A freelancer is someone on a long-term contract, or a contracted employee whose work requires significant effort to produce, and whose contract is in writing. Someone who produces his or her work for a living is, in fact, a freelance filmmaker. But someone who writes up a list of stories he or she wants to write to do, does not qualify as a freelance.
In order to qualify under the freelance exemption clause, a filmmaker must produce work for at least 50 hours a week from that time, a minimum number of hours per week that is determined by the Federal Writers’ Project for an individual artist.
For more information, go to www.sfwatch.org/business/the-independent-editor-quot-the-freelancer-class-for-film.
What rights does the freelance exemption give me as a worker?
The freelancer exemption does two things: (1) it grants you the right to work, in whole or in part, while working on films for which you are contracted; and (2) it allows you to get paid, per the Federal Writers’ Project, up to the amount allowed for an individual.
For the most part, if all goes right, these exemptions will prevent you from being charged with labor. But sometimes they will limit your ability to get paid. For a freelancer to get reimbursed on a film, the employee has to file a claim with the employer, and they must pay a legal filing fee unless they are working for an employer whose contract they cannot legally break.
For a freelance director to sue for back wages, an employee has to file a claim with the employers, then file with the court the necessary paperwork. In that case, the employer will be sued for back wages and the plaintiff will be sued for back wages.
In a case where a director is suing an employee in a California state court over an unpaid $2,400 back wage claim, that worker has to show that their work on the film exceeded what they were expected to produce in a reasonable amount of time – because the employer could not pay them for the production time, they need to show that they produced at least 50% of what they were expected to produce in a certain amount of time, under contract. For example, if a director is only expected to produce a few pages for a small film, then the California worker might be able to show that their work in some way exceeded 50% of what they should have produced,
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