World Class Free Film School – Lesson 1 – Sign Zee’s Papers!

Legal Law

Welcome to the World Class Free Film School!

In the following series of articles, we’ll impart our hard-earned knowledge as successful independent digital filmmakers. And (drum roll puh-leaze!) we’ll do it for FREE!

Now why would we do such a thing for free? Well, because we’re dating. Because we love you and we want you to succeed in this sometimes complicated and crazy thing called The Movie Industry.

Now, there are many good film schools in this great old world. Places where an aspiring director or producer can go to learn many of the skills needed to make a movie.

There are also many great books you can read that will give you all the essentials for making a movie. Unfortunately, for the crowded poor masses, these film and book schools will cost an initial investment of time and money. This amount that you end up spending can be thousands of dollars. Now, there is nothing wrong with you spending money to educate yourself. Perhaps some film schools can also help improve your chances of getting a job in the industry, however…

Almost without exception, graduates of these film schools will find that making their first films as directors will end up costing them several thousand dollars more. They will learn the hard way that very few filmmakers ever see any kind of return on the money they have put up to finance their first films.

That has been the reality of the independent filmmaker’s situation, until now. Far too many stories have been told of those aspiring directors who begged, borrowed or stole to produce their first flops. At the end of those sad stories, the tragedy is that they never actually finished his first movie. Maybe they never started. Maybe they ran out of patience or time. Or maybe they went over budget, found themselves financially strapped, deprived of family and friends for favors they couldn’t afford. Final score? Oh I don’t know, maybe you’ll end up a bitter ex-filmmaker, with a shitty job, feeding a sore ego while feeling like a huge failure after spending so much money in film school.

Are you ready for a paradigm shift? This is where the World Class Free Film School is different! Here, you can learn all the technical information to produce an independent film without breaking the bank! In this free online film school, you will learn the basic principles of pre-production, production, and post-production. You will walk the path of a successful independent filmmaker and discover a self-sufficient business model that I have followed since day one in business.

You’ll gain perspective on the lessons I’ve learned and follow me step by step as I explain how I wrote, directed, and produced my first film to make money and continued to use it as seed money to grow an income-generating film library. You’ll learn the tips and tricks for creating movie income streams while satisfying that creative spirit that brought you to this page in the first place. These income streams will allow you to build your arsenal of film crews, finance, produce, and self-distribute more of the same income streams, and yes, they will allow you the financial freedom to produce the occasional non-commercial short film, not giving a damn. Where will the funds come from?

Interested? Good! Please check back often! This is a work in progress, and it will evolve as we gleefully walk down the danger-filled yellow brick road together in this crazy thing called showbiz. I am eager to share and give back some of the knowledge and experiences that have allowed me to proclaim myself a successful filmmaker. Yes, yes, sometimes I puff out my chest and shout my barbaric howl; “I’m a successful filmmaker, dammit!” I admit I get some weird looks sometimes too.

With that being said, I sincerely believe that by the end of this course, if you follow the tasty tips I give you, I have no doubt that you will be able to scream that same barbaric howl!

So come on, jump headfirst and follow me! You have nothing to lose and much to win. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and you might learn something.

The best part is; Everything is free!

Lesson 1 – Sign Zee’s papers!

Ok, you’ve decided you want to make a movie and you’re not going to let anything stop you. It’s time to do like Nike, and just do it. You’ve chosen your entire team and they said they’d work for free (or nearly free and on credit). Everyone is totally happy with the fact that you are making them promises about what they can expect from the final earnings. Everyone is sure this movie is a sure win at Sundance, a major distributor will pick it up, and everyone will get rich, right?


One of the biggest disappointments of this crazy business (and don’t kid yourself, it’s a business), is that it can turn ordinarily nice people into totally greedy, unbearably selfish, utterly insane monsters. This is not a joke.

I don’t know what it is, but one day you’re friends with someone who came to your project two months ago to help collaborate, everything is fine and fancy, you’re cruising towards that Sundance award, then the next day, BLAMMO! It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This previous “regular guy” has been replaced by an alien who grew from a pod last night in his sleep. Maybe you hired him to film some of your footage and he still has the tapes. He was supposed to start publishing them, but now he says he wants a multi-billion dollar advance, he wants 50% royalty on all sales, he wants complete creative control, and…wait…he wants credit from DIRECTOR on the film that was initially your idea two years ago.

OK, this is one of the most important tips I’m going to give you. Before doing anything else; get it in writing! Step one; when you finish the script, get the copyright. You can easily do this by logging on to, paying $35, and following their instructions. Step Two: When you bring someone to your movie to collaborate with, use a contract! Explain everything fully and make sure you don’t give up certain things, like ownership. Make the terms as favorable as possible for you. Remember, it is your concept, your project, your business! As a business person, think of collaborators as employees. Employees whom you appreciate, care for and share, but still; employees. To see a movie through to the end, someone has to be the boss. If they want to be the boss, guess what? You can make your own damn movie! Even if they’re working for free (or nearly for free), you should be able to fire them if, for example, they become group people. Don’t be afraid to fire someone if you have to.

Make the contracts as ironclad as possible. Explain what you are offering them and what rights you will retain. Personally, I’d rather pay someone a daily fee up front, rather than have them work for free (or for some pie in the sky little by little). It’s much cleaner. Pie-eating contests can get messy. Pay the cameraman a reasonable fee and ask him to give you the tapes immediately after each take, if you’re doing the editing yourself. Or, if that’s not feasible, go with him to his studio, wait while he captures the footage to the hard drive, then take the raw footage with you while you edit. When it comes down to it, whoever has the raw footage in his possession owns it. It doesn’t matter if you paid him or not. He shot you and it’s yours until you hand it over. All this is a very good reason to learn to do everything yourself, if you can.

It’s hard to shoot, edit, and act in your own movie all at the same time. You will probably need some kind of actors in your movie. This can be expensive unless you are shooting a documentary. That’s why I like to make documents. Talent tends to be free. Even then, you have to take care of the people who volunteer to be in your movie. Feeding them is nice. Credits are essential. A free copy of the DVD movie must be requested. I like to give people in my documentaries the opportunity to buy additional DVDs from me, at production cost (50%) and let them sell them personally for profit at stated retail price. It is actually a good self-marketing technique. You end up with a great marketing team this way. They earn 50% and you earn 50%. But regardless of whether you decide to share the wealth or not, be considerate!

One thing about getting people to work for free, respect their time! If you say a session will start at a certain time, be present. Nothing makes an unpaid volunteer more upset than taking time out of a valuable day and getting cold-hearted by a late-arriving principal. If you are producing a narrative, you will need actors. Keywords: be professional.

Try to keep it clean and simple. If you can, use SagIndie for talent. I know it’s not always doable, but if you can, do it. It’s only a hundred dollars a day and you’ll get quality performance. You can also learn a lot by working with professionals. Maybe you don’t need to do as many takes. And you’ll usually get better results than using your Aunt Mimi as the lead.

Either way, make sure the talent and location owner sign a release form. Be sure to cast as wide as possible so you don’t get caught up in an “aha, got you!” somewhere down that yellow brick road. There is no greater thrill than fighting over something that is supposed to be fun. Remember that’s our definition of “success”? having fun? Well, follow the advice in this lesson and have everyone sign the zee papers. So have fun!

On our website,, I have included several sample consent forms and contracts for your free review. Please note that I am not an attorney and do not offer legal advice. I would wholeheartedly recommend that you use an attorney when drafting or signing any contracts and/or release forms, whenever possible. Above all, I recommend that you watch out for signs of an alien invasion among your crew. Don’t get caught sleeping on the job!

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