Student Short Films

  • Rob Marni

    Actor

    This year I have partaken in a number of short student films(to brush up infront of camera) and have noticed a number of things to watch out for as an actor if your not sure whether to work with a particular group or not.

    Good

    1. Greet you professionally and respectfully.

    2. Send you the full script and details in good time for an interview.

    3. They have a deadline for the project. (you will get the footage in good time)

    4. They allow for the artist's interpritation of a given role.

    5. They are passionate about the script and thier idea's for it.

    6. They project a level of compitence and intelligence.

    Bad

    1. You don't get sent a script.

    2. You do get sent a script but it is rigid and poorly composed.

    3. The director thinks he's Scorsese.

    4. They tell you when you walk in "Its part of our course work so we have to do it"

    5. Over ambitious***

    6. No fixed date for filming.

    All in all the students at The London Film School, National Film School, London college of communication,Wiltshire College, Bournmouth University - from my experience - have conducted themselves professionally, I understand its a mixed bag so other people may have other things to Say - I would never have done this many previously, but I am glad I have, even though they are learning and do make mistakes, their generally a good bunch!

    • 17th Dec 2011
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  • Peter Lloyd- Jones

    Actor

    I recently did a film with the

    • 4th Dec 2011
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  • Peter Lloyd- Jones

    Actor

    I recently did a film with the

    • 4th Dec 2011
    • 2
  • Peter Lloyd- Jones

    Actor

    I recently did a film with the University of Wales, and found them to be totally professional in every way.

    From the Director to the Make up Lady right down to the runners, I can't sing their praises high enough.

    I have been lucky in the past that all of the institutions I have worked with have been brilliant! it's just that University of Wales were way above everybody else1.

    plj

    P.s. just seen that I duplicated this post by accident (sorry)

    • 4th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Marni

    Actor

    I thought you were rapping Peter!!

    :)

    • 4th Dec 2011
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  • John Rayment

    Actor

    "3. The director thinks he's Scorsese."

    Haha, yes. Auditioned for one a couple of years ago. We were each individually ushered into the presence of this chap who clearly thought he was the next Big Thing. He never spoke - but he had a small army of acolytes fluttering around him explaining to each actor what would be expected of them, and glancing back fawningly at him for his approval. He just sat there looking wise.

    If he'd been *really* wise, of course, he would have let his prospective actors see the script beforehand, rather than just thrusting a pre-highlighted copy into their hands as they entered the audition room:

    a) Because it's just possible that what an actor produces in a cold read may not be the best interpretation they're capable of, and

    b) Because the script was awful.

    Oooh. I seem to have ranted a bit, sorry :)

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Talbot

    Actor

    If they won't send the script in advance of audition then it's either not been written yet or they are pretty clueless. Either way, it's not worth the time out of your day.

    I don't do "cold readings" simply because

    1) I'm rubbish at them.

    2) They have as much relavence to film acting as pre-prepared monologues.

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • John Rayment

    Actor

    Clueless, I think, in this case. Or its near-neighbour, "thought they knew better" :)

    I myself am not blameless, of course - I shouldn't have been there :)

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    They need to spend some time in the real world before thinking they're the next Scorcese!

    I will not audition for any more student films except for the LFA.

    I had an experience last week at a university which will remain nameless where some of the bad points listed above happened inc the wannabe student director's attitude bit!

    If any students want to consider me for future shoots they will be directed to my show reels & asked politely to consider my suitability from them.

    They also must offer Equity film student daily rate which is £58 plus expenses per day.

    Asta La Vista!

    'POLE'

    • 5th Dec 2011
    • 8
  • Glen Campbell

    Actor

    I have worked with Bournemouth University students a couple of times and genuinely cannot praise them enough.

    I fully expect (and hope) to see them working as professionals in the industry in the future.

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Marni

    Actor

    Pole, I completely understand why you might not do any more other than for the LFC - Another reason why it may suit certain actors is that in the Industry 'proper' ~:)Each role 'type' for casting is very fixed, if they need an Oriental actor, they will cast an Oriental actor, whereas if they need a lead protaganist, they will never consider or even see a British actor of Oriental descent, so sometimes student films can allow you to play against type too.

    Anyhow, hope all you chaps get rewarded for your efforts in the near future.

    All the best,

    Rob

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Talbot

    Actor

    For a matter of balance ... I wouldn't normally name the uni ... but I can assure you not all LFS students are top notch. I can't believe how over-inflated some of them are. Do they have lessons in "how to talk down to people"?

    It would be funny if I didn't think they believed their own hype :o)

    • 5th Dec 2011
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  • Anthony Miles

    Actor

    Hi

    I did some a film with some MA students at Bristol and had a fantastic experience. Very professional and I'm really proud of the results. Forgive my ignorance - what does LFC stand for?

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • John Eastman

    Actor

    I did a short film recently (at a well known film school) - they were 2nd year students- but as was giving services for free thought it implied I would at least get a copy for my reel. When I subsequently asked for a copy, I was initially told that would not be possible, (WTF??) then I was told it may take another 12 months (!!) as the film would not be released until graduation. I am now trying to wangle a copy sooner, after the film has been 'graded' (whatever the heck that is)..and yes I should know better...

    Be careful you know exactly what the deal is...

    I should have been more circumspect...

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Marni

    Actor

    Sorry typo LFS

    :)

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • Rob Marni

    Actor

    John, you can get rushes prior to release fom the BBC and Film production houses, I find it strange that a student film won't give you your footage, or rushes? Call the head and explain why you did the job in the first place!

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • User Deleted

    This profile has been archived

    I've just finished an MA graduation film for students at the LCC and it has to be said they were the most professional students I've ever worked with. I've been on worse so called professional shoots!

    Agree that Bournemouth are good as are Uni of Westminster, the LFA and Kingston Uni. Differing standards but all courteous and made good promises of copies of the film with payment and or expenses promptly paid.

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • Mark Kempner

    Actor

    This is such a worn out subject!

    Obviously there are good and bad stories, but the usual is actors are more often than not....struggling to get their footage not just from student films but in general it seems. I edit reels and hear this same old story constantly! Easier to get footage shot from scratch which focuses on you and your casting type!!

    To me, it's not the school....it's the students....however the school should care more and see that footage is sorted out. They don't just do the films for School projects.....the students want to enter the films into festivals which they want to win...and of course so do the schools want them to win! Which means the students will not release the footage as most fest's will not take footage which is already on the net or released.

    If you give your services for free....what do you expect? The footage at the every least of course, and useable footage at that!! So sue them for breech of contract if that was agreed! A few calls to the Film School head may well do the trick....but why give yourself that ass-ache?

    I can't see why the student cannot re-edit your pieces together just as showreel material in any case...its just a bit more work for them but should and could be part of their training. The fact is....they don't care...because as actors...many of you let them get away with it by not insisting on a detailed contract!!

    Always always insist on a contract....and make sure that you know when you will get your footage and list the agreed deadline on the contract.

    Failure to receive footage will then mean the student has to pay you for your time instead....which you also list on the contract.

    Once signed....that's it....footage or pay. If the student won't sign the contract or agree to one at all....walk away and don't do the gig.

    If "everyone" did that...problem over...simples! If the footage is crap...or crap sound etc....then return it and say…it's unusable…and go for the money.

    It's high time the Film schools and Equity worked out a detailed contract which allows for this....and for the timely release of the footage back to the actors who are doing this work for free. I thought there was an equity Film School Contract in place? Can anyone throw any light on that? Does it allow for footage release as part of the contract? If it does....use the ruddy thing and stop whining after the event!

    One other tip....please make sure you get full resolution files as your footage....NOT web compressed versions for me, or an editor to edit with! Just because you have a file on DVD....does not mean we can edit with it properly.

    The only way you will get Students to respect you is by NOT DOING THE WORK FOR FREE...or if you do... YOU MUST GET YOUR FOOTAGE INSTEAD ..as payment!! If you all stuck out for this and went for a proper detailed professional contractual agreement….and used professional working practices as working professional actors....the problem would be eliminated overnight!

    Whilst I am in full rant mode.....I'd like to see Drama schools/film schools educating the students into working practices like this too. The "business side" of being a self employed professional actor/film maker is almost more important than any of the training...especially as hardly any Drama schools touch much (in real terms) on TV and or filming technique in any case!

    So often I read on these forums actors calling for more respect…..well until you respect yourself and your trade….you will rarely get it back! As I said at the beginning.. there are obviously good and bad stories on both sides. I would not be worrying about how I am treated, to me that's playing at being actors….…..I'd only be worrying about earning what I agreed or gaining my footage!! I earned 12k on a film set for 2 days work in an advert and was treated appalingly.....6k per day...they can treat me like that all day long!

    Go and stand in front of a Curries or Jessops shop window if you want to just stand in front of a camera all day for nowt!!

    Rant over!

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Mark has a point, but then, there is no such thing as a subject that *isn't* worn out on these forums - the very fact that such subjects come up again, and again, and again, is testimony to the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that the current industry operates - but I wanted to address three points that I have seen come up in recent posts:

    1. There is no absolute hard and fast rule on which film schools are 'good' to work for, and which 'bad': by and large, the quality of the film and the treatment you receive actually depends on the calibre of the student involved, though some basic rules of thumb which tend to be viable are that: Skillset rated schools have course vetting by government bodies (and charge more in terms of attendance fees) so should (theoretically) attract a higher calibre of student; there is a distinction between dedicated courses at film schools and 'media' courses run by universities, and it tends to be the case that more competent work is shot by the film schools, where the students are more specialist (though you are more likely to be paid by a university!); the further on in course progression the students are, the more likely they are to be experienced in their field and take a professional attitude towards it, so the shoot routine and end product of MA project is generally better than a 2nd year BA graduation piece. Beyond that, everyone disagrees: a school that one person loved working with can be roundly slated by the next; it's very circumstantial.

    However, I will now put on my pedant's hat and note that in a recent exchange everyone has been talking at cross purposes. 'Pole' (i.e. Charles) stated that the school he found most competent was the LFA (that's the London Film Academy). Rob responded by criticising a film made for the LFS (that's the London Film School) - they are not the same school, in the same way that films made for Bournemouth University and Bournemouth Film School are not being made for the same body of people (Rob M also invented the LFC which was a typo!). It is too easy to confuse these things!

    2. As regards John's experience, being told that a film would not be available for '12 months' - this does appear, on the face of it, to be a typically pathetic student excuse to avoid having to process the footage - especially as I'm not sure why shooting something in your second year is intended to contribute to your final graduation.

    However, there may be some degree of extenuating circumstances, as many actors seem to assume that editing is some kind of magic process that happens within a week of wrapping the film. There should be 'rushes' available from the word go (and in that sense Rob M is absolutely right)because they are, essentially, the raw footage that you shot. However, it is the devil's own task to labouriously transfer shot after shot into an executable format, and virtually no editor I have ever known will offer you a copy of the rushes if they can at all avoid it - it simply takes far too long to provide you with what you want (it might, ironically, be easier to get this sort of material out of a big corporation where they have the resources to delegate someone to doing it). So, what most student filmmakers agree (putatively) to send you is a finished edit. Some showreel providers will say this is a bad thing in the first instance, because it means they cannot re-cut the original material to e.g. privilege your performance better, and that, sadly, is true, and one reason why some prefer to shoot their own material for reel for which they always hold the masters. Still, most make do with the edits that they are sent.

    But, of course, the edit has to be finished to a satisfactory level first. And this is the stage at which many student offers fall down: the edit turns out badly, and they don't want to acknowledge the film, or they procrastinate about finishing the edit for months on end, or they won't release it till they get the sound right, and they won't get the sound right for another ten months until a mate they have who'll do it comes back off a gap year or...whatever. If they are *genuinely* working towards a graduation year completion date for this piece, then they will be in no particular hurry to finish the edit, and they won't be sending material for the simple reason that - they haven't edited it properly yet. There is no production company breathing down their neck demanding it needs to be done by next week, come hell or high water, so the only date they are working towards is submission deadline. Even then, they don't have to make more than about two copies unless they are mindful of getting copies to you.

    Thankfully, if John's group are soon moving towards the 'grade' i.e. the process in the edit when they balance all the colour in post-production, it's a good sign that they have the cut edited to satisfaction and are placing the finishing touches on it, and indicates they *were* stalling when they said that they 'couldn't possibly' send John a version for another 12 months.

    They may, of course, be labouring under some kind of misapprehension that, by offering John the footage early, they may be risking a compromising of their own work should he make it widely available - in this sense, their ownership should be respected to some extent, and one should e.g. refrain from using extensive extracts in public forums prior to 'release'. At the same time, though, if they have promised a DVD, that constitutes a contracted 'payment in kind' and there is a rightful claim on that footage, so you shouldn't be denied use of it on an arbitrary basis. You could argue that one way around issues of 'privacy' would be to send an actor only the excerpts featuring your performance as these are the only ones that will be directly useful to you for showreel (and might only constitute a scene or two from the whole). However, as this would mean yet more editing and time spent on matters, most student film makers never go for this option, even if you offer it, and actively prefer to send the final cut in its entirety - again, it's less hassle for them!

    3. As regards Charles's remark on Equity Student Film Rate, his attitude is exemplary, though it's worth pointing out how Equity Student Film Rate works. Equity have set the rate that Charles mentions as being an acceptable nominal day rate for work on student films. However, there is only one film school in the country that actually pays this rate as a matter of course - and that, as Guy Press will always tell you, is the NFTS (National Film and Television School). No other school, however good (or otherwise) their reputation, pays this rate as standard, and some with the best reputations in technical terms e.g. the London Film School are the worst at paying actors. It would appear after Tim Gale, Equity's legal officer, actually pointed out to the LFS that offering a DVD in return for work constituted a legal contract of payment in kind, and therefore proved that they were offering actors contracts, therefore employing them as workers, which should, in turn, mean that they were legally entitled to NMW, LFS have reacted to this by rescinding guaranteed offers of DVD's!

    There are all sorts of complexities that surround Equity's position vis-a-vis whether we should be campaigning to get actors paid NMW whenever they are employed when this is, in fact, *less* than an Equity advised rate, but the fact remains that Equity feels that you are contracted as a worker whenever you work at a film school, and should be being paid something for your time. This was all discussed at great length at the Equity Lo/No Pay Working Party at which I was a recent participant, and some of the conclusions we came to were actually very promising, but I don't think I'm yet at liberty to divulge all the details. What can be said is that there a legal query that hangs over whether or not the film schools are, indeed, legally exempt from having to pay workers on the basis that they are definable as 'charities' and this will have to be decided by HMRC (i.e. Revenues and Customs). It is fair to point out that, if HMRC decided this was not the case, the film schools would have to pay every actor at least NMW for the sake of participation.

    Equity Student Rate, however, is otherwise only really negotiable - and negotiating it is a battle that may have to be fought with every individual project. Some may, with a little pressure applied, suddenly find money in the budget to pay you after all, or genuinely profess ignorance that such a rate existed, and feel very sorry that they didn't offer that rate in the first place. Some will not budge - in many cases, this is not entirely the student's fault as they receive exiguous or non-existent budgets for their films, and are expected to supply everything (including location hiring, costuming, food etc.) out of their own pockets, with the one proviso being that the school provides the equipment with which to film.

    • 6th Dec 2011
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Ah, I actually read Mark's post *carefully* after I'd replied, and I note that he asks about Equity's policy. I hope that came out (fairly) clearly in the previous reply, but just to reiterate so no-one is in any doubt.

    Equity have set a rate for student film work on the basis of a daily fee.

    It is a fairly modest fee in relation to standard rates because it's recognised that a student film will have less budget behind it than a regular feature!

    It is upheld as a standard, however by only one school in the country. NFTS has agreed to pay it by default on every project undertaken for them.

    Equity cannot enforce this rate across the board (much as they might like to), because they have to negotiate terms with each film school; if the school does not want to endorse the contract, there is little Equity can do.

    However, since National Minimum Wage legislation came in, it is axiomatic that every person in this country employed as a worker is entitled to a minimum payment for their daily work.

    The film schools claim an exemption from paying NMW to all actors they employ on the basis that they are exempt from 'employment of workers' (if you are classed as 'volunteers' on the basis of working for a 'charity', NMW is not due to you).

    It is probable that this claim isn't legally valid, but until such time as Revenues and Customs decide one way or another on it the ability of the film schools to claim exemption will continue. Equity's best advice then tends to remain that by encouraging individuals to pursue 'test cases' against film schools for e.g. breach of contract, this helps to point up the fact to HMRC that issues are present.

    Equity's position, as always, is that campaigning for actors to be paid NMW has its limits, because that is a rate that is substantially lower than Equity sets its own rates, and establishing it as a threshold will allow employers the opportunity to pay NMW in preference to Equity rates, so they are always cautious about pushing the issue too far - but they also realise that some pay is a whole lot better than no pay at all. The thinking is, presumably, that should all film schools be required legally to pay actors NMW, Equity might then be in a better position to negotiate individually better deals with schools, perhaps in return for offering incentives of its own (such as encouraging actors to offer services to certain schools?).

    The positive news is that it seems HMRC is taking more interest in these issues than it had done previously.

    In lieu of all this, Mark's advice is as good as any that can be given: draw up solid contracts on your own behalf, present them to schools and see what the reaction is. It may surprise you, and to your satisfaction, you get everything you want, or it may fail to surprise you, and you will have to turn down the negotiation or shoot the film with many reservations, but at least you won't feel the need to complain about it so much afterward.

    • 6th Dec 2011
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