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Basics on Paperwork

Matt Dennie

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Could somebody just post a few links maybe on some basics on paperwork on the money side of film making? Or perhaps recommend a book?

Basically, I'm thinking of producing a short film at some point, and would like to know what is involved in paying people that work on it. I think there's some form like w-4 or something, not really too sure about anything though. I guess some details on the production would help. I'm thinking the budget would be around 35K. Let's say SAG actors too because I know that makes a big difference in paperwork. Also, the length of production would be around a week. Maybe some info on how and when people get payed too would be nice. Do you pay the actors anything up front? Or is it all mailed to them later? Also, let's assume none of the crew is union. If anyone happens to know all of this and feels like just answering these questions that would be great, otherwise some links or books would be nice.

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With a budget of $35k you are looking at making a non union project. You would not need a payroll company to issue payroll to your cast/crew. All you need is your crew members to fill out a w-9 form. This form gives you their information so you can issue them a 1099 at the end of the year. Each crew member should turn in an invoice for their time, or you can provide a generic one for them to fill out. Once you have this you can pay out in either cash or check. This protects you from the IRS. Anyone issued over $600 in a fiscal year should be 1099d. Allow your crew members to invoice you as an individual/DBA or as a "loan out" or corporation. If a crew member submits as a corporation ask for a copy of articles of corporation.


You should get a Deal Memo made up that outlines terms and your rules on and off set. This memo should also include "policies and procedures." The PnP should include rules about using personal vehicles, mileage, per Diem, turning in petty cash receipts and the type that are acceptable, ect...


Any vendor of equipment should submit both a w-9 and a rental agreement that outlines terms.


A confidentiality agreement or non disclosure is also typically signed by cast and crew to protect intellectual property.


Crew list info with emergency contact, known allergy and health conditions should be should be provided by each crew member. A copy of this should be kept at the shooting location with the MSDS sheet.


Material Data Safety Sheets, are a list of toxic substances, if any, that are being used on set. These sheets have solutions to problems associated with toxins, ie. what to do if fog juice is swallowed. These MSDS sheets should be kept in a binder with a responsible production member on location.


A location agreement should be drafted up for any location you shoot at. This should include all terms, release of liability, time period, and compensation.


If you are in a public location a "Notice of Filming" poster should be posted informing people that by entering a specific area they are consenting to the release of their image to the production company in all "perpetuity" (such a nasty little word)


SAG Actors, I believe, require a "SAG Bond" which differs. This amount you must allocate as a deposit depends on how may SAG Actors and how long you plan on using them. Generally you must bond %40 of all SAG actors salary's and pension/welfare up front for the entire project.


Separate agreements for the script, director, and producers should be made. Terms of compensation should be well outlined. Think of what will happen if your project makes $200 million and the people who will come back wanting some of the action. Protect yourself.


Insurance. Get some. You may want to start a LLC or LLP to protect your personal assets and separate you as a person from this project. Get an umbrella policy that protects you and your project. Most serious vendors will not release you equipment without proof of insurance or an insurance cert.


Petty cash envelopes, mileage logs, asset disposition lists if you plan on giving out cash floats to depts. These all keep track of what/where/when production petty cash is being used for and the status of any asset petty cash was used for. Things like labor or services, chits, tips, handwritten receipts, should not be paid for with PC. This warning should be in your PnP.


A production report. This is a report that is done daily that should be a single source of anything pertinent on set that happens. When every persons call time was, when everyone broke for lunch, and wrapped. Also any injury's, damages, re-rates, special equipment.


Call sheets, duh.


Daily time sheets. These are turned in by dept heads. They tell exactly who worked, when they started, lunched, and wrapped. Re-rates or comments are usually put down as well. These are all gathered and used to make and full production report.


Schedules or one-liners. This lets everyone know what is going on. Even small changes in scheduling can have massive effects to a single department. This helps mitigate future problems.


I'm sure there is plenty I am forgetting but I am also not a producer. I hope this helps a little.

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A couple of questions though. First, could you explain what petty cash envelopes are used for? That's one thing I haven't heard of before. Second, does one role typically do most of those things or is it split between the UPM, 1st AD and Producer?

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A couple of questions though. First, could you explain what petty cash envelopes are used for? That's one thing I haven't heard of before. Second, does one role typically do most of those things or is it split between the UPM, 1st AD and Producer?


On a smaller project they really are optional. On a large scale film they are used to organize the way receipts are turned in. Generally, productions ask that all receipts are turned in taped to a white sheet of paper, the date of transaction should be written on the top corner, the total price should be circled or highlighted. Most productions ask that you turn in receipts every two weeks or sooner. No receipt should be over $300 without approval, no receipt should be paid for with ATM or Credit without approval (they don't want you getting reward points on their dime), no paying for labor, no tips, no handwritten receipts without approval, no pre-paid fuel receipts. These are just a few of the rules most productions have. You have to understand that many dishonest people have tried every trick imaginable to steal and still petty cash, on the surface, appears to be an easy way to do it.


The envelopes do several things. Most importantly in gives accounting a manifest of your transactions. They take your manifest and code it. If you bought food or fuel it is coded and deducted from that allocation in the budget. If you purchased a power drill or a label maker that purchase is coded as a production asset which you will be responsible for at the end of the show. Production assets are sometimes sold at the end, returned, or sometimes warehoused for future projects. An expendable is coded and deducted from the budget. This method allows the accountants to trend and track the day to day expenses of filming. This information is very valuable to a producer. A producer needs to know what ALL his costs are.


The accountants are very skilled at finding fake reciepts, or reciepts for items not used for filming, or any other funny business. There are a dozen people looking at your purchases and possibly an audit team on a major studio lot. There is nothing you can buy with petty cash that is worth your reputation.


The paperwork on a film is done by a lot of people. Generally the ADs handle the call sheet, one liners, scheduling, and production report. Which is approved by the director and producer.


The PAs gather all the daily timesheets and turn them into the ADs.


Department heads turn in the timecards for their dept to payroll and sometimes write small Purchase Orders (POs).


Payroll process all timecards and small kit/box rentals.


Production Coordinators handle the issuing of large POs. They handle scheduling of equipment and deal with the vendors directly.


Assistant Production Office Coordinator (APOC) Gathers the crew info, start paperwork, inter office memos, distribution of new script pages, new scheduling, or any task the producer or Production Coordinator may need.


Producers approve the POs, issue the SAG bond, approve petty cash floats, negotiate rates and deal memos, negotiate rental rates, negotiate location fees, etc..


Head Accountant oversees all the accounting and the budget and reports to the producer with cost reports.


Accountants split up the tasks of getting all the w9 info, opening up lines of credit, accounts payable, accounts receivable, petty cash, mileage logs, cell phone stipends, per diem, if its money it comes from them.


I am a grip, so I'm sure I may have left out plenty. I think this is a broad view of what a larger movie would staff. Each of these people do a lot more than what I am explaining in a line or two.

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