When I was getting ready to cast my new movie "Date Number One" in early 2004 I thought about possibly using some SAG (Screen Actors Guild, primarily & historically a union for Hollywood actors) talent. But that idea had to be quickly put away when SAG sent me a 500-600 page document (I think it was a contract) after I inquired about working with them. So I chose some fantastic non-union actors and got started on shooting my film.
One night, while shooting late at an old house in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC, a werewolf tried to eat one of my actors. I retrieved the gigantic SAG document from my car and threw it at the werewolf's head, knocked the creature out, and the cast & crew got away safely. My DP had captured the entire incident on high quality digital video (on an XL1s), and after reviewing the footage I decided that the werewolf had a certain useful screen presence. Later, following some intense negotiations that involved vast quantities of uncooked goat meat, I was able to recruit the werewolf (his name is Oliver) to appear in several scenes in my movie. Oliver is now thinking about directing.
Anyway, over at Indie Features 06, director Blake Calhoun talks about his recent SAG experience, had while making the upcoming feature "Killing Down".
Here is a bit of interesting info. from his entry (SAG talent looks more affordable now):
"The Ultra Low Budget Agreement is basically the same contract only now scale is $100/day, but now there is no deferred amount owed. Only the normal SAG residuals that you pay on any contract."
And another bit of info (perhaps we do not need to fear distribution roadblocks from SAG anymore):
"Also, now, none of the contracts (even the "experimental" ones) have SAG owning your film or any distribution rights. This is very important for the low budget indie filmmakers out there (for short films too)."
Check out Blake's post for the whole story. There is a link to SAG in that entry, so that you may pursue the story further and possibly get SAGs take on their new "indie filmmaker friendly" programs.
When I get ready to shoot my next feature, I'll call up SAG again. Hopefully at that time none of their documents will be 500-600 pages long. I will however keep the '04 SAG document handy for special purposes.