Legal/accounting advice for filmmakers
March 21, 2013 11:04 PM   Subscribe

I'll be shooting a feature film in L.A. later this year, and I need some advice about how to handle the business side. I'm hoping that somewhere there's some sort of low-budget service that provides help to people who are new to the process.

I know I'll need to set up a production company, and I don't really know how to do that. I'm sure there are "walk yourself through it" guides online, but I'd prefer to talk to a real human being who can go over all the tax and legal in-and-outs. (I am aware of the minimum tax of $800/year in CA)

Additionally, I'd ideally like to get some advice about payroll and how to handle that. We'll be using and paying SAG (union) actors, which means we're required to do "real" payroll.

I'd also like to know what making this movie will mean for me (and my equally inexperienced investors) tax-wise. Finally, I'm sure there are a ton of legal and financial issues that I haven't even thought of.

I realize this is sort of two different things (lawyer and accountant), but I'm hopeful there's some kind of low-cost service/person somewhere in L.A. who walks new filmmakers through all these business hurdles. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by drjimmy11 to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would advise you to get a lawyer involved as early as you can - for too many indies it's an afterthought that comes in too late. The reason is because already in the planning stage you should take certain measures, establish who functions as what etc., let alone before hiring anyone.

A quick overview of some issues - you can download it onto your kindle:

The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers [Kindle Edition]

I'd recommend reading it now, so when you're ready to talk to a lawyer/accountant, at least you know the lay of the land and which questions to ask. Things tend to go much faster (and thus cheaper) when the client understands what the lawyer is doing and saying.
posted by VikingSword at 11:47 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dov SS Simens is a bit "schticky" but he does provide some remarkably useful information (even in the free videos on his website) about the financials and legalities of independently produced films. Of course, you will need a lawyer, but Dov can probably teach you more about the process first.
posted by hamandcheese at 8:41 AM on March 22, 2013

Check out California Lawyers for the Arts (full disclosure, I'm a volunteer). They host workshops and lectures throughout the year on topics relevent to the creative industries, including film making and production. They can also provide referrals to lawyers, cpa's, and other professionals you'll need to get everything running properly.

If budget is an issue, you can apply for pro bono services.
posted by Arbac at 9:02 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, very helpful!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:03 AM on March 22, 2013

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