I'm in the midst of crewing up on catch 22 (catch22movie.com) at the moment, for which I yet again have less money than is necessary to pay the people I want to work with the rates their talent and work deserve to be compensated with. The two options I'm faced with every time I start this process are both terribly depressing; keep trying to raise money people are quite adverse to investing in a small and risk-laden film project, or move forward without enough money, begging and haggling at every turn. Both scenarios are light years away from what I'd like to be doing - but not getting my next film made is somehow even further from, so here we go.
Some important low-budget hiring bullet points, in my semi-unimportant opinion:
· You should first offer any position you are looking to hire to the individuals you've worked with in the past - that did well and played nice in their role, of course. There are many reasons for this, but the most important are that you know and can depend on how they work and, if they previously worked on another smaller project for you, you (should have) told them they'd be at the top of your rolodex going forward. It's a small community, the independent film business - keep your word or you'll be S.O.L. sooner than you think.
· Always be 100% transparent and forward with rates, and don't be apologetic about it. Tell it like it is and people will respect that, and have no room for being offended. And you similarly should not be offended if they tell you they can't pay the rent with what you have to offer and choose to pass.
· Do your homework. If you are hiring unknowns for a position, you had better scour their background. Don't take someone's job interview "representative" for face value - that's always going to be their best. Check reels, watch footage from previous productions, keeping an eye on the area of input they had on that footage. Check references, and not the ones they provide. Go through their IMDb and randomly email directors, producers, and their department heads...no one is giving you a reference they threw half the crafty table at during a spat over something not going their way.
· When you do hire someone, no matter how small the job or role, put a deal memo on paper. It protects you and the project, so anything they contribute becomes officially work for hire and property of the project shareholders, and also clearly defines all the variables that could easily lead to a spat at the crafty table - working conditions (meals, breaks, expenses, shooting day length), rates, kit and rental provisions. Don't hammer out those deal points while your precious Costco fruit snacks are whizzing by your head on a shooting day - sort it out in advance and cement it with a deal memo.
Josh Folan is a producer, writer, director and actor with professional credits dating back to 2005, prior to which he studied finance at The Ohio State University. Filmmaking highlights since founding NYEH Entertainment in 2008 include BODY (2015 Slamdance premier, co-producer), All God’s Creatures (2011 Hoboken Int’l premier, best screenplay and actress nominations, writer/producer), it’s just One line (2012 Film Racing NYC 24 Hour Film Race finalist, writer/director/producer), and What Would Bear Do? (writer/director/producer). Also an author and contributor to the independent filmmaking blog community, he penned the low-budget indie case study Filmmaking, the Hard Way. You can follow him (@joshfolan) and NYEH (@nyehentertains) on twitter and facebook if you’d like to keep up with his coming soons.