#WebSeriesChat roundup- May 17th, 2017

Honestly mints aren’t a big deal to me - but it’s nice after eating lunch or drinking lots of coffee… nice for yourself, and nice for everyone around you :joy:

And like I said - it’s fine adjust my suggestions according to budget, the kind of project, how long the days are, etc.

Most important is ask people about their needs and to be clear up front about what it will be like - set clear expectations for people and then deliver on them. :+1:

Whoda thunk that communication would be the top tip??

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an actor! I have actor questionss!! when people schedule you as an actor on a smaller budget thingie for more than one day… do you prefer all at once schedules, or like a over the course of a bunch of weekends?

I may be misunderstanding the question but here’s my advice there -

Always, always, always default to industry standard for everything, as often as possible. Not only will it prepare people for working on pro projects, the more experienced the people are who you work with, the more familiar they will be with that stuff - and the more likely they’ll expect it.

I realize that’s not always very accessible info. Asking people like me can help!

So my preference is for standard procedure to be followed. Usually that looks like this:

Casting Notice: includes the range of dates that the project will shoot during, general information about how many days each role is needed for, how many hours per day. (This isn’t binding, it’s just to give a general idea, but the more specific, the better.)

You should also list the rate of pay - something like $200 / 8 hrs. Or 150/ flat per day (plus overtime after 12 hours).

At audition: If there are have been any changes, post a note in the waiting room. Whether there are changes or not, confirm the dates with the actor before they leave - if not at the 1st audition, definitely at the callback or chemistry reads.

When offering role: confirm dates again, give as much specific info as you can - every date needed, expected call times, expected wrap times, and any foreseeable things that might cause them to change.

When the actor accepts the role: Send them their expected shooting schedule. Also - their contract should clearly state how much they are being paid per how many hours, what the overtime rate is, and what the maximum amount of hours are that they will ever be on set - even professional productions go way overtime sometimes, but those people get paid a ton of overtime. If you’re shooting on a budget and not paying much (if anything), the least you can do is offer a hard out time for actors - they should never be cornered into staying on set for endless hours. This should be a binding agreement.

If there’s a gap between signing the actor on and shooting… resend that info about a week before the start of shooting. Note any changes.

The night before each shoot day: at least 12 hours before their call time (but I would say not later than 8PM, if you can help it), send a call sheet that lists their call time, the location they are reporting to (if parking is located somewhere other than where the set is, list both separately, and clearly note this as well as how they will travel from parking to set), and expected production wrap time for the day. If there have been any changes, it’s helpful to note them. Generally calling an actor later is fine - but you should confirm before changing their call time to make it earlier. You don’t have to list individual wrap times, but if you want to be very pro, list call time, report to hair/makeup time, expected report to set times all separately.

I hope that helps!!

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If you meant - do I prefer to work many consecutive days in a row as opposed to a few days here and there over many weeks - I may have some small preferences, but as an actor, I’m hired to do a job - and you set my schedule for that job.

I think if it’s a film, I’d rather do consecutively days. If it’s episodic, I don’t mind spreading it out.

Either can work well. It also depends on pay, though. If I am not being paid much, scheduling matters more - because I don’t want to miss out on other, higher paying opportunities. Again though, either way of scheduling may be better for that, depending on the circumstances.

I think it really depends on the project and a lot of factors like whether I have to travel far to get to set, how much I’m being paid, etc.

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If it was a passion project or a friend’s project and you weren’t getting paid or were getting paid very little… does that change preference?

Like, I have had actors say they’d rather get it over with all at once, so they can change their hair and stuff, instead of having to look the same for several months for continuity…

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The less I’m being paid, the less I am willing and able to sacrifice other things for the project. Even if I’m really in love with it and I want to support my friend, there’s only so much I can realistically do. Ultimately, I can’t risk long-term damage to my career for something with very low monetary return and very low up-side (meaning potential re: getting seen by many people, making it into festivals, becoming a vehicle to advance my career).

So, yes, in that case, it absolutely affects how I feel. It would be really hard to prioritize a low/non-paying project for months because that doesn’t just affect me, it affects the people who are depending on my time, skills, and my face to make a % - my agent / manager. The harder I make it for them, the more likely I am to harm that relationship or maybe even get dropped. They won’t appreciate me refusing to cut my hair - or grow it out - or shave - or whatever - or worse miss auditions or important paying opportunities to preserve myself for low/non-paying gig. It could screw me over.

Maybe that’s not exactly a reality for many friends you work with - but they could have parallels. Maybe keeping up continuity for something prevents them for taking on other work on other passion projects - experience (and reel material, and connections) they need to build. Maybe it causes problems at their day job - money they need to survive.

So yeah, for low / non paying work, I’d rather have it done as quick as possible.

That may seem a little cold and too business-like, but as an actor, as I’m sure many people who are trying to make a living in creative industries, I’m constantly weighing risk vs. reward this way and doing tons of tiny cost-benefit analyses. To be clear - I don’t love that side of it. I don’t love that, as an artist, I’m in a uniquely difficult position in a capitalistic society that loves benefitting from my work but hates paying for it - that on one hand tells me to follow my dreams and on the other says that if I follow this one, maybe I don’t deserve financial security, a home bigger than one room, healthy food, mental health services, or even healthcare.

So sometimes, I’ll just say “fuck it” and do what I want, because I want to - and I need to.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere - communicating and delivering on expectations is the most important thing. As long as I know what I’m signing up for at the start and that expectation is met throughout a production, then I’m happy.

If you really want to work with an actor and they can commit to the time but maybe not keeping their appearance unchanged for that long, then you’ve either got to work with someone else or find a creative solution - either by editing the script to make that work or by carefully planning the shooting schedule.

It is slightly beside the topic, but this gives me an opportunity to mention something, so I’m going to take it haha -

Back when I was doing a lot of unpaid student / indie work, I’d find myself frustrated a lot that people didn’t seem to realize or acknowledge that I was giving up a lot more than just my time. I had to pay hundreds of dollars to get my headshots, tens more to have them printed, as well as printing costs for my resumes that I’d staple to them, hundreds of dollars a year to pay for internet service and more for subscriptions to be on casting sites, hundreds a month for my phone bill and data plan so I wouldn’t miss notices or offers while I was out traveling to and from auditions or working day gigs, hundreds of dollars a month on transportation to and from auditions - most of which I would not book (get cast), hundreds a year on classes, and I’d also have to spend money going to and from set, usually I’d have to offer my own clothing as wardrobe - and risk it getting ruined and have to buy new clothes that I needed (sometimes specifically for auditions)…

I’ve been scoffed at for holding someone to compensating me for my gas driving 30+ miles to and from set multiple days. People have looked at me like a selfish jerk for saying, on principle, I no longer work for $0.00 - that even if they could only afford $10 a day, that I would be okay with that, but that I think it’s important to treat actors like valuable professionals who should be paid.

I’m sure I’m even forgetting things - I could continue that list for a long time. Point is, when an actor works for no pay - they’re not just working for free, they’ve actually spent money to be a part of your project. Even if you pay enough that they’ve effectively broken even, the time spent on set is time they may be giving up where they could be in class, auditioning, working a day gig for money - who knows?

All of that is why I think you should always pay actors something even if it’s only that $10 a day I mentioned. And if you can’t do that, then I think you have a responsibility to do everything possible to make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to do that project and work for you. If that means doing a lot more work on your end to meet scheduling needs - then I think that’s good to do. As always - it’s not possible to please all people in all ways at all times. Sometimes, you’ll just have to not work with someone that you’d really like to and be okay with that.

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Im gona say the answer to the topic is: everything you thought you could get away without.

The web series game is very much about cutting corners, but it is the corners we cut that separate us from the rest. A better question should be, can we afford to cut corners? I think the answer is decidedly no.

You need a sound guy.
You need to have good crafty.
You need a dedicated marketing person.
You need to workshop your script
You need a producer who isn’t the writer / director / lead actor / producer.
You need to pay people if you want to have deadlines.
You need all of those things listed in this thread.

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I think this is great advice, but I’m not sure if I can get behind saying some peoples dietary requirements are worth more than others. While I am far more likely to have to resist the urge to roll my eyes at someone complaining about the lack of hamburgers in the crafty these are all people who are generally volunteering their time or contributing value to our productions at below market rate. Most people have some hangups that need to be worked around, and if we value those people we should do so.

I think I made a pretty clear distinction between dietary restrictions / needs and mere preferences. Obviously you want to make as many people as happy as possible and value their time and efforts. I don’t think I said you shouldn’t.

“I don’t like mushrooms” is not the same as “I will vomit violently if there is dairy in this.”

We’re adults. Sometimes you have to eat mushrooms. You should never have to go without food because all that’s available is smothered in cheese.

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Thiis is great. I think producers could do a lot more with the idea of paying people SOMETHING as opposed to trying to get away with spending no money. You as a producer will have so much more work, so many more hassles, so many less talented people working on your project if you don’t spend just a little bit of money on people.

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Yup - a tiny bit invested pays off a lot more than each dollar is worth. I’m sure the argument can be made that it actually saves money (if not time, or both) in the long run.

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Agreed, there is a difference but I just wanted to highlight that it is important to keep everyone in mind. As a producer who is trying to take care of food for a dozen people it can be a real challenge, I know first hand. It is easy to let things slip through, and there is nothing more upsetting to me than screwing up the one hot meal your PA is getting in 8 hours on set. Sure they aren’t going to vomit, but it’s about recognizing and being grateful for the work people are providing. If people are really picky, and more trouble then they are worth then ya, maybe don’t worry too much about it.

I get that and don’t disagree with the fundemental idea you’re throwing out there.

Here’s my problem with what you’re saying - those people are generally (almost always) not the ones forgotten about.

So to highlight that doesn’t seem necessary to me? It feels like you are taking my point and making it about something no one really needs to be reminded of, because it’s already the prevalent assumption that everyone will like, want, be able to eat burgers or pepperoni pizza or mac and cheese, etc.

People who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, vegan - people who have rare allergies - they are often the people who are overlooked. And very often, they get over looked while production caters to the relatively common taste preferences of other people on set. This has often been my and other actors’ experiences on low budget / student / indie productions. The PA always get their burgers. The vegetarians get iceberg lettuce.

That’s why I encourage robust choices. If you have a set of 12 people and three vegetarians, the easiest way to accommodate most people is to provide vegetable lasagna. You may get some grip or PA whining because they can’t fathom the idea of eating a single meal in a day that doesn’t include some kind of ground beef, but ultimately, they’ve been fed appropriately. If you provide beef lasagna, the grip or PA won’t notice - but the vegetarians will have to eat trail mix and lettuce instead of hot food. Only 9/12 have been properly fed instead of 12/12.

If the grips won’t eat veggie lasagna - oh well. They could but chose not to. A person who is lactose intolerant can’t just decide to eat pizza and not feel the effects. It’s unreasonable to expect a vegetarian to put aside their moral/ethical/religious motivation to not eat meat.

There are obviously other solutions. But no where have I encouraged intentionally screwing up someone’s order if you are doing individual orders, or blatantly disregarding all preferences. I’m not saying make no effort to accommodate everyone I’m saying prioritize logically.

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Fuck Chris I go to bed and you keep dropping amazing truth bombs. All of this is great, and re: the basic payment thing, I’ve been having this conversation with a few people recently, specifically how it relates to multiple seasons of a series. Here’s my thoughts:

First seasons can be complete passion projects (no paying people, within reason). Obviously you should provide food, try to maximize the benefit to the volunteers, etc, but in general, if you’re working with friends, you can probably get away with one “free” season.

Season 2 there needs to be a significant step up in production quality, production organization, crew, and at least some kind of upgraded monetary incentive. Maybe it’s reimbursing fully for travel or better crafty. For us, I used every penny of our tiny IndieGoGo campaign to pay principal cast and crew $50/day for full days, and $25/day for half (under 4 hour) days. (we’re in NYC so travel often wasn’t as large of a cost. All sets/locations easily accessible from public transit) Most props and costumes were already purchased the first season, so manpower was going to be most of our $$ anyways.

Season 3, you gotta pay. Actual pay. Even if it’s SAG/union minimums ($100/$150 a day? Correct me if I’m wrong), you cannot get 3 free seasons of an indie series from cast and crew, even if they’re all your best friends, not if this is something they’re trying to do as a career (as opposed to a group passion project you do once a summer or something in between everyone’s accounting jobs or whatever).

Web series are harder than short films in this way because they DO require so much more work/so many more shooting days, so monopolizing someone’s time and appearance over and over again for no money and no significantly new reel material is selfish. Everyone can forgive a season, within reason, of no pay, because we’re just starting out. They know what they signed up for, etc. But once you start adding seasons, something significant has to change, and not just on the production end.

Am I totally off base with this breakdown? Did I miss something?

My workaround is that I give anything I make from the production to charity. They don’t get paid?
I don’t get paid. Now, projects I intend to make money on, I pay my people. Projects I just want to do to do it, I forgo any profit, and then those involved “donate” their time and talents. Then proceeds from distribution and tickets from screening events go to a chosen charity that has something to do with the project. As someone with 0 funding possibilities outside my Chase VISA, that was the best workaround I could come up with. For me it’s about generating good content. The hope is that with a portfolio out there of what I can do for free, I can later have something to show to generate investor interest for future stuff. I’ll let you know how that all works out…

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I’d like to preface this by saying - I realize many people are creating webseries outside of LA, so that necessarily changes many things about how you operate. All the responses I write here and all of my advice is guided by my own personal experience or what I have learned making webseries among a group of people in Los Angeles who also work and are continuing to pursue work in the Legacy TV / Film world.

Anyway, I think that’s an interesting idea - I like the sentiment but don’t know that I agree it’s the best option.

Personally, my initial reaction is that I’d rather get paid something - even $25 or $50 after the fact (that’s 25 - 50 headshot prints!) rather than nothing at all. I wouldn’t necessarily feel better that you gave away the money rather than keeping it for yourself. Either way, I don’t see any of it.

Of course, I do like that you’re supporting worthy causes, but… well, this is off topic, so I’ll try not to digress too far - I’ll just say that charities / the Non-Profit Industrial Complex is a whole tangled world unto itself where very often, the groups are more invested in looking as though they’re doing good than actually doing good. Meanwhile, they’re prioritizing the aid of only certain people in favor of others. In some worst-cases, they’re little more than tax shelters. Often those who need help most see no compassion from these groups - or if they do, it comes with many painful strings (e.g. the Salvation Army and their treatment of LGBTQIA+ youth).

I’m definitely not saying you’re doing anything wrong - nor do I mean to assume that you don’t do your homework and due diligence before giving, but if these ideas are something you (or those reading) are not familiar with, it’s worth considering. Especially because so many people you work with may very much be members of the type of groups you might intend to support with your charitable gifts - young / struggling artists are often also hungry artists, People of Color struggling to make headway in the industry, LGBTQIA+ people, etc.

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So I can’t speak too much to the rules about this stuff… I’ve only done minimal research about it as an actor so that I know if I’m blatantly being screwed. That said, unless the rules have changed, I’m not sure all of that is accurate.

SAG-AFTRA New Media guidelines have changed a bit in the last few years, but the last I knew for sure, you could pay $0 / day to all actors. I think it was maybe a requirement that you offer “deferred pay” with clear payment triggers (e.g. "Once $1,000,000 in profits is reached, payment is delivered), but I think that’s the only requirement for performers, no matter how long the series runs. I don’t know what it would be for crew - their contracts are negotiated by different unions.

These rules also vary depending on where you shoot. In TX, for example, it’s a free for all because it’s a “Right to Work” state, which essentially means that no one has to follow any unions rules if they don’t want to. Of course if I go there and work on a non-Union project or a Union project that doesn’t follow SAG’s rules, I would / could get punished. It’s asinine.

That’s just my reaction re: how you framed what you wrote in terms of the rules for SAG signatory productions. SAG New Media is kind of wide open and the majority of web series will fall under New Media guidelines. SAG ULB (Ultra Low Budget) - which is slightly different - has more restrictions. You might be referring to those rules. Of course, even the New Media rules recently changed - one of the biggest additions being that all productions must have insurance to be approved by SAG now. So, my info may be slightly dated. That said, all of this info is freely available on SAG’s website.

Rules aside, just on principle, I agree with what you wrote entirely.

I think when you live in a city like LA or NY, where people are there to make careers acting (or in production), that should also factor into your considerations. Not only is the cost of living there higher, so are the costs of pursuing those careers. Maybe more to the point, people there have made a huge commitment to what they are doing as an art, a career, and a life, and that should be recognized and appreciated - with more money. So I think paying less, even in the third season and beyond is much more fair and reasonable in Rhode Island or the middle of Wyoming than it is in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle / Vancouver, Toronto, Austin, etc. - any center for TV, Film, Theatre, modeling - or any performance art.

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Well, working so far.

yes, SAG can be 0 with deferment but be warned, they alerted me last month they are changing all their rules again in the next few weeks.

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