Darko Mitrevski’s film “Bal-Can-Can” has screened at over 20 film festivals. Read the Variety REVIEW.
Find out more information about Darko and his work HERE.
SAGINDIE’S DARRIEN GIPSON SHEPHERDS FILMMAKERS TO SUCCESS!!!!
Mychal: Hello Darrien. I hope you are well! So, lets get down to business. How are you doing and what are your job duties as SAGIndie’s Director? (LOL)
Darrien: (LOL) I am great. Thank you for asking! As the new National Director of SAGIndie, I am responsible for just about everything – global warming, demoting Pluto, lowering Cancer rates. Also, I am responsible for the strategic planning and oversight of SAGIndie, including administration, sponsorship negotiations, national advertising campaigns, and SAGIndie.org – the organization’s online resource for independent filmmakers.
Mychal: (LOL) How did SAGIndie materialize? Is the organization affiliated with SAG?
Darrien: (LOL) The latter is the one question that confuses everyone. Ten (10) years ago, the Screen Actors Guild (“SAG”) realized the boom in Independent Cinema. But, the members were on the outside, so, SAG created various production contracts to benefit their members who want to work on lower budget Independent Films. Because SAG is a guild which is restricted to certain activities, they turned to the Industry Advancement Cooperative Fund (“IACF”), an organization which grants money to organizations that (paraphrasing) provide performers and producers with opportunities to explore ways in which they can work together more effectively. SAGIndie is one hundred percent (100%) funded by a grant from the IACF. So, SAGIndie is not affiliated with SAG as a subsidiary. We are neutral territory and although we would not advocate shooting non-union, we respect the producer’s decision if she/he wishes to do so.
Darrien: Actually, we do not compete with any of those organizations. SAGIndie is not based on membership. On the contrary, we partner with these and other organizations, and often sponsor their events if we have common goals. For example, we sponsor IFP events and synergize with them to promote diversity.
Mychal: Earlier this year I participated as a panelist for an American Bar Association (“ABA”) and SAG sponsored event. The topic was the digitalization of Hollywood and the upcoming labor negotiations. With a potential strike looming next year over the SAG collective bargaining agreement, is there a specific mandate for SAGIndie concerning New Media?
Darrien: We are not involved in any of the upcoming 2008 labor negotiations because we are not a part of the guild. Our sole mandate involves the short film and independent feature film arena.
Darrien: Overall, our mandate is to educate independent producers on the SAG low budget contracts. So, we sponsor and participate on various panels and seminars. We want to facilitate dialogue between actors and producers so each know what to expect in developing their careers.
Mychal: How accessible is your organization to filmmakers? Is there a lot of “Red Tape?”
Darrien: Very accessible. All you need is a telephone or computer (www.SAGIndie.com). We welcome phone calls and we will speak to anyone. Of course, and as with any project, once the producer commits then the Red Tape comes with the contracts. I will say that the process has been streamlined over the past year, and it’s never been easier to make your film signatory to SAG. We will even assist the producers during this process. In fact, every month we offer a free two (2) hour seminar to help filmmakers understand the process.
Mychal: So, do you educate the producers on the pitfalls of various contract?
Darrien: Yes, we educate the producers on the various risk factors especially if they want to shoot non-union. We give all sides of the equation: the good, the bad and the ugly. These contracts are not perfect and the whole industry is changing, so, our job is to assist and give the filmmakers advice to make the best film possible.
Mychal: Does SAGIndie assist filmmakers in packaging their film? What about financing?
Darrien: No, we do not get involved in financing or packaging. However, our website contains a “Resource” page to assist filmmakers.
Mychal: Do you assist producers in getting talent attached?
Darrien: No, we do not. But, we do educate producers on the minimum floor that talent can be compensated. Of course, the actor/actress can ask for anything above that floor and backend end participation which actors commonly ask for.
Mychal: (LOL) Do they ever see it?
Darrien: (LOL) Well, a project needs to not only have a good script but also a producer should prefer to have name talent to attract investors and money to the project. It’s up to the producer to decide if that actor is worth it to them. And, the talent does not have to be ”A-List”, but just one (1) or two (2) recognizable names.
Mychal: Is there a budget range for SAGIndie projects?
Darrien: There are five (5) basic contracts ranging from zero dollars ($0) to two million five hundred thousand dollars (2, 500,000.00). If a producer really utilizes the contracts then she/he can stretch the budget to three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($3,750,000.00) and still pay his cast less than stipulated in the basic agreement.
Mychal: Sounds like a great deal to me! So, what was your Hollywood journey before ascending to the National Director position at SAGIndie?
Darrien: Well, I initially started out interning for Scott Rudin in his NYC office when I was an undergrad. After college, I worked as an administrator at Columbia Pictures Television Department. After three (3) years at Columbia TV, I attended USC’s Peter Stark program which taught me about the Hollywood business. The program is great in that it concentrates on the film business not the history of cinema. So, you develop a conviction and inside track on how this business really works. Upon graduating from Stark, I was recruited as a creative executive at Russell Simmons Def Pictures where I eventually became a Vice President and oversaw films such as “How to be a Player” and “Gridlock”. From there, I came to SAGIndie!
Mychal: Any advice for minorities and women who are trying to develop their careers in the entertainment industry?
Darrien: Ultimately, it comes down to building relationships with your contemporaries. Its not just the networking, but developing and maintaining relationships because you never know who will be running a studio or production company down the road.
Mychal: My neighbor is well known and respected African American director. She stopped producing and went back to study in order to learn and develop her directing skills. Of course, she lost all of her friends until she rose back on top as a director. (LOL) We laugh about how that is so often the case in this business. Now, she works because of her talent and she does agree with the diversity programs implemented at various organizations. Personally, I think they are great because they offer an opportunity to succeed, but the onus is on the person to capitalize on the opportunity. How do you feel about this issue?
Darrien: SAGIndie has a great diversity program! We try to help people think outside the box when considering roles and jobs, so that minorities, women, handicapped, and seniors will be considered for parts. It is especially important in casting because you have to reflect the world you live in. These diversity incentive programs are there to make people contemplate about new possibilities.
Mychal: Sounds great! Any specific advice for filmmakers?
Darrien: (LOL) Well, there is only so much you can tell filmmakers and there is only so much they will listen too. It is all very personal. But, I will say that it is all about the script! The cream really does rise to the top. A good project will find a home or at the very least create opportunities for you that you never saw coming! But also, watch bad movies along with good movies so you know why a movie is bad and where it went wrong.
Mychal: I advise clients to keep themselves informed on the business and read the trades (Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Hollywood Reporter, Esq.), go online, do research, etc. Do you agree?
Darrien: Yes, read the trades but also read everything. Pay attention to whom is on the rise or is flying just under the radar.
Mychal: Can you tell us an anonymous production nightmare involving talent, writer, director or producer?
Darrien: (LOL) I advised a young producer on a project and told him to follow the rules and basic procedures to the SAG contract. Unfortunately, he did not listen and learned a very expensive lesson where a two hundred dollar ($200.00) cost turned into a six figure expense including penalties and interest!
Mychal: Wow!…wrapping up. Last question. What separates SAGIndie from the other Independent Film organizations?
Darrien: We really do want to help filmmakers make the best film possible. Anyone who is trying to be successful in this business needs to have a great script and the cast to deliver the dialogue. It costs too much money and time to teach someone on the set how to act or hit their mark, so filmmakers need professional talent. A professional does not necessarily mean SAG. It could mean a member of another organization such as AFTRA. But also, professional means the complete package of headshots, training, education, work in Indie films and short films.