Darrien Michele Gipson, a producer and former VP of development at Def Pictures, combines her producing experience with union contract knowledge as she leads the SAGIndie team in championing independent filmmakers.
SAGIndie is not part of SAG-AFTRA, but do you work closely with them?
Our job is to make the relationship between filmmakers and the union work smoother. We explain the low budget contracts and the opportunities that come with them. We’re completely impartial. We have a relationship with SAG-AFTRA so that we stay on top of changes that come through with the contracts. We talk to filmmakers and hear how they are using the contracts so we can take that information back [to SAG-AFTRA] and tell them what’s working and what’s not.
What support do you provide for filmmakers?
We do a lot of workshops. We speak on a lot of panels. We go to film festivals and we talk to filmmakers. We support film festivals in general, and every place that we go we actually sponsor in some way because that’s the livelihood of independent filmmakers. Our job is to not necessarily help a filmmaker make one film but to help them make a career out of filmmaking, and because of that we offer our services completely free of charge.
Who can use your services?
Anybody who ever wanted to make a film and is considering having actors in the film. We’re not going to ask for credentials. We’re not going to ask how far into filmmaking or how knowledgeable you are before we answer your questions. We don’t care if it’s the first day you thought of making a film or if you’ve made 50 films.
Do you provide any education or guidance to actors wanting to work on independent films?
The information that we give isn’t just for filmmakers. It’s important that actors also know the rules, so they can know what to do when they are approached to do a low budget film. [That way] there are no surprises, they know exactly what the rules are, [and] they know exactly what the filmmakers understand the rules to be. That makes that relationship easier because everybody knows what the playing field is. But also we really encourage actors to go out and make films themselves. To not wait around for someone to cast them but to take their careers into their own hands and make something themselves, so it’s just as important for them to know the contract rules. Not only to protect themselves but to encourage their own career.