Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tip #62: The Importance of Paperwork

By Dan Parkes (Director)

Film making can be a creative and at times very exciting process. However, such is not possible without the all important paperwork that goes behind it. I know what you are thinking, this sounds all rather boring. But like a lot of things in life, sometimes it requires the old adage of 'work before play'.

There are two very important reasons for ensuring the paperwork is never overlooked:

1. Legal obligations
If you are really serious about film production then you will likely be setting up an individual company with separate accounts -either for the film as an entity or as a production company. Becoming a company has its own set of obligations, including the paying of tax and the use of equal opportunity and privacy policies and annual reports. The film itself will require contracts over pay, public insurance liability, ownership agreements, location permits and ever important health and safety and risk assessments forms. To try to avoid any of the above -no matter what budget you are on- is a recipe for disaster. But it is also good practice for the future. And most definitely comes in useful for Errors and Omissions insurance and other festival/distribution paperwork.

2. Organisation
Ensure your paperwork is well organised and always on hand. For example, have a main file that you keep all your documentation in. Have a system for keeping receipts for items purchased or expenses from cast and crew. Have a naming system for your script so you clearly identify what version it is on every page (if the script changes during production) or use a colour coded system (different colour paper for different versions).

Make sure you have plenty of generic release forms always on set. You never know when you will need to include an extra person in a shot! And make sure they sign it before they go on camera rather than having to chase people afterwards. We experienced this on location in the village of Alfriston. While filming an establishing shot to our delight a woman on a horse rode by, perfectly completing the scene. We asked if she could do it again, but not before ensuring she had signed a waiver that producer Sinead Ferguson had on hand for such a possibility. And with a location permit, make sure you have at least two copies on set, along with the associated risk assessment paperwork, so that if asked by a passing police officer or -in a worst case scenario- there is an accident you are well prepared to answer any questions.

Your Master Film File should include:
  1. Several copies of the script (they always get lost!)
  2. Cast and crew contact list (with names, telephone numbers etc)
  3. Call sheets (plus extra copies)
  4. Shooting schedule
  5. Shot list
  6. Storyboards
  7. Accounts/receipts/expenses
  8. Maps of the area
  9. Emergency contact name and numbers
  10. Cast and crew contract/agreements
  11. Background actors release/waivers (plus loads of extra copies)
  12. Location permits
  13. Health and safety policy
  14. Risk assessments
  15. Insurance details
  16. Note pad/paper/pens
Anything we missed? Please let us know in the comments below.
Need some example forms? Check out University of North Carolina School of the Arts site.

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