I’ve been thinking about payment structures for motion pictures recently – trying to come up with a structure that works well for (relatively) cheap-ass productions, brings certainty to direct investors, doesn’t screw over your cast and crew.

The thing I ended up like is partial deferments – this basically shakes down to your direct investors kicking in money for the project, you shoot the thing while paying your cast and crew a reasonable fixed sum per day but with a deferment of an additional fixed amount (rather than points).

So after the movie is made and sold (or if you don’t sell it, but do a deal with a distributor yourself) the payment schedule would be: First and foremost, the investors get back 100% of their investment. Then deferments get paid. Then any profits from then on get split between the producers and investors according to whatever profit-sharing deal has been worked out.

I like this because I don’t think that one should be asking professional cast and crew to work for free. This gives those people payment straight up, and you’re also saying “Though deferred, I believe that your work brings value to the project, and I’m willing to pay accordingly.”

I was quite keen on the idea of giving points of the profits, until I realised that this would cause basically infinite paperwork – every time ANY money was made from the movie, it’d have to be split up and shared. You’d be chasing cast and crew for EVER. So I’ve gone off that idea.


  1. sounds serious…

    and interesting- you’re not kidding around w/ the movie making thing huh.. you set on any particular script at this stage?

    • Re: sounds serious…

      Several script ideas. Some shiny. Some crap. I’m actually working on a screenplay for an episodic thing at the moment.

  2. You could always RFID-tag your cast and crew, I guess.

  3. The major problem with any form of point sharing, other than what you have mentioned, is that it does screw over your crew. Points are worked out from profits and generally you can make a movie look like it has made no profit. Plus, even if you are honest and DO dish out money based on points, the actual amount you need to make to get to the place where you can pay people is a hard place to reach.

    I have been fucked over on a points deal before.

    • That sort of risk, especially on indie projects, is exactly why I like the idea of only deferring a portion of a fixed amount, rather than points. Seems like a nice balanced approach.

  4. The best contract for all involved is straight up payment. Points are crippling for producers in the long run, because they are invariably out of producer profits, and the producer is generally the one working on the picture by and far the longest and actually putting the most on the line in terms of making a film. Producers are chasing profits forever, it’s the long term trail from a library of film projects and ancillary rights that is the only thing that makes producing remotely viable.

    If people aren’t willing to work for you either in lieu of payment, or at a decreased rate, or at a rate you can afford, then you need to raise more cash to get your project to happen.

    If your project can’t earn money, or can’t earn enough money to convince people to front up enough cash, then you need to appeal to people who are happy to lose money to hob knob with film people, or you need to approach people with some sort of mandate to invest in film for cultural reasons. i.e the NZ government.

    If you are making a film in New Zealand, then the lack of access to name stars (Unless they are ex pats who happen to be back in the country for a bit) basically makes financially successful low budget genre type ‘film’ making impossible, unless you can bring something significantly exciting, new and different to the equation (e.g sheer audacity/potential future star).

    The main problem is New Zealand doesn’t have enough bored millionaires, or at least not enough bored millionaires who actually still live in New Zealand.

    • So you’d rather say “Hey, coem work for free/minimal cash, for the experience and networking prospects and the fact that I’ll come help you out with YOUR movie later on.” that do any kind of structured deal. You’re basically expecting that any idie movie will NEVER make money. 🙂 That’s probably not a terrible assumption to make. 🙂

      • Essentially, I’d rather not do an indie movie unless I had explored EVERY possibility of raising funds to pay people. Short films are justifiably different because there never has been a financial model for them and you are generally not asking for a ridiculous investment of time, so working for free is more acceptable.

        There are exceptions, if the movie was topically important, or I felt some sort of desperate need to tell the story now, then I would want to procede as soon as possible and that might create the need to work on a deferral basis.

        In general, that’s not the case. Some people are desperate to start making movies, including feature films, without thinking through the whole equation. I am not really one of those people, or at the very least it is rare for me to be in possession of a script or property which appeals so greatly that I am absolutely desperate to get it together.

        I am not drawn by the mystique of film making, or even really the ‘idea’ of being a film maker. While it’s one of the things I am most passionate about, I really feel I have a lot more to learn about finding ways to finance a project, and a lot less to learn about actually shooting a project. If I am crap at financing projects and ok at producing projects I should be spending more time working out how to get the appropriate amount of money rather than working out the best way to make do with the amount of money suppossedly available.

        Why start down a road which is not sustainable – it will only lead to people wanting you to repeat it. Better to come up with a plan that however risky, attracts the realistically necessary amount of dollars, and go with that.

        Now in saying that I know that for indie features I will have to convince people to take pay cuts compared to Hollywood features etc – that’s the nature of the business, but offering crew or non star cast points is like offering an engineer a percentage of the salesmans commission. The engineere has no control over it, so it’s of little value, they can’t rely on it, so it’s intangible, AND it disincentivises the salesman, because they are going to get less money for making sales.