Guilds lobby low-budget filmmakers

SAG, WGA's AFM presentation makes case for using union members

In an annual ritual at the American Film Market, SAG and the WGA romanced about 200 low-budget producers Monday to use union actors and writers.

“Our agreements are designed to help you get your projects made,” said SAGIndie national director Darien Michele Gipson during a 90-minute panel discussion. “If you want someone who can hit their mark and say the line at the same time — and do it correctly in every take — you should use a SAG actor.”

Panelists said rates for low-budget projects are affordable and can be negotiated.

Under the SAG ultra-low budget agreement, for example, actors receive $100 a day and are paid only for the days they work.

Mark Friedlander, SAG’s national director of new media, stressed the simplicity of those guild agreements by noting that the current pact is a four-page document.

He added that except for producers agreeing to make pension and health contributions, other terms are flexible.

WGA West senior director of contracts Lise Anderson said the guild is willing to make projects affordable — noting that payment of the screenplay purchase minimum of $42,088 can be deferred for projects under $500,000.

“The parameters on the WGA’s low-budget agreement are not onerous,” Anderson said. “We’re happy to talk you through it. I’ve been at the guild for 12 years and haven’t been asked the same question two days in a row.”

Heather Hale, a producer who had used SAG’s modified low-budget agreement, noted that the terms of the guilds’ various low-budget agreements can present a Rubik’s Cube for producers and suggested that it would be productive for the terms to match.

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