Your Film Hiring ProcessThe accounting aspect of filmmaking is one of those relatively unpleasant but absolutely necessary tasks. Each member of your crew, as you hire him or her, will need to fill out a variety of important financial documents in order to facilitate payment, not to mention aid in proper tax documentation.

The Production Coordinator can make life significantly easier if he or she has all the necessary documents organized into a single “start pack” before the hiring process begins. This way, each crew member will be able to sign everything all at once, and you won’t have to track people down later because something didn’t get filled out correctly or signed. The following is a list of the various documents you’ll want to consider including in your start pack:

  • Deal Memo Form – This is one document that you know you’ll need in your start pack, because this is what each crew member will sign when you have struck a deal. It will be the Production Manager’s job to talk to each individual crew member and flush out the specifics of their deal; the Production Coordinator will collect these deal memo forms as they get signed and use them to create an official crew list. Be aware whether you need a union or a non-union deal memo form for each new hire. Usually unions will supply you with a copy of their form when you ask them.
  • Crew I.D. Form – This form might contain very similar information to that found in the deal memo form. You will get this form from your payroll company.
  • Employee Tax Form – The name of this form is pretty self-explanatory. Whoever is in charge of payroll will need this so that they know how much tax to deduct from each crew members paycheck. You can get a pile of these tax forms from a local tax office. Fill one out for each new employee in order to know which tax category he or she falls into.
  • Citizenship form – Every member of your crew must declare his or her citizenship status in order to calculate taxes later. Go ahead and get this information along with the rest of your paperwork.
  • Dual Citizenship Form – In the case where a crew member has dual citizenship, you should complete a second citizenship form for the second country. This way, the Producer can decide later which country’s budget he or she wants to apply the crew member’s paycheck toward.
  • Residency Form – You may need this later for tax reasons, as well.
  • Corporate Form – You need this if a crew member is being hired as part of a corporation rather than as an individual employee. This can occur when a crew member who tends to work as a freelancer  on various productions chooses to incorporate himself or herself as a business. You will be able to identify that a crew member is incorporated when his or her business ends with an official designation such as Incorporation, Inc., Corporation, Corp., Limited, Ltd., Unlimited, and the like. In such a case as this, your production will not be in charge of deducting taxes from this crew member’s paychecks.This is the reason for the Corporate Form, which extracts a promise from the crew member’s corporation that it will incur all responsibility for the payment of taxes from that crew member’s paycheck. Note well: Sometimes you may hire an employee who is not incorporated but who wants to be treated as though he or she is (in other words, the employee won’t want taxes deducted from his/her paycheck). Don’t agree to these terms. In cases like this, have the Production Accountant explain to the crew member the legal reasons for your refusal. After all, you don’t want to find yourself linked to a potential tax-dodging offense.
  • Corporate Tax Number Declaration – In the event where a corporation must charge taxes to the production company, the corporation needs to provide a tax number with this form.
  • Reminder to get Incorporation Certificate – This isn’t a form that you’ll have in your actual start pack; you’ll get a copy of this from the corporation. Nevertheless, it is good practice to include a note in your start pack reminding you to ask for this certificate. This way, you won’t have to rush to track one down later.
  • Permittee Form – In the case where a crew member is not a member of your required union, he or she cannot work for you without a permit granting the right to work on your production. Chances are decent that your crew member may forget about this form or simply may not know about it. It is the crew member’s responsibility to pay for this permit; however, often you can complete a form allowing your production to deduct this fee from the employee’s paycheck.
  • Long Form Agreement – This isn’t something you’ll actually have in your start pack, but it is a document you should know about during the hiring process. Sometimes crew members like the director, the DP, the production manager, or the line producer will have more specific details that they want included into their hiring contract. The long form agreement will contain these details. In cases where you need a long form agreement, the production manager will be in charge of drafting the crew member’s requests, and then legal counsel will be in charge of creating the actual legal document. Keep in mind that the long form agreement does not replace any of the other forms in your start pack; you’ll still need the crew member to fill those out as well.

Always double check the forms to ensure they have been completed fully and correctly. Make sure they have actually been signed, that the rates have been noted, and that any applicable permit papers have been attached. Ensure also that the correct union’s deal memo form has been filled out; sometimes crew members accidentally fill out the wrong one. It helps if you keep a crew rate sheet on hand for reference as you double check the forms.

As you hire your crew and these various forms get filled you, you should always be aware of the importance of confidentiality. You’re going to have a number of deal memos to keep track of, and you need to ensure that they are only seen by the appropriate people. Copies should generally be sent to the crew member, accounting, and the union (if there is one), with a final copy being placed in the production files. It is possible that your legal counsel may want a copy as well. When you send a deal memo copy to its crew member, put it into a sealed, addressed envelope with the word “confidential” printed clearly across the front.

Sometimes crew members will be especially sensitive to confidentiality and will only want the accountant to see their signed deal memos. This can be frustrating for the Production Coordinator, whose job it is to organize and distribute the memos to unions and applicable departments. In cases like this, defer to the crew member’s wishes and wait to obtain a copy of the deal memo from the accountant at a later time.