Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I was going to put together information for a friend of mine regarding the different low-budget SAG contracts for feature films.

Basically I was going to do it to encourage her not to shoot SAG. I've been railing about the ridiculous other-worldly contract provisions which SAG saddled innocent low-budget producers with, essentially destroying the picture's ability to get a release. But it turns out that SAG has made a major change to one of their contracts.

Ultra-Low Budget Agreement:
  • Total budget of less than $200,000
  • Day rate of $100
  • No step-up fees
  • No consecutive employment (except on overnight location)
  • No premiums
  • Allows the use of both professional and non-professional performers
  • Background performers not covered
Now it used to be that they would insist with this contract that you get a Theatrical deal first, which is of course patently absurd. But now the contract says specifically otherwise:

Producer shall have the right to exhibit the Picture theatrically. Should the initial release not be in the theatrical market, the picture shall remain a “theatrical motion picture” for all purposes of the Basic Agreement, as modified herein, and shall not be reclassified as a “Made for Pay” or “Free Television” motion picture. If the picture is distributed outside of the theatrical market, residuals will be payable in accordance with General Provisions, Section 5.2 of the Basic Agreement.
Emphasis mine.

As far as I know this is the opposite of what this contract used to say. It used to be that if you got a non-theatrical deal first, the contract stepped up to a full "made for TV" contract and you had to pay your actors as though you had signed the full-budget contract. That would, of course, obliterate the average DVD deal financially and actually make it so that a producer wouldn't/couldn't even bother to get any distribution at all.

Of course, they don't seem to have their Basic Agreement online (the link is broken). But their residuals are vastly less than what we contract for in our normal Pandora Machine agreement.

This sounds like a major change on SAG's part. I have a buddy who is on the SAG board here in New York (and who will remain nameless) who's been railing 'gainst the general SAG stupidity in this regard. Perhaps he has prevailed?

So this is good news. Not that we're going to be going SAG on our $12.5K movies any time soon, but if we have an actual budget sometime we have the option.

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