Working with AFTRA

Things are moving ahead nicely on the new web-based TV show I'm producing/directing in late July (still tentative shooting dates). I'll be posting extensively about the actual show in the near future, but for now I just want to comment on working with the actor's union AFTRA (American Federation of Television & Radio Artists).

On my last feature film, "Killing Down", I worked with SAG (Screen Actors Guild). The experience was okay. But SAG is not that easy to work with, well the people are fine, it's all the paperwork and rules, rules, rules you have to deal with. Not that AFTRA doesn't have paperwork and rules - they do - but not like with my SAG experience, and that is very nice.

I understand and appreciate SAG for what they do for their actor members. Heck, a lot of my closest friends are actors and they use SAG for their insurance, etc. The thing that gets me is how MUCH power they have over a given production, and this coming from a union with 96% unemployment! Again, SAG is good and the actors they represent are even better (typically speaking), but they can definitely be a headache.

With the new web series I considered SAG at first, but then talked to a few fellow filmmakers and learned that most "web shows" are going with an AFTRA contract. I found this intriguing so I investigated. Turns out they were right. A lot of big companies like Disney, etc. are turning to AFTRA for their web content dealing with actors.

Funny thing is neither AFTRA or SAG has an agreement yet for the Internet! I really couldn't believe it. I know web TV shows (or shows SPECIFICALLY created for the web) are a fairly new thing, but the IDEA for them has been around for a while. So I was just really surprised that no contracts exist yet for this - so what happened? Well, we got to create our own "custom" contract which worked out very well.

Another filmmaker friend of mine did this on a web show he produced - but he went with SAG - and they created a custom contract for that too. So it can be done with either union, but I must say that SO FAR my experience with AFTRA has been MUCH, MUCH EASIER (than working with SAG). Of course we still have to do all the production paperwork, and then post-production paperwork, etc. (similar to SAG) - but the upfront work has been pretty much a breeze.

Have to give thanks to the local Dallas AFTRA rep T.J. Jones for being very helpful and working things out with me. She's been great, even if at the beginning she really didn't understand what kind of show I was producing. I kept using the word "pilot" and that made her and the AFTRA national reps nervous. I guess they hear that word and think NETWORK TV PILOT and lots of money. So, we dropped that word from the conversation and things went a lot smoother. :)

I'll let folks know how everything ends up after the shoot. But for now I would highly recommend considering AFTRA for web-based TV shows and the like (they're indie friendly too).


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Letus Footage

To accompany the stills below (in the previous post), please see the actual test footage...

Quicktime (SD):

Windows Media (SD):


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Letus 35mm Adapter Test

These shots are with and without the Letus35 Flip Enhanced adaptor on my Canon XH-A1 HDV camera. Subject was standing 6 feet in front of camera. Everything was shot at 1080p 24fps at 1/48 shutter.

There are notations on the bottom right corner of the pictures as to what lens was used and if the adapter was on or not. Overall I'm impressed with the results. BTW, these stills are directly from the raw footage - no color correction or color grading has been done whatsoever...

You can really see the shallow depth-of-field (DOF) in the shots with the adapter. This give the footage a much more cinematic feel. We found that with the adapter and SLR lens on it is rated at approximately 50 ASA - very slow (2 1/2 stops of light loss). And with the adapter off it was rated around 300 ASA.

I will be posting more information and video from this test soon.


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Cool Photos from Julio Cedillo

These shots are from the set of "In The Electric Mist" from Julio Cedillo. Pictured from top to bottom are the DP (with the camera), John Goodman and Julio (second b&w shot), and then Tommy Lee Jones with the director and producer of the film...


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A Lot Going On!

Yep, there is a lot going on right now...

1. The Texas Legislature PASSED the new film tax incentives bill and Governor Rick Perry will be signing it today (or very soon). This is GREAT news for Texas.

2. My next feature film project is starting to take shape. The script has been done for about two months and we're now working on financing, etc. We also have sent the script out to a Casting Director and a well-know actress for one of the leading roles. Just got word TODAY that the actress loves the project and wants to work on it! This can and likely will help us secure the rest of our production funds and help us lure other name talent to the project. More news on this very soon.

3. I've been talking some recently about a new Web TV Series I'm developing and now THAT project is moving ahead very quickly too. We're actually planning to shoot it in late July and "premiere" the series after Labor Day. I'm very excited about this project for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it is so different. We'll be producing 10 three-minute webisodes to start with (aka "the pilot"). It is going to play much like a serialized comic strip or graphic novel and we have several recognizable actors in the leading roles for this project too. If the show takes off we'll move ahead with future webisodes later in the fall. Look for a new website and Myspace page for the show in the coming weeks.

NOTE: We will be casting for this show in the next few weeks if you are an actor and are interested.

4. My latest feature film "Killing Down" was just at the Cannes Film Market in France. I don't have many details, but I do know it's bee playing well to foreign buyers. I expect to see DVDs start popping up around Europe and the Middle East any day. We have not as of yet secured a domestic distribution deal, but we do have several offers - but we're playing the field some and not in a huge hurry. Hope to have good news though in the near future about when the DVD will be available in the US and Canada.

5. Matthew Tompkins, Sheree Wilson and Julio Cedillo have all been VERY busy since we wrapped "Killing Down" back in early 2006. Just this last weekend Sheree starred in a Lifetime Movie Network movie-of-the-week called Anna's Storm. Matthew recently wrapped a costarring role opposite Dolph Lundgren in Sony Pictures' "Missionary Man", and Julio just finished a leading role in "The Electric Mist" opposite Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman and Peter Saarsgard, and also a part in the new Frank Darabont movie "The Mist" from a Steven King short story. It's great to see these guys and everyone else involved with the film keeping busy and doing good work.

This is looking like it's going to be a fun summer! :)


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and And speaking of, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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