SAGIndie ads seem ubiquitous of late. They’re on billboards throughout U.S. cities and popping up in all sorts of national magazines (including MovieMaker). Often featuring a neophyte moviemaker with a recognizable actor, the ads make it appear as if casting a “name” is relatively easy. But ads can sometimes contain more sizzle than steak, so MovieMaker decided to grill the source—SAGIndie’s director, Darrien Michele Gipson. We must say that we’ve become believers. With a little effort you, too, can likely get some “name” actors in your film. Still skeptical? Read on to see why the next stop for your independent film’s preproduction train should be SAGIndie. (You can afford them. Really.)
Mallory Potosky (MM): A union like SAGIndie seems more important now than ever before, because of the accessibility people have to cameras and editing equipment in their own homes. The perception is sometimes that everyone wants to be a moviemaker. Do you find this to be true?
Darrien Michele Gipson (DMG): It’s true that it’s never been easier to make a film, and that’s why we feel it’s never been more important than now to get the word out about SAG’s low-budget film contracts. The fact is, no matter how small the budget, anyone can afford to hire a professional actor—if they have the right information. Our job at SAGIndie is to give out that information.
MM: Why was SAGIndie developed as its own distinct branch of the Screen Actors Guild and not just run under the larger, general union’s flag?
DMG: This is a great question, because it brings up a common mistake: While the idea for SAGIndie as an educational outreach program was started by Screen Actors Guild, SAGIndie is not really a branch of the guild. We are a separate company, operated by different funding, that works as a conduit between SAG and independent filmmakers. Our job is to make the relationship between the two groups work more effectively. Because of that mandate, we are a neutral entity. That is, while we would never encourage filmmakers to work non-union, we do not just spout the ideals of SAG without knowing and believing in what we preach. In order to effectively help filmmakers to make films and actors to get jobs, we have to be able to listen to both sides and give honest assessments and advice.
MM: How does SAGIndie make it easier for that aspiring moviemaker from Anytown, USA to see his or her movie reach the big screen?
DMG: Let’s face it: You could have a brilliant script and be a talented director, but if the actors in your film can’t sell it—if they aren’t convincing when they utter your words—then your movie suffers. Furthermore, if you want to get distribution, the chances are greatly improved if the film has recognizable talent in it. It doesn’t have to be an A-list actor; you’d be surprised how many actors who might not be as popular now as they once were still mean box-office in certain markets. One so-called “B-list” actor can still be valuable for distribution.
MM: Is that why should a moviemaker should first turn to SAGIndie and not necessarily to his or her talented local thespian?
DMG: Hiring a professional actor means that they come to the set prepared, they know their lines and they can hit their mark and deliver their dialogue with whatever emotion you might require. While a more raw talent may be able to act, they might not be able to make the adjustments needed quickly. And every filmmaker knows time is money.
MM: SAGIndie launched a Diversity Series last year—a quarterly screening series that promotes diversity in movies. Can you explain a little more about how this came about and why it’s a step in the right direction for you guys?
DMG: The Diversity Screening Series was developed to spotlight a group of films that can often be overlooked in a crowded marketplace. We pick a film that has a diverse cast—and our definition of diversity includes women, seniors (over 60), people with disabilities and people of color (black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific and Native American)—that we feel epitomizes diversity in casting in a positive and imaginative way, and we screen it for the industry. Hopefully, we help create a buzz around films that need it in order to get distribution.
MM: How easy is it for a moviemaker to use SAGIndie?
DMG: Not only has there never been a better time to make a film, there’s never been an easier time to get professional actors to be in them. SAGIndie exists to help filmmakers make their films and to help professional actors get jobs in these dynamic, creative projects. It can be a terrific win-win if moviemakers just check out what’s available. The best way to do that is to check out our Website at www.sagindie.org. If you have a question, call and we’ll walk you through the process. We’ll help you in any way we can!