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May 2002: Co-op and TIP movies:

Elizabeth McCallum, Board member Actra Toronto Performers An article by Elizabeth McCallum - Actra Toronto Performers Board member

If you are an Actra member,
co-op films are a great way of creating work and learning more about other aspects of film production - specifically writing, directing and producing, although don't overlook catering and lighting!

Be aware, though, that there is no credit towards full membership on a co-op film. In a worst-case scenario, someone could hook up a camera in their basement, record five two-minute rants and poof, full Actra member!! Credits must be obtained under professional conditions, and the co-op has never aspired to be more than a self-training program. If it was ever believed to be more than that, we would be in trouble with the CFTPA.

That being said, although there is no credit on the line, a co-op film is still a great thing to do. Instead of twiddling their thumbs until an opportunity for a credit arises, people can make a short film until such time! Better yet, it gives them a credit on their resume and perhaps adds to their show-reel, both of which can be an aid to their getting an agent, or to increasing their chances of auditions, hence those aforementioned opportunities. It also develops a deeper respect and understanding for the other aspects of filmmaking, from shot decisions to the issue near and dear to our hearts ..... which friend plays which part, aka casting!

In a co-op film there is no casting session because the idea is that people get together and decide to do it as a joint venture, not one person who went and roped in other members he/she didn't know. This is reflected in the project being an equal shareholder agreement.

The next step up from co-op is the agreement with the film schools , which at this point does allow at least one credit towards full membership (if you require less than 6 credits for full membership), or two credits (if you require 6 credits for full membership). That does not mean that you are allowed to participate in only one or two, it means that you will, under the present rules, receive no more than one third of your credits from student films no matter how many projects you do. You might also want to bear in mind that your first Actra credit cannot come from a student film, although you can bank your credit for future use.

Next is TIP, previously known as CLIPP, which is the Toronto Indie Production. In a nutshell, our low-budget agreement.

This is not like a co-op because it is not member-driven; it is a project for assisting young producers and directors, and as such, we offer them a deal on our services - a discounted day rate, but a higher back end should it end up as the next Blair Witch Project!

"Back end" means that any fees payable to participants will not materialise until some future date, and only then if the film starts to make money.

"Front end" refers to the amount of money paid during production of the movie.

Informally, this is a guess at approximate percentage breakdowns:

  • Co-op - 100% back end
  • Film schools - 100% back end
  • TIP - 10% front end, 90% back end
  • CIPIP - 50% front end, 50% back end
  • IPA - 90% front end, 10% back end
Apprentice members should never be discouraged, and when work is sporadic, as it is right now, creating a co-op film would not only educate people and fill the time between credits, it could indeed be the vehicle that propels them to stardom.

Case in point: Several years ago a bunch of people got together and made a short film called "Troops", a spoof that crossed Star Wars with the TV series Cops. I enclose the web address here, so you can check it out. Many of the people involved are now working for George Lucas.

I challenge us all to create the next underground hit!

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