The B.C. Entertainment Group

Why Ultra Low Budget Contract?

When I was running the Central Florida Film Festival I came across many feature film entries.  All but a few, made on a shoestring.  Which means the, “I didn’t have money” excuse won’t cut it.  There were quite a few films that if they had used a professional actor/actress rather than Mom and Dad, the chemistry and performances may have been much better and in turn, make a better film.

Yes, one or two professionals do make a difference.  Did you know that SAG/AFTRA has a contract for films budgeted at two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars and under?  If your film doesn’t have any money, think again.  Are you making the film for twenty thousand dollars?  Then you qualify.  The Ultra Low Budget day rate is $125/day (+ Pension & Welfare).  The important thing to remember is that in the Ultra Low Budget you CAN mix non union actors with union actors.  So, with P & W, it makes it $150/Day.  There are two reasons why actors like to work.  One is money and the other a good script. Most actors like to work and if you have a good script, perhaps someone in the Screen Actors’ Guild might even attach their name.  A dozen characters in your cast?  Perhaps three guild members would do the trick.  They have more experience and have been on a professional set before. That’s a requirement to become a member of SAG/AFTRA.

Actors have a way of either playing up or playing down to your lead performer.  Setting the bar is important and by setting that bar higher you might think you’re spending more money but it’s definitely making your film a better project.  This could mean the difference of receiving distribution or not and perhaps even getting your money back.  Check out the website and take a look at the sample contract.  Remember, the SAG/AFTRA representatives are only doing their job and that job includes getting work for their members and at the same time making sure their performers are treated with the proper professionalism that filmmakers should treat all their performers.

Next week I will walk you through the application process.  There’s some paperwork to get started and it can be frightening.  I’m actually in the middle of applying for a new comedy I am making in May.  I have three SAG/AFTRA members attached and now need to make sure their contract is in order.  By next week I will be an expert in the process and gladly share it with you.

Sunday is also Oscar night and I would be remiss if I didn’t at least post my selections.

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)  I already told you how I feel about UK films invading our award show but Oldman was Churchill and deserves the nod.

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (3 Billboards)  I loved  Sally Hawkins performance in the Shape of Water but I know how the Academy thinks and no one plays the middle age mom in distress like Frances McDormand.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney (I, Tonya)  I have it between Janney and Octavia Spencer but I watch “Mom” and Janney’s transition from comedy to drama was seamless.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (3 Billboards)  It was a great ensemble and Woody Harrelson could cancel him out and veteran actors like DaFoe and Plummer could slip in, but I’m going with what I thought was the best stretch for a performer.

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)   The Academy has set this up for del Toro or the female director (Greta Gerwig).  It seems as if ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ received all it’s nominations including Best Picture without the help of a director. I hate when they do that.  They did it to Spielberg for “The Color Purple.”  Everyone gets a nomination but the director.  It’s amazing what department heads can do without leadership.

BEST PICTURE – The Shape of Water.  I was all over ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ but both pictures were excellent and the Academy swayed my selection by omission of the director. This could however be a ploy by the academy to give the women’s movement what it wants but if Lady Bird is announced as best picture don’t turn off your sets.  Remember last year?  I wouldn’t be surprised if the winning producer’s are pulled off the stage by del Toro’s monster and the award handed to him instead.

My final prediction is that next Monday I will be ranting about the Oscar’s .


Bob Cook
Film Director

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