Pre-Production Problems

So, after we got the script in the can, managed to find the right actors to bring to life the characters we’d imagined, and figured out a few logistical, behind the camera issues, we were ready to roll. Or, were we?

We planned on getting things underway in February 2012. I was going to direct/DP/light, and Ann was going to produce/light/crafty the hell out of the project (I was very, very delusional at that point). In fact, we were planning to shoot Assassins for about 2-3,000 bucks. The forward momentum was building when we hit our first of many hurdles (also, the largest and most eye-opening).


Turns out that if one person is SAG everyone has to be SAG or get paid according to SAG’s rules. This is fine for a production with an actual budget, but for someone planning on creating a film for less than the downpayment on a car, it’s just not doable. I’d heard some great things about talking to the union and having them work with people. Not in my case. We were told that we were stuck and our budget shot up just from the restraints they imposed. There was no getting around it. We needed more money.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We ended up rethinking the whole project, finding actual crew members, got our hands on a RED camera, a fight choreographer, real crafty, and some more legitimate locations.

But, of course, there cannot only be one problem.

A multitude of smaller problems cropped up (most of which I’ve forgotten – probably for the better). For the sake of this article I’ll just put up two more.

One, crafty. Wait, you just said you got a crafty person (craft services, or food person, for those not in the know). That I did. But, three days before we shot our first day she stopped taking my phone calls or emails. I tried right up until the first day to get a hold of her, but without success. Lesson learned: make sure you have a back up, and a back up of that back up.

Two, insurance. Once you’ve decided to enter a world where you’re working beyond the confines of a few friends, and shooting wherever you can steal, you’re going to get hit with the need for insurance. This hadn’t even been a thought in our minds, but once SAG hit us with the extra fees they threw in another aspect. The actors, and crew, needed to be covered by insurance that they approved. If our actor budget had already doubled, the insurance for the cast, crew and locations was going to close to triple what we needed to make this film. Lesson learned: figure insurance in to the overall cost of your film while you’re budgeting everything out.

In the end, the problems we ran in to lead to a better film, but at the time it was soul-crushing. In my next post I’ll take a look at how we went about snagging locations. I know, so exciting!

(A note: I understand why there are unions and don’t want to screw over anyone. I respect people in all aspects of filmmaking and everyone deserves to be protected.)

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