“Indie film seeks cast and crew. No pay, food and credit.” If you’re in the film industry, you’ve seen these posts. They pop up on Craig’s List, Facebook and numerous other filmmaking sites all across the internet. Most people balk at the “Food and Credit,” posts as if those two things are easy for the filmmaker to provide, which is why he or she is offering that instead of pay. Well, as someone who has typed that phrase many times in my career, I can tell you one thing. It may not cost anything to type a name into the closing credits of a film, but food ain’t free. When you’re feeding somewhere between 1 and ? number of people, two to three times a day, it can add up.
So, if you’re making a low or no budget film, be it short or feature, how can you low or no cost some of that food? Because it really does matter. If you can’t afford to pay your cast and crew, you darn well better feed them, and feed them well. They’re working their butts off for you, hours and days on end for free or differed pay and while you can apologetically ask them to eat breakfast before they come to set, they shouldn’t be expected to pack a lunch or dinner with them. And If I hear about you doing that, I’ll track you down and take away your camera…unless you’re bigger than me.
So, how can you lower your costs so you can reward your cast and crews hard working tummies? First off, take the hat from your head and turn it over in your hand, open end up. If you’re not wearing a hat, that probably means you’re not covering up an embarrassing bald spot so forget I said anything about the hat. My point is, you’ll be going out into the world, with your figurative hat in hand, to ask for donations.
Now, I’m not talking about creating your own cardboard sign so you can go stand next to the overly honest homeless guy who’s sign reads something along the line of “Why lie, I need booze.” I’m talking about getting out there with that producer/director title you’ve worked so hard to get, and use it for the good of your production. How, you ask?
First off, figure out how much food you’ll need. My first short film “Number 9,” was a six-day shoot, for about 10 to 15 people. Not one person, including myself, was getting paid, and I had very little money. Next to nothing. But I was determined to get my first film made. I figured out how much food I’d roughly need in order to create two meals a day for everyone, including drinks and even some semblance of craft services. Once I had a nice organized list, I then asked anyone that I knew, if they had connections with fast food, or restaurants. Once I got leads, I met with them and asked if they would be willing to either donate food, or trade for a promotional credit. What’s a “Promotional credit?” Basically you’re placing the name or logo of the benevolent company in the closing credits of the film, or you can use their product or location in a scene.
For example, I had a donut shop agree to provide free donuts every morning and in return, I used a donut box from their business in one of my scenes. The actor had the box in his hand the entire time, the company logo was up on screen, facing the camera for all to see. It cost me nothing to do and it not only fit into the scene (they were cops. I know, cliché’. Shut up. ) but we had all the donuts we could eat. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even looked at another donut since that shoot ended, but that’s beside the point.