So, you’ve gotten a job on a film, you’re going to help make a movie!
Congratulations! Whether you’re a set designer, make-up artist, camera operator or any of the other positions film making can offer, one of the initial stops you’ll make on your new job is the office of the production accountant. This is where it starts and here are a couple of things you need to know.
The first bit of wisdom is SO simple. When you begin a project, you will be presented documents to complete by the producer or accounting department. These may be a W-4, an I-9, a start/close form, time card, release, or a deal memo. Every blank on these forms means something. Read them and complete them with all the correct information. Payroll companies may have to pull your time card if you omit information such as your social security number, apartment number and address, even your zip code. Most important: WRITE LEGIBLY! Can your writing be read? If not, print. Three or four people will be reading this information in order for you to get your paycheck. If you want to get paid, make it easy for the people cutting your checks.
A second bit of advice: if you have the option of being an “employee” or an “independent contractor,” it is to your advantage to choose “employee.” The production company will pay your benefits for Medicare, FICA, worker’s comp, and state and federal unemployment agencies. The latter two provide unemployment benefits through the Georgia Department of Labor if you meet certain requirements. As an employee, your state and federal taxes will be withheld for you. Come tax time, that W-2 form, with your tax deductions already made, will be a nice surprise. And, the benefits paid for you amount to a 7.65% increase in your payment. An independent contractor classification is often used for those who are self-employed. Not all jobs offer this option – one or two days work can fall under the IC category. But for longer jobs, you will be considered an employee. With IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) productions, in most instances you will be treated as an employee unless you are incorporated. There are exceptions but the employee status is generally a good pick. Check with your tax advisor for their determination.