give you a little peace of mind. Plus, they give you a handsome certificate that is suitable for framing
3. Go to SAGIndie and fill out the Ultra Low Budget Application.
One of the most important things for any film, of course, is excellent acting. Thankfully, the Screeen Actor’s Guild has made it easier than ever for professionals to work on your production. If your budget is under $200,000 (and if you’re reading this blog, it surely is) you can hire SAG actors for $100 a day with this contract. There is a little bit of paperwork to fill out, so it’s important you start this procedure at least THREE WEEKS before shooting begins. The SAGindie site contains a ton of information and you can also post your casting notice on it for free. The paperwork may be a bit daunting, but someone at SAG will gladly help make sure you dot every i and cross every t.
4. Get production insurance.
For a long time, this was the biggest stumbling block to getting your shoot Guild compliant: finding short term insurance at an affordable price. When I did my first SAG film Left for Dead in Malaysia way back in 2004, this was a huge challenge. SAG couldn’t even legally point me in the right direction. I ended up buying secondhand coverage through a producer whose credits included Nudist Colony of the Dead. It was stressful, as the guy waited until the last possible minute to fax SAG the correct paperwork. Thankfully, nowadays short-term insurance is easy to find, with links even on the SAGindie site itself. I ended up going with Supple-Merril & Driscoll who have an easy online form and can return a quote quickly. My 10 day shoot cost me a mere $600. And not only will getting the proper insurance put you in the good graces of SAG, but it may help you in securing any locations you might need. One indie production I worked on was able to secure a supermarket for free, precisely because they had this insurance. NOTE: do NOT get Worker’s Comp through them – see below.
5. Hire a payroll company. Finally, you’re going to need a payroll company to make the whole package complete. For a very small fee, ABS Payroll in Burbank can not only handle all of your pay to your SAG actors and do all the pain-in-the-ass paperwork, BUT it can also give you Worker’s Comp coverage for a fraction of the stand-alone price, saving you thousands of dollars.
Follow these steps and you will be on your way to production of your Indie Film!
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