Filmmaking / Directing : Thinking of throwing in the towel by John Young

John Young

Thinking of throwing in the towel

I recently got an email telling me I'd be in danger of being sued if I kept my post up on craigslist. My post was me asking for help with a 5min film project, to present to potential investors. Since I had no intentions (and it was mentioned in the post) of paying the people who'd help, it violates labor laws. Now since funding is coming straight out of my pocket for the sample project, I figured I put the money into the project and keep everyone who helped on file to call back if the project reached its financial backing goal. That way I can bring the same people in for the bigger project and they would be able to get paid. (also mentioned in the post) With no people to help with the sample pitch and no way to find the people without threat of being sued, there's really no reason for me to continue pursuing a film career.

Darren Brealey

Be weary of people threatening to sue; some are full of hot air. Do your research. Are their claims true? Just because a 'lawyer' says so, doesn't mean they are right or they know what they are talking about. I've dealt with lawyers before who are attempting to sue me and most of the time, it's all about calling their bluff. One lawyer I dealt with had no idea the law he was talking about had changed 18-months prior, which put me in the 'right'. Don't back down because someone said to do so. Check with local Unions (acting / musicians / writers / visual artists, etc.), what does their legalisation tell you? Also, are there contractual laws to back what you want to do, so it's in writing and agreed to, between both parties, those involved gain an income when the film project comes into profit. Strike a deal. More than one way to skin a cat. Do your research. Actively find out the labour laws.

Darren Brealey

...one last thought - do the advertising rules on Craig's List prevent you from placing such Ads for unpaid work? If their rules do, then remove the Ad and find a Film Making website (Indie / Horror, etc) with like-minded people. Maybe the sue-baby is just crying over your Ad on Craig's List. Just a thought. Research.

Richard Trombly

that is where you use the "gigs" section of craigslist. Check the rules but on a no budget production people are legally able to help out , BUT PLEASE stop pulling the chain of the people you are attracting to helping out. all you can offer them is a DVD of the completed work . if you get funded , you will not have the control to "bring folks along" so do not make such promises that you can not keep and make folks feel burned and used. tell them what is REAL:. YOU will be really happy, THEY will have a clip, THEY will have a rewarding life experience YOU ALL will be able to have a network of folks trying to make it. Do not over promise and under deliver. If anything , promise nothing and try hard to come through.........

John Young

Thanks for the information! I had no intentions of deceiving anybody who helped, me keeping them on file to call back for the paying project (should it reach it's funding goal) would have been guaranteed... I planned on using Kickstarter and calculating their payment into the funding needed to make the film. I wrote the script and always take money into account when I write because I'm also the producer, so when/if the funding goal was reached their money would be there and distributed fairly according to the percentage their role in the production is owed. I'm a firm believer in helping the people who help me, so I wouldn't make anything until each person who helped me was paid their share. I didn't think it was necessary to check the rules since there were separate buttons for my post, asking me what kind of gig was I posting about "paid gig" or "non-paying gig"... seemed rather simply put to me, so I clicked on "non-paying gig" and also mentioned in the first line that it was a non-paying gig. The next day I got the email saying my post is being monitored for fraud and blah blah blah... But thanks to you guys perhaps I will just search a different way. It just gets tiring when craigslist is usually last resort, and it's often time to hang it up when your last resort doesn't work out.

Richard Trombly

If you are doing business in that way, yeah ignore the smallminded that are making pointless threats... union labor laws do not apply to NO BUDGET trailers... and if you are merely ramping up a kickstarter project . then yeah... if you get funded , you will be able to control it ... (thought by "funded" you meant like Paramount or Sony .... then of course you would have zero control) go for it :-) and break a leg!

Glenn Pratt

Get creative and network. You can't let a little setback like this cause you to throw away a passion. Come on man!

Rachael Saltzman

While I think they're confused, it is illegal to post a public statement like that looking for any number of investors. (Kickstarter gets around that by using the rewards system.)

Bryan Bethke

Richard the Wise !

Richard Trombly

It is just simple Bryan. If you are doing something no-budget that has lots of heart and strong vision and you are nice , people are HAPPY to help. to act for free, hold a boom all day long , whatever... FEED THEM well even on a zero budget film borrowing all equipment... FEED THEM and arrange for or pay transportation. DO NOT MAKE THEM PAY to spend a day helping you. FREE is enough to ask of them.. Make sure they get the DVD or .MOV file so they at least get to share in the end work. I love helping out projects volunteer basis -- as long as I know the producer is not scamming and planning to try to make money on it.... if it is free and is someone's dream -- lots of us want to help people find their dreams.. so if you are ever in the position to have the support ... treat the people right so they will do it AGAIN for others...... unfortunately there is a high amount of "no good deed goes unpunished" lots of times there are people that do not treat their people well and the people feel cheated of tricked.... be good play nice ...

Bryan Bethke

Hospitality is a good practice in what ever you do.

Wayne Allen Holland

No matter what obstacles in your path if you truely have a dream, a vision, nothing should deter you! Keep your head up! The most successful people got knocked down but got back up unwaivered in their desire.

Bruce Whited

It's BS! How many projects are run my small independent houses who let performers know there is NO PAY? What you are doing is perfectly legal, as long as you are posting there is no pay for the project. Tell the idiot threatening to sue, to go pound Sand!

James Holzrichter

It is not against any law to ask for volunteers. If it was then no charity organization would ever be allowed to function. Not to mention all of us musicians that have been asked to work for free for "exposure" and sometimes even asked to pay for the opportunity to bust our arse on stage. You can not be sued for that. It is becoming main stream in-fact. :)

Rachael Saltzman

Yes, the person who contacted you is probably a windbag. Anyone can ask for volunteers at any time for anything. What you can't do, is advertise 'looking for investors'. There are specific channels and paperwork for that sort of thing, to cut down on fraud.

Arlene Johnson

Try Kijiji instead of CraigsList...not the same level of people trolling for ad violations. I look at both when surfing for gigs.

Krystyna Hunt

Who would spend money suing someone who obviously has no money, particularly as he/she is not even the damaged party? This is just a bully and/or another nutcase on Craigslist.

Richard Trombly

mandy.com also and there are probably community sites where you live... most cities have an arts weekly newspaper , that website probably is good to post... also colleges are good sources of talent.. classified on the student newspaper or other campus sources

Clint S. Lamkin

Do not give up! If people allowed themselves to be beaten down by every idiot who posted a comment on craigslist, or any other site, no creative project would ever get off the ground.

John Young

I didn't want to give up, just didn't want to be fighting court battles every time I needed crew members for a film, especially with it being my career choice. I knew going in filmmaking was difficult, but I chose it anyway because I've had small glimpses of how rewarding it is to have people see your vision. In filmmaking things are hard, but they're even harder when you're doing them by yourself. Thanks for the advice, I've never even heard of Mandy.com until now... I will definitely check it out.

Becki Short

I would suggest possibly looking at posting your casting call on something like www.starnow.com perhaps, which is specifically for finding people for films and projects and such. :) hope this helps!

Georgia Hilton

You can ask for all the free help you want. BUT... don't place an open invitation for investment or investors... that leads straight to an S.E.C. violation and potential for real lawsuits. Are you going to get sued? probably not. BUT... if you do actually get your project off the ground this can come straight back to haunt you.

John Young

I think that was the problem. I told the potential people to reply by email with their availability so I can "make a schedule", but it was intended to make it easier on them and not make it feel like they had to help.

Mark ONeill

In the United States you cannot be sued by someone that you did not damage. That is the second half of the equation. ONLY a person who showed up to help but expected payment could sue.

Mark ONeill

The point is that someone would actually have to show up to be damaged. No one showed up. You could not sue if you read the ad or if you thought about showing up.

Mark Cabaroy

@John Young first let me say you never give up John. If you really want to make something: films, music or whatever never be discouraged by rejection. I've audition actors for parts in my films and they know they're not getting paid and yet they take off from work, wait out in the hallway of some audition spot for hours and perform a monologe or do a cold reading from script side. They have like a one in a hundred chance to be picked but they'll do it anyway because they love it. You should love every aspect of the process John even getting sued. Hey there's no such thing as bad publicity, go to other on line forums and look for crew like MeetUp, Shooting People or even this one. the best way to get help is to give it so if you haven't crewed for someone else you should, for free. Why? Becuase you'll meet other crew on those shoots you can network with. Get some business cards printed up create a simple website, and start picthing your ideas.Do you have a cell phone? Some liketeh iPhone shoot 1080i video so does the 199.00 ipod get one shoot a film by yourself - Post an Ad in Actors Access, Backstage or NY Castings - You'll get repsonses and make something. People respond to people who are doing things and not just talking about them, giving up is not an option. Because if you can give up then you never wanted it that badly to beginning with-

William Conrad

Don't worry about the guys threats. Post on Craigslist. It isn't against any terms of use asking for volunteers unless you're somehow involved in one of the unions. Even then, that has nothing to do with Craigslist. Sue you. Ha! Guys a moron. Private production does NOT require pay if both parties mutually agree that it is not a paid gig. The only kind of labor disputes you could ever have is with crew such as carpenters, electricians and such. (Unless you're clear from the start it's not a paid gig) Not with actors who give their time. They can not sue. IF the actor is in one of the various Unions, and they find out, they can fine the actor but that still doesn't involve you. You can't expect someone to volunteer at a Soup Kitchen, and sue because they thought they would get paid. That's not how things work. A Volunteer is a volunteer. You want to be really safe? It's true you can't get sued for asking for volunteers, but you can if they get hurt unless you get everyone to sign a waiver. Point is. You can't get sued so long as you post that 'It's not a paid gig'. Add something along the lines that it's good for their Reel and experience. Which is true.

William Conrad

And you just used the magic phrase. When working an Indie production that has no budget there is not an implication of returns. That's why you don't need non profit status, because there is no profit to me made. Again, back to the voluntary status. I'm writing this post under the assumption that this is an independent project and not funded in any way. Costs to come out of the directors own pocket. With no expectation of income this falls under volunteer status and no expectation of pay is required. Again, I'll use the "Being a volunteer at your local Soup Kitchen" as an example. Even campaigns to help pay the cost are fine so long as the person making the donations get's something in return. Example would be a 'Thank you in the credits.'. The entertainment, more specific, the film industry is a big grey area right now. But one rule remains. You can't make someone pay or sue a person if they want to volunteer their time. It kind of breaks civil rights laws.

Michael Lockett

A few points making film like any other collaborative process have some people who want to work and some people who simply want to find easy prey for litigation. If you were upfront about payment then you should proceed. No one can sue you (and win) when there never was any obligation for the exchange of monies. Many independent films get done without money being exchanged for participation and effort especially with the written consent that there is no obligation to participate and payment is not due, etc. etc.

Georgia Hilton
  • what William said. You can ask for free help. It's not illegal in any form to ask for free help on a project such as this. It's essentially the same as asking your neighbor to help rake the leaves, or help fixing your flat tire, or help painting the house.... if someone wants to donate time, they can. What you CANNOT legally do is ask someone to do something for free that earns you money. As an example, Interns working for free, unsupervised or at a level expected of a paid contractor/employee on a gig you charging a client for. Interns for example must be utilized in a Training Environment, and in some cases must be paid at least a small wage. So, ask away for all the free help you want... but remember there are down sides to this.... 1. people who do free things are generally ( not always ) worth exactly what you are paying.... 2. it lowers the represented value of the project ( hence perceived quality) to others 3. it can be considered disrespectful to people who do this for a living 4. it can be disempowering to the people helping... paying them, even a small amount, can make a huge difference in the commitment of your personnel. 5. If you later take your project into the commercial arena, you may be liable for lawsuits because you have no contracts , or work for hire documentation, and people might have a standing in the court for their artistic contribution. ( the easy example is free help with no contract on script development ) 6. see 5. this can also lead to issue with future funding efforts for the project. My actual recommendation: ( and I am NOT an attorney ).... ( had to say that )... 1. Ask for the free help if you feel it appropriate. 2. have everyone sign a basic work-for-hire contract for "consideration" ( even ONE DOLLAR ) and pay them by check, yes, even for one dollar. so you have a record of all the efforts. 3. ask for help , but don't make it Free... make it low, but at least acknowledge their value. This can also be done by at least offering a deferred payment scaled to potential revenue... ( note: in most cases people in this business equate "deferred" to "free" anyway ) best of luck in your project! cheers geo
Nuno Cruz

If you're serious about a career in the film industry, you won't give up.

Mark Cabaroy

Did I miss something here? Who said he got money from Kickstarter?

Mark Cabaroy

Oh that's interesting Sam thank you I never knew that. BTW saw some of your stuff in the reels section of your home page very nice.

Georgia Hilton

"Under the FLSA, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers. " - key word - EMPLOYEES. The economic realities test for EMPLOYEES considers whether the individuals at issue are economically dependent on the business for which they labor. Volunteers, and even paid contractors, helping with this guys project are not, in fact, economically dependent on the business for which they labor, and don't fall into the legal EMPLOYEE category (even with the wide ranging definition of employee covers anyone and everyone doing any kind of work for someone else)... that's why almost every project in this business hires Contractors and doesn't directly hire employees. Here are some test for Employee / Contractor ( note that a contractor can charge nothing or a huge amount for their services at their discretion. Including working for free. A worker who is required to comply with instructions about when, where, and how he or she must work is usually an employee. If an employer trains a worker—requires an experienced employee to work with the worker, educates the worker through correspondence, requires the worker to attend meetings, or uses other methods—this normally indicates that the worker is an employee. If a worker's services are integrated into business operations, this tends to show that the worker is subject to direction and control and is thus an employee. This is the case particularly when a business's success or continuation depends to a large extent on the performance of certain services. If a worker's services must be rendered personally, there is a presumption that the employer is interested in the methods by which the services are accomplished as well as in the result, making the worker an employee. If an employer hires, supervises, and pays assistants for a worker, this indicates control over the worker on the job, making the worker an employee. A continuing relationship between a worker and an employer, even at irregular intervals, tends to show an employer-employee relationship. An employer who sets specific hours of work for a worker exhibits control over the worker, indicating that the worker is an employee. If a worker is working substantially full-time for an employer, the worker is presumably not free to do work for other employers and is therefore an employee. Work performed on an employer's premises suggests the employer's control over a worker, making the worker an employee. This is especially true when work could be done elsewhere. However, the mere fact that work is done off the employer's premises does not necessarily make the worker an independent contractor. 10. If a worker is required to perform services in an order or sequence set by an employer, the employer has control over the worker that demonstrates an employer-employee relationship. A worker who is required to submit regular oral or written reports to an employer is likely an employee. Payment by the hour, week, or month tends to indicate that a worker is an employee; payment made by the job or on a straight commission points to an independent contractor. A worker is ordinarily an employee if an employer pays for the worker's business or travel expenses. An employer who furnishes a worker with significant tools, materials, or other equipment tends to show that the worker is an employee. A worker who significantly invests in facilities used to perform services and not typically maintained by employees (such as office space) is generally an independent contractor. A worker who can realize a profit or loss resulting from his or her services is generally an independent contractor. A worker who performs for more than one firm at a time is generally an independent contractor. If a worker makes his or her services available to the general public on a regular and consistent basis, that worker is generally an independent contractor. An employer's right to discharge a worker tends to show that the worker is an employee. An employee must obey an employer's instructions in order to stay employed; an independent contractor can be fired only if the work result fails to meet the agreed-upon specifications. If a worker has the right to terminate his or her relationship with an employer at any time without incurring liability, such as breach of contract, that worker is likely an employee knock your self out debating these finer points of law... But the current de-facto standard points to the ability for a project such as John's to quite comfortably ask for free help. so please, let's stop scaring this guy...and get back to a bit of Real World here, before John just completely gives up... cheers geo

Krystyna Hunt

John said he intended to pay the people if he got the money from Kickstarter. There is such a thing as deferred payment. If you defer payment to your employees on the condition that you will pay when the money is raised to pay, you can make that a condition of the contract. In any case, all the legalities stated here are being taken too literally. They are relevant only under the most extreme of circumstances. Authorities are not going to go after such a small fish. They have too much work to do nailing the big fish. And if John is completely honest with whomever he recruits, provides them with a contract saying that he will pay when and if the Kickstarter money comes in, and they agree to that, that's it. People volunteer work for personally promotional purposes all the time. If the money is never raised the employees can get copies of the film (or whatever they've created) to promote themselves, as payment. This is done in creative industries all the time.

William Conrad

Exactly! To all of you. I need to point out guys/gals that the laws are slightly different for me. I'm from Canada and to put things bluntly, I can mail myself an envelope containing my script to myself and it can be considered copy written material. (Since it has the date it was mailed, proving it's mine). The fact is. If you want to do it, have a passion for it and have an idea. Do it! The learning process if 80% of the fun. (And frustration).

Bobby Reed

If everyone in show business were afraid of being sued, there would be no one in show business. The secret sauce of the movie industry is to never, I mean NEVER let anything stop you or your dream. If you do let someone or something stop you with an idle threat, you (perhaps) are not tough enough to be in the movie business. Read every biography of every Hollywood producer you can get your hands on. You'll see how they did it. Then do exactly what they did. The great ones laughed at the threat of lawsuits.

Michael Lockett

I think Georgia broke it down nicely. If you want to be more precise and cover your butt a little more have some paperwork drawn up (or downloaded) outlining the payment or lack thereof for anyone working with you on the project. I tend to agree with Chris that the person going all litigious on you is probably mad over something and is taking it out on anyone and everyone in the film industry.

Bryan Ransom

A ridiculous threat against someone trying to invest in his future... Good luck and I hope that you push through and do it anyways.

Michael Lockett

Another networking source huh?!? Sounds like www.stage32.com Find people on here for you film.

JR Olivero

Check out www.Media-Match.com. No one will hassle there and you'll find lots of qualified people who are willing to help. BTW - having been legally threatened more times than I care to remember, most if not all of Craigslist responses are completely generic and in response to some moron who filed a baseless complaint. They have no weight.

William Conrad

@ Samuel Laseke. You keep saying the key word. Organization. We're talking about a private independent production. Private. Not a company. Not a business. You seem to know what you're doing, but all the legalities seem to point more to the music industry than independent film. I've had my share of issues with the law but never even heard of anything like what you're saying. It really does trample Civil rights. Again, keep in mind that I'm from Canada, so things are probably a little different. It just seems that you keep stating laws and using the words 'Money", "Business", "Organization". We're not talking about any of these things. We're talking about 1 person getting volunteers to shoot something. I also know that you are right about one thing. People suing people all over the place. But there's one fact you haven't put up. It's that between 91 - 96% of all the cases filed are dismissed. Either way, kudos for the posts. If you're right, if you're wrong or if you're somewhere in the middle at least you're trying to educate, and doing it with your brain.

Michael Lockett

Well said @William Conrad. What it all boils down to is exactly that 90+ percent of cases are dismissed. @John Young don't give up. You can find people to help who are more than willing to do it for CREDIT or a TITLE CREDIT or for simply the experience. Cover your butt as best you can but realize you're not Sony Pictures or MGM or Universal or 20th Century Fox you're one person with a dream. Fortunately or unfortunately your dream in many instances is a collaborative effort and there are plenty of good people who would help. Choose wisely. Protect Ya Neck. Make Movies.

John Young

I can't tell you all how much I appreciate your comments. I wish I could've been in this discussion a bit more but between working two jobs and planning to move the project forward (thanks to all the amazing alternatives offered that I've never heard about), I haven't had much time to get on the computer and operating this site from my phone is a nightmare. There was a comment on here I wanted to touch on from someone saying, "why don't I just get people from this site" and the major problem with that would be their location. A lot of the people on this site are not near me and it is highly unlikely someone would want to travel here to be in a no budget film, and with it being a no budget film it's obvious I don't have traveling funds... Plus a lot of the people I've talked to on here are fairly if not well established and just want to work with people who have more to their reel. Thanks again to everybody who took the time to comment (even the stern backbone building ones) I appreciate a firm 'stop acting like a punk' kind of approach sometimes.

Evan Marlowe

I've learned a lot following this post. It's always a good idea to have attorney and accountant contacts to help navigate the law and know your responsibilities. In my opinion it's a myth to believe someone "can't sue you." People can and do sue over seemingly nothing, and once they decide to burn you, it's a bloody fortune to defend yourself. Dot your i's and cross your t's at all times and know the laws. Don't be an ostrich.

Richard Trombly

I always try to dot my tees and cross my eyes.

Julian Nabunya

@ John Young, you sounded so serious about this threat in your last mentioned comment and an idea came in my mind when i was reading through it , i don't know if you will use it , but i will mention it here , you never know it could be of any valve ....in future or now to you , i noted something that , you need people with "huge reels" or have a lot in their reel sagement , isn't it ? so then .. find some time between your two running jobs , and dedicated some minutes or hours to this projects , list the names of those people your looking at , draft a letter / proposal and address it to them , please be business oriented by either promissing percentages to the general out put or granting future jobs to them on that very project . attache it to the project details then send to them , it could make some more sense if you could drop by their offices or homes in person , talk to them directly , tell them how much their names can make a statement in this busines and how relevant this is gonna be to both you . for me, i think it can make more sense as it sounds more serious if you can handle one by one than posting on webs , some times people take dicussion like this for fan ... and i return we end up making replying posts with out thinking deeper beyound our noses and another thing, i have worked with other things before joining the movie business , but i have realised that patternship works alomst every where so then you can opt for that , that way you would have solved thing like , i don't have cash at hand to facilitate thing like travel expense even if you would like to have people from here ,[stage 32] its possible , listen ... this is nothing to threaten you John , some one can even say i will use my own money at the begining of the biz , but when we start earning we have to repay for every thing i have incured personally in this project , that's why people make budgets and have accounts office . i have a feeling that , if your idea is that saleble movie that can earn them couple of 000s of dollars ,then they will not refuse to work with you because you don't have cash at hand , you already have some thing they are looking for , that high classicfied work /role on asucessful movie to be that can earn them both pride and money at once . isn't that a dream of every celebrate as we call them? . tell me if we don't call them sucessfull because the media say they have earned alot of money from their roles on the most sucessful project . but any way i wish you the best of luck , and i hope you will find a minute during this fest to advance your project than wasting time on thinking about a mere threat some one posted on a web . Julian Nabunya .

John Young

@Julian I usually have tougher skin when it comes to negativity towards me, that was one of the things that motivated me to make my short film "Grasp". People kept telling me "you can't make a movie by yourself." But when it comes to matters I'm inexperienced in, that also involve me losing money I instinctively take the safer route... I work hard in everything I do especially for my pathetic paychecks and would hate to lose them over something that can be avoided. I may not know much about the court system but from word of mouth I'm quite positive it's expensive if nothing else. I wasn't saying I need people with huge reels, I actually prefer people who are still learning so we can learn together as a team. I was saying people who are more experienced would usually want to work with someone else who's experienced... which is understandable in most cases because they've gotten to the point they're at by moving forward.

Mark Cabaroy

@John Young when people tell you to work with people who have a "reel" which means more experience than you. They mean for you to work for them not them for you or you working with them. You basically work for someone for FREE and then you get a chance to NETWORK and gain EXPERIENCE and I'm not talking about Spike Lee or Steven Spielberg. I'm saying find a filmmaker in yout neck of the woods. Someone who has made a film or several films that when you see them you "say man I wish I could make something like that !" Then offer yourself up to work and learn. You'd be surprised how much you'd learn and how many connections you'd make. Before the days of digital cameras when you could go to Walmart and buy a camera and say "Look at me I'm making movies!" That's how it used to be done - and you know what by the time you were finished you knew your shit! Then people wiil want to work for you for free to learn what you knew. I invite you to look at some of teh films on my page and if you like what you see hit me up with a private message and maybe I can point you in the right direction.

John Young

@Mark I will definitely check them out.

Julian Nabunya

@ John AM SORRY if i was that negative , but i got that in between your lines when you said you were too busy with two running jobs , and mentioning some thing like the project being expensive ,to cover un neccessary cost like travel bills , for me those reason are understandable , and i believe its not only you in that case , but insteady most of us face the same challenge s every day . there fore i thought collbrating would work you , other wise i wish you the best of luck with your project .

Richard Trombly

If you cannot cover travel expense in town. and/or renting a van for the day. And to feed everyone a decent meal. you should not be doing the production UNTIL YOU CAN AFFORD TO DO SO. The actors are crew , if they are doing this for free are doing a huge huge favor. They deserve to be treated with respect and at least not pay anything out of pocket for the "opportunity" they are bring offered of working for free.

Richard Trombly

flat out there should never ever be a zero budget production. People should be reimbursed for travel expense and get food and drinks provided. every bit of talent, location and equipment may come for free. Feed people , respect them, and be organized. noone even wants a "fun" set. they want to accomplish something and to use their talents. the fun comes from knowing you did something worthwhile that day and were respected and treated well.

Richard Trombly

"But everyone I work with knows I am doing them just as much of a favor as their doing for me." totally agree. But if it is just a hobby, a gathering of friends. Then if I am inviting folks over for a BBQ, then I am providing something to toss on the grill and at least a few 6 packs. I am not gonna say . MY GRILL bring all your own stuff.. I might encourage some pot luck to add to the bounty... ok this is stretching a reference.... And I do volunteer - ALOT - in supporting and creating a film community. Yeah I guess in America , people own cars in general so transportation is not such a normal expense .I have been living in cities in countries where car ownership is not normal so asking a person to rent a taxi to lug gear is hardly an expense I can ask of folks.

Juanita Nelson-Combs

So, I am here in Victorville from LA so hit me up I have a T.V. Pilot I want to do so I cant present it as well- Do not get caught up in symantics there are a lot of thirsty MF's out here trying to KILL your dreams! Hit me up and add me here is my contact info modelogixcasting@hotmail.com also www.modelogixusa.com also here and facebook.com/juanitanelsoncombs You ready? LE' GO!!!

John Young

I most certainly will Juanita. :)

Melissa Tracy

If you want a career as a hairdresser you PAY for your SCHOOLING to GET EDUCATED. If you have to work 6 min wage jobs to GET MONEY to meet your goal YOU DO IT. Once you get educated you as a Hair dresser you have to BUY your EQUIPMENT your hair brushes and the RENTAL of your SPACE.. FILMMAKING IS A BUSINESS. I don't know why people don't treat it like one, YES YOU NEED TO READ. FILMMAKING BOOKS. Every filmmaking book explains the laws of investing and you can even buy book just on raising money. IF it Takes you THREE TO FIVE years to WORK AND RAISE MONEY to make a film then do it. IF it TAKES YOU GOING TO SCHOOL AND READING BOOKS TO GET EDUCATED DO IT. This is a business and a skill and a profession just like becoming a hair stylest. IF it takes a makeup artist 6months to learn their career wouldn't you think a PRODUCER should at least spend the same time EDUCATING THEMSELVES.. NO WHINING JUST BUST YOUR ASS AND WORK AND GET EDUCATED

Hunter Cressall

The threat was hot air. Getting people to work for free isn't against labor laws. It's called interning...or a favor. There are no laws anywhere in the US that require paying people who agree freely to work on your project. Most films, low budget and big budget have interns - formal or informal - working on them. Internships, favors and freebies all have their own form of compensation. Experience, networking and friendship among them. Email that guy back and tell him he's crazy - because he is. What you are offering is not unusual or improper. You just ran into a troll. I'm currently directing a project looking for funding on KickStarter - we'll finish it whether we get out KickStarter funds or not. Everyone working on the film is doing us a favor. Our stunts, our makeup, our transpo and our studio space. They are all friends and they know if we get funds we'll pay them. But - and I can't stress this enough - there is no guarantee that anyone - us included - will see a penny. Favors are the stock and trade of filmmaking. Even once you have your own company or are a professional freelancer you will still do favors. Why? Maybe because you are sick of cop shows and you want to do sci fi or maybe you are sick of art dept and want to work in camera. But favors are never a bad thing. One word of advice. Pay makeup expenses, pay for craft service and buy gas for anyone making a long trip. Even a little compensation goes a long way toward showing you are serious and - most importantly - you appreciate the people around you. Good luck and stop listening to trolls.

John Young

Wow, it's as if I somehow annoyed you with my post. All the capitalized words in your comment either indicate you're very mad/annoyed or you're saying I'm lazy and ignorant... I work my two jobs, I write my own scripts, I produce for my own film ideas, (though it was just me) I directed the shitty little short film I made, I also edited it, and promoted for it, so please don't try directly or indirectly insulting my work ethic... This was my attempt at branching out to improve and I ran into a "legal issue" I was unfamiliar with. Since I didn't know anything about the suggested sites and outlets to search for crew members (within my budget) it seemed pointless to continue trying to become a filmmaker (as in the person actually doing all of the above mentioned)... that does not mean I wouldn't have tried another way to be involved in the industry (writing).

John Young

Thanks Hunter, I'm good now. The only reason I haven't taken the post down is because someone else told me they learned something from the discussions.

Adrian Sierkowski

It isn't interning; FYI. Internships need to be for credit and need to not displace a job at the company. Technically, yes, getting people to work for free is illegal, and exploitative. It sadly, too, is pretty much a requirement. No, no one will sue you; you obviously don't have any money if you're not paying your crew. It does give you a bad name as a producer. Also, people who do rely on filmmaking for their income will certainly not be happy with you because, in truth, you are hurting them, their jobs, and their security by driving down wages. It's viscous. Further, a free crew is really just hurting you-- you're not going to get many very experienced people. Now, all that being said, I do work for free on student and very select projects which bring something beneficial to me. Let's say a producer really wants to shoot 3-d, and I haven't-- then I may do that as a training ground for myself and I think that is ok. But again, at the end of the day, yes it does run afoul of labor laws. You can read all the laws here: http://www.dol.gov/ I highly suggest you do, just in case.

Adrian Sierkowski

In terms of internships specifically: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm#.UMq0dLajlAg #3 and #4 apply and are failed by film productions where you have "intern key grip" and the like.

Hunter Cressall

That is substantively incorrect. Getting people to work on a project for free is in no way illegal under any US law or under any State law. The DOL paper you described applies only to organizations operating expressly as businesses. The key term in the DOL fact sheet you cited is the term "suffer or permit to work". This does not cover collaborative efforts. Anyone may choose to participate in a group effort with group benefit. The benefit - as established by law - is at the soul determination of the participants individually. You are confusing labor - which is an organized agreement between contracted individuals directed by a central authority - with a collaborative effort - which is a group or a mediated collective coming together to accomplish a common goal. To better define the distinction consider other collaborative acts that do not fall under the term "labor" - community plays, group home builds or clothing or food drives, community watch or beautification projects. None of these require compensation. Participants are free to leave at any time. You are absolutely correct that anyone who shows up to help you with your film is not an intern. Interns are essentially apprenticeships which are directed under a controlling authority. But neither are they labor and neither do you run a business. This is even true if the film in question eventually turns a profit. If you really want to get into the weeds about labor laws contact your local labor board or department of labor and they will run you through the difference between work for hire and individual collaborations. Suffice to say, if no one files paperwork, it's basically a project and everyone is considered free to refuse direct instructions or leave any time without penalty. While not air-tight, this generally is what defines "labor" (hence the term "suffer"). Bottom line - no one working on your film is considered work for hire and your arrangement with them can be anything at all including the mutual satisfaction of a job well done.

Adrian Sierkowski

^^ Exactly what he said.

Peter Murray Founder Of Comedy Cam Comedians Cam Website

He has not employed them, so they are not employees. There not interns. Their volunteers. Until some one or some thing "the notion of a business" has sold or at least offered to sell some thing how can it be considered a business? If it or a person is registered with the IRS is different, is preparatory background activity pre a possible business being launched, which has not and may not happen. He has not engaged in commerce, he has thought about it, and talked about until it happens its a pipe dream, so what, there is no business. He has put a request for money on Kick starter until it happens its nothing. The Government will not use a wish list website against a project. There are no wages so no taxes payable as there is no wages. Volunteers come and go as they please there is not requirement for them to attend, just a time that he would be pleased for their Volunteer help and be glad and lucky to have them and it.

Gemariah B. Love

Oh my goodness. I wish I could sue all the people I've worked for free! Volunteers do so much work in this country it saves billions of dollars. Always look for the truth before you throw in the towel or the baby out with the bath water!

Adrian Sierkowski

I really don't understand what you people aren't understanding. It is illegal in the US to exploit people for your own profit (as a business) for free. Now, any film (product) which you are intending to create to sell means you have to pay your crew, cast, insurances, E&O ect... Now; just because it's a law doesn't necessarily mean you'll get in trouble for it. I mean, how often do you jaywalk or litter? And how often do you get a citation for it? Now, if someone was to report you, yeah, there's a good chance you'll be in trouble. It's also very shitty to use people-- for their equipment or their talents (which far outweighs their kit). Further, you'll often get bottom barrel crew who have no obligation to stick around-- cast as well-- on your non paying project, so you're really shooting yourself in the foot. You can't contract them to be there @ all, so they can, and often do, just say screw it, and no longer show up. Then what to do you? Well then you're screwed. Legally you also can't have free work now lead to paid work later on. Basic point of fact is that if you're going to undertake a film you're going to need money. If that means you have to work an extra job to fund it, or take out a loan, or sell a kidney (kidding on that on) then that is what you do to do the job right. What is the point of doing a shitty promo with an inexperienced crew and actors who can say l8r to take a paid gig to try to get funding while also running afoul of many laws and possibly getting a bad reputation when you can also just, you know, show your commitment to the project which is your property by working hard or harder for it? now, it's way different when you're talking student films, as there is an expectation that students can't afford to pay you and I love working on student projects because I see it as me being able to help them learn new things. I love teaching, when I get the chance to, and they are normally very creative and open to ideas and they don't know what they don't know-- so as such-- they're more willing to take risks (most of the time). Or, conversely, I don't see the problem of going into a film school, to say a cinematography class, and asking them if they'd like to help out. Still, you should pay them something, I think, but in this case you're really helping people in an educational setting. Also different is when it's good friends with a case of beer. But the problem comes up when you are posting in an online classified section for employment looking for people to work for you for free. Hate to tell you things you don't want to hear; but seriously, i don't understand how people can be so "ok" with straight up exploitation of talented and hungry filmmakers for their own gains. Damn, even when I'm getting friends of mine to work for free I make damned sure to buy them all a good bottle of whiskey at the end of it, and throw them money for all their gas and often i'll cook for 'em at wrap as well. If you don't believe what Sam and I are telling you; by all means, feel free to consult the Department of Labor, as well as the Dept of Labor in your State, any of the Unions and Guilds in the industry, or any Real and Professional producer/director.

Adrian Sierkowski

Here is the law in terms of California; but it is similar in pretty much all states: Relevant page is 7 section 4: http://www.dir.ca.gov/IWC/IWCArticle12.pdf

Georgia Hilton

The final answer here is simple... consult an attorney if you are unsure of laws and/or work requirements... DO NOT look for the answer from anyone here who is not an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. signing off.... enough.

Mark Schaefer

Your 1st mistake.... Believing what you read in that email.

Julian Nabunya

this whole idea is very wonder full , i cann't stop reading posts on this blog . interesting thing .

John Young

So basically what I've gathered from this post is 40% say don't listen to the email, 40% percent say learn the laws because it may be legit according to (insert legal mumbo jumbo), 10% suggest alternative methods to accomplish what I'm trying to do (thank you), and 10% took the time to come on this post and offer critical and quite unnecessary comments. If I'm not mistaken the problem was resolved about 65 comments ago. So to the people who are trying to "motivate" me or discourage me with the unnecessary comments, please either read the previous comments before posting or don't post anything. I mean I found it strange that someone would make a comment constantly saying throughout, "READ" but didn't do it themselves. And even if I was working with someone who was obviously terrible at what they were trying to do I'd never tell them to quit, maybe suggest a different way because everyone doesn't learn the same way. If you're not helping others you're no better than the troll who sent the email. I'm sure when you first started out you may have had help (even if from one other person), I don't... So starting only two years ago and trying to learn everything in filmmaking from scratch on my own, you can imagine I'm figuring out that HEARING how difficult the business is and FEELING how difficult it is are completely different and a learning process. This post is old now, I've been given advice, and the project is moving forward again... I suppose everyone will know if the advice was worth taking if you see my project.

Julian Nabunya

@ Floyd tell him how you made yours , and how many challenges you have faced so far i have just read your profile , and noticed most of your credits are Executive producer / writer . why wouldn't you have been a full producer , besides its too hard to find a writer that can not direct their own story. for me dividing work helps to achieve better out put and the whole idea of finding the scripted turned into a movie is made easier .what make other people sucess ful when some of us are busy rewritting and rereading our script on our computers day and night , is to be conservative , i have realized that this biz is the same as the other biz , if the "driver" can be business oriented in terms of managing time and resourses , then it can't work , patterning is more appropreciate methods here , because you might not be able to pay them , but you can work with them to earn what you need , even if you go the ordinary way of waiting for the lottery [grants ], you need to attach those people , now i wonder how you will hire them when you don't need to pay them .and even after all is done , you have your movie , the distributor will buy names and awards before they could even ask you 4 a DVD of your movie , you must mention how many awards you have and who is attached to it , just in case you didn't hire a smart PR , meaning to sell you need people right from the coffee maker down to the producer who will signing deals . if any one here looks in my profile see some thing , and feel they need to work with me in African oriented story , human rights thems period , its could your story , mine , or what we can find togahter , , [ as producers i mean ] please feel free to cantact me , in box me , i will let you have my full contact ,, at moment , i have 3 projects , 1 short movie , reshort of coach short story , script done , all people hired , production plan designed , donars contacted we are just waiting for funding come early next year , open role co producer only , you must be experinced with distribution deals and sales contarcts of short movie any one from any where is eligible . 1 feature , i that man in woods movie in developemnet , script done , few people contacted , but not hired yet ,i need to asign them next year , because this is a huge product we can not gamble with it , lots of roles open , APART FROM , dop , sound mixer , director , plus the actors . but the rest you can in all production stages , and open business to what my weding day can turn into ,originally it was a pilot , but where i am, making films is not yet business , selling a pilot is not easy , so thing like that made me lose patience , and i stupidly excerpted a short out of it , but condition of producing the short were open , it could only be attached if it had won their competition , but it come last , thank gog i walk away with my gold plus a movie , here there is possibilit of turning it . into a 6month tv show , and let it go , because it has over circulated in ugandan media house ,as many people are looking for it , but the price is not fair , and cost of production seem to un familiar [too high ], its an expensive drama set in a high profiled family of Kampala city .besides product like this are not common here , but am sure if producer finds a right distribution /marketing team , it can work ,and cost of producing this here is still low , since actors are as low as 10 -15 dollars per day , crew low as 5- 15 dollars per day , the rest you can maximize to your wish , there fore couple of hundrend thousnds USD can make you own the show , what am interested in is to find the person that can understand its really nature , and see its business potential , i don't care even if am just a piolt writer but if the story is doing well , i will graetful .

Julian Nabunya

@ John Young , i was dying to let you forget about that dam email and get at work , am greatful , you mved the project a head . i wish you the best of luck , i hope to be posted over that , i must mention i liked the sound effects in short movie you posted here . that 's why i posted like on it and after i liked it , i then loaded into this whole thread , that's why i felt so touched , all of us have been rejected and we still face the same thing , but we move on like you have done , few years ago when i could spend 24 hrs on computer looking for blogs that could guide me on how to write a screen play , i loaded on site called SCREENWRITING U , i opted for it , but when i joined the community the first class i had was free and it was the set of 20 principles of sucessfull screen writer , among which was courage to confront rejection , according to them ,every one was like me or you once upon time , but now they no long care , but why ? because of persitance and bold ness , if mr A saya no go to Mr B , C , or even D , so then i don't fear that any more . other wise Merry X mas if you believe in Jesus . Julian Nabunya

John Young

Thanks Julian, and Merry Christmas to you too.

Yvonne Coughlan

Thank John, I learnt a lot from your post. Here is something I have enjoyed reading, I thought it might strike a chord with you too. “Artists are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, artists face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because artists are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Artists are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.” - David Ackert

John Young

Thank you Yvonne for sharing that. :)

Jack Raymond

John, it is true that laws disallow public solicitation of investors. However, this law has been changed and I believe that staring in 2013 you can do this. people using crowd funding had not been able to offer shares of profits in exchange for backing, only perks. But with this new change, they will be able to ask for investors as well. Take a look at rule 506 here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_D_%28SEC%29

Mark Cabaroy

I'm looking for writer's and actors on the East coast to create short films ,sketches really. Preferably comedy whenever possible fantasy or sci fi. The reason I say east coast is because I'm in New York and actors should be able to travel here. I want to start a group or troupe of performers, a pool to pick from so casting will be simpler and writers can eventually write characters with specific actors in mind. I'm going to post this in several different forums so know it will be showing up in other places. Writers if you interested send me a message the scripts should be three to five pages tops. Please don't tell me about stories just have them written and send me a three page copy-written script. Actors be prepared to audition in New York probably at Ripely Grier studios on 8th ave. The best person is the actor who can write or writer who can act. I'll produce (which means I'll pay for the first few) then the different members will be expected to contribute based on their level of involvement.

Gemariah B. Love

I have found it very helpful to take a Contract's class at my local community college, not to mention a Paralegal course through Blackstone College. Both helped me find the applicable laws and how to read and write contracts. Much better than arguing with the legally uneducated.

Robert Barrett

Don't sweat it John. Just post your project is offering 'valuable consideration' of face/name recognition in your trailer/pilot pitch piece in lieu of payment for services. I use volunteers all the time in my projects. Since I provide a public service (my local cable access television programs) the actors/hosts on my programs and I are all volunteers with the understanding that our work together is mutually-promotional and valuable. Unless you have offered to pay them (in writing) and then failed to compensate them as agreed you don't need to worry. Nobody's going to sue you, and if they do they'll lose and you can sue them right back for damages to your reputation.

Sara Roybal

Ask for "interns" on the positions

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