How to ensure that you get a copy of the film/short film once it is completed

I'm sure all of us have had the experience of being promised a DVD of the short film that we have agreed to participate in - usually for no pay because a lot of short films are student films. Those "oh so nice" students who were so charming and kind on the day of filming then go home for the summer holidays and despite their promise that DVD never appears.

I have found a couple of useful ways of getting them to keep their promise.

PLAN A

Ask them before filming if they have signed up to the Protecting Actors Casting Agreement? They are most likely to say "no, we haven't heard of that". Then what you can say is, "I'm sure you will honour the promise anyway without signing up to it but would you mind if I send you a short contract that I often use and indeed I sign it as well as you".

You, as actor, can then draft a simple contract and merely end it with two dotted lines for signature - one by the students and the other by you. You send it out to them in duplicate and they sign and return one copy to you.

Just emphasize that the contract is to everyone's advantage. Say to them:

"I find that this simple contract I use sets out the terms and protects BOTH PARTIES - YOU AS WELL AS ME - in it the contract merely states that I understand that you are (or are not - alter this according to the arrangement) paying expenses, travel & providing me with food (or not) on the day. I then sign to say that I understand I am working unpaid and that I have no right to make any claims on you for payment either now or at any future date. I also sign to say that I give you permission to use the film with me in it and that I grant you permission to use any still photos you may take on the day. My contract also sets out whether you grant me permission to use the film as showreel [or not] on the internet and it also clearly guarantees me a copy of the film on DVD".

I have found that this method usually works.

I've only had one occasion where despite chasing up many times for a DVD I got no response. What I did in that case was write to the University department the young man was studying in - unfortunately he had graduated by the time I took that step.

I would, therefore, advise that if you don't get a response within a reasonable time after the film is finished then you email the student's department before term breaks up (especially final year students obviously).

PLAN B

If you are finding they are responding evasively/unduly procrastinating over your requests for a DVD but that they are at least replying to you then what you can do is this - just say the following:

"I really understand how busy things are at the end of term and I don't want to put you to the trouble of posting a DVD but please could you set up a private video for me on Youtube or on Vimeo - make it password protected - and that way even if you don't want the whole world to see your short film, I shall at least have a record of my work. I'd really appreciate this".

Now that has actually worked for me - some students set up a private dance channel for me on Youtube after I did a long series of dances for their short student film. It's even better than having a DVD in fact as they've done all the uploading work for me!

PLAN C

Careful how you do this - but do suggest they set up a Facebook page for their short film. That way they are more likely to post a link to the short film and they are also going to read any comments you put upon the wall! They aren't going to want to read tactful but firm comments such as "I'm really looking forward to receiving my DVD after the great experience of being involved with these talented students and I'm a bit surprised not to have received it by now. Still I'm sure it will be coming soon?"

Gentle publicity will help you in this way.

PLAN D

Sounds obvious but if the students really take to you because you've been especially nice to them on the filming days then of course you're more likely to get that DVD. Now why do I mention that? Because I've been on film sets where I'm the only actor they've bothered to post a DVD to because a) I emailed them my postal address along with my "thanks for a great shoot yesterday" email after the shoot was over and b) I've gone out of my way to help them on film set.

Hope these hints help.