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Wendy Sanders McDonlad

Dumbfounded about Legal/ Tax/ Nationality of US Production filming in Canada

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Question in regard to the legality/ tax of paying Canadian actors for a US production filming in Canada. 


What forms need to be filled if any at all? Thank you?

Say, if my US production company, wants to make a short film in Canada, with Canadian actors. What do I need to do to make it work? I'm assuming many small scale  short films with shoestring or no budgets, sometimes will opt to pay the actors in cash/ under the table. But, in case the short film get notices in festivals, will I be in trouble when it comes to inquires from buyers/ festival rules?

Say, I just went to film in Canada, and grabbed some Canadian actors who volunteered for filming with no pay. Three of us made a short film. No budget, no Canadian producer. Is the short film eligible to submission anywhere at all? How, or am I violating any laws ?  

To make it even more complicated, how do I determine the Nationality of the the film then? Do I submit in the US category since I'm a citizen with the majority of the creative control?  Most festivals, on their website determines the nationality based on at least 50% of the budget.But what if the film has no tangible budget, and what if hypothetically everyone in the crew works on a voluntary basis, with no pay. Do I submit to the US category or else???

What if it’s a US production company, but funded with investors from other countries? E.g. big Hollywood productions are funded by the investment banks, who then get their money from who knows where, Chinese, Saudi’s? Yet, it’s still an American film.


Sorry to sound rude, but I don't want your second guesses, or what you figure would be the case. 

I need someone with actual experiences please. No need to repeat whatever you find on the internet, as I  had read them myself.

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While there certainly are Tax issues relating to hiring international staff onto a US production. I doubt its something a festival would audit. A festival only wants to know that you hold the rights to the film for screening purposes and have actor/music/location permits covering the use of them. Often they don't even check you have them, just that you will indemnify (e.g take the hit) in the event of the film being screened without the releases.

The simplest way of dealing with the Tax front is perhaps having the actors work on a "voluntary" basis which is perhaps a legal grey area but not something any festival would worry about. A festival does not care how or if you paid your cast/crew, they only want to know you have the rights to the performance...actors can certainly sign a release form without money changing hands.

In terms of country of origin, again that's your call -  For the purposes of the festival you make a judgment - normally its the location of the production office/where the bulk team is based.  Or you could use Canada as the co-production location. It might be useful to have two countries of origin - then it might be eligible for more festivals/competitions. E.g you could submit to USA only catagories and Canada only catagories and sometimes festival fee's are different depending where the film is made.  Then you can just submit to the category that's cheaper (if your worried - talk to the festival direct and they will advise you) 

Again festivals have their own individual rules on this and you can always talk to them.  I once got a short in a specific festival because of the city the director was from, even though the production happened in the wrong place - I just emailed them told them who was involved with the production, where they were from and asked if we qualified - if they like the film they will be flexible on origins. 


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