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The Breakfast Club: Behind-the-Scenes Scoop on the Cast, Crew and Production
The Jock. The Brain. The Princess. The Basketcase. The Criminal. With a simple throw of Judd Nelson’s fist, these five characters were etched into cinematic history. The Breakfast Club was a defining flick for the ’80s teen generation.
The onscreen angst was impossible to escape, but some behind-the-scenes insight provides even more depth to the beloved film. Check out some of the most fascinating and quirky facts you probably didn’t know about the youth-defining flick from the ’80s.
Nelson’s Iconic Fist Pump Wasn’t Scripted
We all remember Judd Nelson’s legendary fist pump at the end of The Breakfast Club . In the iconic closing scene, John Bender strolls off into the sunset as “Don’t You Forget About Me” blares in the background, pumping his fist in the air.
Did you know that this legendary ’80’s movie moment wasn’t scripted? Nelson was alone in the closing shot, so Hughes wanted his final actions to have an impact. However, he wasn’t sure what he wanted the star to do. Nelson improvised the film-defining action, throwing his fist up as he waltzed away from the high school.
Their Group Therapy Was Almost Entirely Improvised
If you didn’t cry during the sharing-circle scene in the movie, you might be a sociopath. The main characters’ heart-to-heart on the floor of the library summarized the cult classic’s main theme: High school isn’t all pranks, laughs and harmless gossip.
Still, you can’t give all your praise to the writer for this fantastic scene. In fact, John Hughes didn’t script this emotional portion of the flick. Instead, he asked the stellar cast to ad-lib the scene. This might seem like a lot of pressure, but the cast — all tumultuous youth themselves — rose to the occasion.
Molly Ringwald Almost Played Allison
Could you imagine anyone in the role of Claire (a.k.a. “The Princess”) other than Molly Ringwald? The pretty-in-pink redhead plays the school’s popular girl without batting a faux eyelash. Ringwald — who was only 16 during filming — brought an authentically teenage performance to the popularity-obsessed character.
But did you know Ringwald almost played Allison, goth-girl extraordinaire? It’s hard to imagine the bubbly actress in such a dark and gloomy role. Fortunately, Ringwald and Hughes came to the conclusion that she was a better fit for Claire’s character, and the role of Allison went to the phenomenal Ally Sheedy.
Judd Nelson Was a Menace Offscreen
Judd Nelson’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite sharp-tongued bully came at a cost. Nelson, who was actually 25 at the time of filming, played the role of John Bender (a.k.a. “The Criminal”). Nelson’s tough onscreen portrayal of John was phenomenally intimidating, but his acting caused plenty of behind-the-scenes conflict.
Nelson took the practice of “method acting” to the extreme and refused to break between scenes. This led to difficult relationships with other members of The Breakfast Club cast. Case in point: He bullied Molly Ringwald relentlessly, even when the camera wasn’t rolling, and John Hughes nearly fired him for it.
The Breakfast Club Was Supposed to Have a Sequel
Hughes originally planned to write a series of films that would reunite the characters every decade. The only issue? The cast. John Hughes frequently experienced conflict with Judd Nelson while filming The Breakfast Club. As a result, he swore to never work with the actor again. Yikes.
Another complication? Hughes was mainly a curator of teen films. By the late-80s, Molly Ringwald was over the teenage aesthetic and wanted to shift her focus to more mature projects. Besides, an adult-centered sequel wouldn’t have the same charm as the teen-centric film.
The Film’s Opening Quote Was Suggested by Sheedy
At the opening of the film, a quote from David Bowie’s song “Changes” is displayed against a black screen: “…And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…”
These lyrics perfectly sum up the film’s theme, highlighting the self-awareness of youth and the negative impact of judgmental authority. The quote wasn’t written into the original script. Rather, Ally Sheedy mentioned the lyrics to John Hughes in passing. She had no idea he used them in the film until the premiere.
Ally Sheedy Gave Anthony Michael Hall an Adorable Nickname
Anthony Michael Hall’s character, Brian Johnson (a.k.a. “The Brain”), is one of the angsty flick’s sweetest characters. Johnson is socially awkward from the get-go, but he reveals his sensitive side throughout the movie, stealing the hearts of the audience.
As it turned out, Hall was just as caring as his character. Everyone in the cast loved him, including Molly Ringwald, who dated him for several months after the film wrapped. In light of his sweet personality, Ally Sheedy assigned him an adorable name: Milk and Cookies. Unfortunately, Hall strongly disliked the girly nickname.
Judd Nelson Went Undercover at a High School
What better way to learn how to play a bad boy than to spend your days with high schoolers? The Breakfast Club was filmed in Chicago, and several scenes were shot within a local alternative school, Main North High School. The cast members were allowed to wander through the school’s halls during the day.
Apparently, Judd Nelson (posing as a teenager) befriended some of the students. He asked them for rides back to his hotel in exchange for beer. When they asked why he lived at a hotel, “I told them my dad was in jail,” Nelson shared with Moviefone.
Ally Sheedy Owed Her Role to Two Black Eyes
When John Hughes wrote the script for The Breakfast Club , he was eager for the flick to be his directorial debut. However, Universal Studios favored producing his other script first: Sixteen Candles (1984). Although the leading role went to Molly Ringwald, another Breakfast Club familiar face also auditioned for Samantha Baker: Ally Sheedy.
When she showed up to audition, she was sporting two black eyes from an accident on another set. Although Ringwald scored Sixteen Candles , Hughes remembered Sheedy’s gothic injury when casting The Breakfast Club and called her about playing Allison.
John Hughes Wrote the Script in Two Days
Creatives can take weeks, months or even years to pump out their works of art. Yet it only took John Hughes two days to write The Breakfast Club . Considering the original script would have taken more than 2.5 hours to watch, writing it that quickly is quite an impressive feat.
Fortunately, Hughes’ script wasn’t a rigid piece of work. He made a plethora of changes to the text, including pitching an NSFW portion of the film, inventing Carl the Janitor and rewriting scenes the cast and crew didn’t find “totally tubular.” Unsurprisingly, many scenes were also improvised.
Ringwald and Hall Had to Attend Real School
Nelson, Sheedy and Estevez were all over the age of 18, but both Ringwald and Hall were 16 when filming began. As a result, labor/school laws still applied to them, including completing their actual high school work.
Several close-up shots between Claire and John were accomplished by filming them with Ringwald’s older body double. Nelson told AV Club, “Molly and Michael still had to go to school. They could shoot, like, a half day. So, a lot of my close coverage was done with Molly’s stand-in, so Molly could do her schoolwork.”
Sheedy Didn’t Have to Get into Character
“When you grow up, your heart dies.” Sheedy’s melodramatic line became a treasure among cast members and fans alike. Although Sheedy was in her early 20s when filming began, she didn’t have to try hard to play the gothic teen.
She admitted that the character of Allison was inspired by her own high school experience. On the film’s DVD, Sheedy shared, “That’s how I felt on the inside when I was in high school.” She also said, “Allison is a part of me. She didn’t have to come from anywhere. I didn’t have to find her.”
There Isn’t a Punchline for John Bender’s Joke
In the film, John is crawling through the school’s air ducts at one point. Hughes asked Nelson to come up with a joke to tell during this scene. The result? “A naked blonde walks into a bar, with a poodle under one arm and a two-foot salami under the other…”
So, what’s the punchline? It doesn’t exist. Despite the joke’s hilarious (and bizarre) opening, Nelson didn’t come up with an ending. The rest of the cast and crew couldn’t invent one, either. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary, as Nelson fell through the library’s ceiling before he had the chance to say the punchline.
The Cast Members Were Smoking Oregano
At one point in the film, the cast of characters passed around a joint that John snuck in. The “weed” caused several of the characters to behave in funny and erratic ways, especially Brian, who was suddenly looser and craving strange foods.
The joint also led up to the uber-emotional group therapy scene, one of the defining moments in the film. Of course, they didn’t have genuine weed on set, especially with minors present. What were the cast members actually inhaling? The group was smoking an herb, but it wasn’t marijuana. They smoked oregano.
They Cut a Killer Dream Sequence
While the dream sequence form of storytelling was once uber-popular — and a total blast to watch — John Hughes ultimately decided The Breakfast Club could live without one. He had originally scripted a dream sequence for the flick that was pretty bizarre.
When Allison shows up for detention and dozes off, we don’t connect with her character until she wakes up 33 minutes later. In the original script, Hughes wrote her a dream sequence where she saw herself as a vampire, John as a prisoner, Claire as a bride, Brian as an astronaut and Andrew as a Viking.
Rick Moranis Was the Original Janitor
Although Carl the Janitor appears in only two of the film’s scenes, he is at the epicenter of the flick. He is blackmailing Principal Vernon, which allows him to challenge authority in ways the kids can’t. Carl (who had a love-hate relationship with the Brat Pack) was originally slated to be played by Ghostbusters actor, Rick Moranis.
However, when Moranis played the scenes with a cheesy Russian accent, the producers weren’t happy. Thomas Del Ruth told HuffPost, “There needed to be a sense of seriousness…he was the middle point. Everyone else was on the extremes.”
Judd Nelson’s Audition Didn’t Go Smoothly
Nelson was infamous for his rambunctious behind-the-scenes behavior on the set . However, his audition for the role was just as notorious as his future behavior. When he showed up for his audition fully immersed in the persona of John Bender, he completely freaked out the people waiting.
“I was just about thrown out of the waiting room,” Nelson shared. “The secretary in the waiting area called security…that’s when someone from behind the office doors said, ‘Judd Nelson, we can see you.’ I gave the finger to the security guard and walked into the room.”
Emilio Estevez’s Character Was Supposed to Be a Football Star
Emilio Estevez’s portrayal of Andrew Clark (a.k.a. “The Jock) is a stand-out performance in The Breakfast Club . His character goes through one of the most significant transformations in the film, as he reveals himself to be a tender-hearted kid, rather than a tough-fisted wrestler. In Hughes’ original script, Andrew wasn’t a wrestler at all.
He was originally written as a football player. Unfortunately, Estevez didn’t quite fit the typical look of a football star. Due to Estevez’s shorter height, Hughes changed the character’s sport to cast Estevez in the role.
Allison’s Dull-Colored Costume Was Handmade
Colorful, neon garments defined the spastic era of the ’80, not dark, depressing clothing. The emo/grunge look didn’t roll around until the early ’90. When it came to dressing Allison’s character, the costume designer, Marilyn Vance, had difficulty finding pieces to support her depressing style.
“I couldn’t find anything! Everything was colorful,” Vance told HuffPost. “I don’t know if you remember the ’80s, but my God. Colors were just happening all over the place.” Because she couldn’t find adequate Allison-esque clothing in stores, Vance made every piece of Allison’s costume by hand using the dullest fabrics she could find.
John Hughes Trusted Ringwald
Despite the fact that Ringwald was only 16 years old at the time of filming, John Hughes prioritized her opinion over anyone else’s — including his own. Ringwald was the primary star of other projects masterminded by Hughes, including the uber-popular Sixteen Candles . As Hughes’ muse, she had a hand in many of his decisions on set.
Her sway over Hughes was particularly evident when it came to rewriting parts of the script. If Ringwald didn’t like specific scenes, Hughes often rewrote them. The woman originally cast to play a gym teacher was dismissed from the set after Ringwald objected to her role.
The Cast Didn’t Want to Fire Nelson
Ringwald wasn’t bothered by Nelson’s aggressive behavior as much as Hughes was. Despite Nelson’s cruel comments and rude attitude offscreen, Ringwald understood it was just method acting. Still, Hughes was prepared to drop Nelson to soothe his own outrage.
Ringwald told The New York Times, “[Judd Nelson] was doing this sort of method actor thing…he was just trying to get under my skin, like Bender tries to get under Claire’s skin. It really didn’t bother me, but John [Hughes] was extremely protective of me, and it just infuriated him…we all banded together and really talked John out of firing Judd.”
Ringwald Had a Unique Costume Request
Ringwald’s character in The Breakfast Club came from wealth, but she didn’t want to dress like a stereotypical rich kid. Marilyn Vance shared, “She didn’t want to be the spoiled ‘daddy’s girl,’ which is originally what was planned. She was going to be wearing a shorter skirt, a crochet look with maybe a beret…something that would be more bratty.”
However, Ringwald felt her character was too sophisticated to dress like a ditzy aristocrat, so Vance abandoned her original costume plans. Instead, she designed an outfit that would showcase both Claire’s cultured attitude and her wealth.
Hughes Cut a Risqué Scene
It’s hard to imagine The Breakfast Club having any room for NSFW scenes. However, in Hughes’ original script, he managed to include a disturbing topless scene. Fortunately, the awkward shot didn’t make it into the film, mainly due to protests from female cast and crew members.
The original scene involved the teens discovering a peephole into a locker room and spying on a female coach who was undressing. However, Ringwald, as well as other female members of the crew, criticized Hughes for the uncomfortable scene. Within a day, he had written it out of the script.
Ringwald Criticized the Film’s Lack of Diversity
Hughes’ film may have appealed to teenagers of the ’80s, but it was far from inclusive. The cast was completely white. When Ringwald was asked by Entertainment Tonight about a potential remake of the movie, she replied, “hopefully not one where everyone is so white.”
In another interview with E.T. , Ringwald said, “When I look back on The Breakfast Club , I think it speaks to so many different people, but…it’s incredibly white. I think if there was ever another movie…I think it really needs to incorporate racial diversity. Not just racial but all kinds of diversity.”
The Original Title Was The Lunch Bunch
It’s hard to imagine The Breakfast Club without its standout title. Still, in the original script, the film was called The Lunch Bunch . This title didn’t quite capture the quirkiness of the film, and Hughes ultimately changed his mind.
We can thank one of Hughes’ friends for the improvement. While attending New Trier High School in Illinois, his son heard someone say “The Breakfast Club” to describe the frequent flyers in detention. It’s likely the name originated with Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club , a radio show airing from 1933 to 1968. Hughes loved the name and ended up using it.
There’s a Haunting Message in the Graffiti
The beginning of the film features shots of Hughes’ fictional high school, including cryptic graffiti spray painted on its walls. One phrase that appears within the graffiti is “I don’t like Mondays.” This phrase isn’t just a high school lament. Rather, it’s a reference to one of the first school shootings in the country.
In 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer used her Christmas present — a rifle — to open fire on a group of schoolchildren. She killed the school’s principal and a custodian and injured eight children. When asked why she did it by the authorities, she answered without remorse: “I don’t like Mondays.”
John Hughes Made a Cameo as Brian’s Father
At the end of the film, several of the students’ parents pick them up. During casting, Hughes asked casting director Jackie Burch to play one of the fathers. Burch told HuffPost, “I think he was channeling Alfred Hitchcock…Normally, I don’t love stuff like that, but this was great.”
Hughes was cast as Brian’s father. At the end of the flick, Anthony Michael Hall hops in the passenger seat of a vehicle being driven by the director. Hall’s real mother and younger sister were also in the cult classic, playing Brian’s mom and sister at the start of the film.
Allison’s Dandruff Was Parmesan Cheese Flakes
One of the yuckiest elements in The Breakfast Club was accomplished using a strange method: grating chunks of Parmesan cheese. Yep, the crumbly cheese flakes were used to represent Allison’s copious dandruff in the film.
Her excessive dandruff was a central component in her obscure character. She even used flakes to add “snow” to a drawing she completed. Yuck. Allison took pride in her weirdness, as seen by her dandruff drawings, the loud nail chewing and her embracing of “The Basketcase” label.
The Library Was Scorching Hot
The majority of the film was shot in a singular, enclosed room: the library. In order to keep the set well lit, they had to use a ton of stage lights. The fixtures quickly heated up the room, resulting in temperatures of up to 110 degrees.
As a result of the heat, cast and crew struggled to stay comfortable between shots. The director of photography, Thomas Del Ruth, told HuffPost Entertainment, “We had to hire two additional assistant directors just to work on the second floor and keep the crew awake so they wouldn’t snore and ruin the sound takes.”
“Don’t You Forget About Me” Was Written for the Flick
The soundtrack for The Breakfast Club was full of authentic ’80s hits and jingles, such as “Waiting” by E.G. Daily, “Heart Too Hot to Hold” by Jesse Johnson/Stephanie Spruill and several instrumental bops by composer Keith Forsey. Of course, the most notable of them all was the legendary final song, “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
Written by Keith Forsey and performed by Simple Minds, the song became a worldwide hit along with the movie. Simple Minds recorded the tune specifically for The Breakfast Club , and it climbed to the top of the charts and became an era-defining bop.
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- Personal Studios
- Short-Term Studios
Digital Editing and Post-Production Facilities
- Digital Editing & Post-Production (Introduction)
- Post-Production Suites
- E46 Student Technician Helpdesk
- E45 Student Lounge/ Computer Bullpen
- E39 Film Scanning
- A111 Mix Theater
- A112 Recording Studio
- A112e Sound Design Suite
- E104 Transfer Room / Helpdesk
- F104 Post Sound Suite
Production and Installation Spaces
- Production/Installation Spaces
- A404 Black & White Studio
- BB3E Sound Stage
- C113 Installation Space
- C115 Video Studio Sound Stage
- C117 Permanent Set
- Production/Installation Space Reservation Form
- C105c Videographics
Other Institute Facilities
- Film & Image Services
- Print and Media Lab
- COVID-19 Best Practices
- Production Services (Introduction)
- Pre-Production Overview
- Film Permits and Location Agreements
- CalArts Insurance and Workers Compensation
- Working with Actors
- Off-Campus Location Library
- California Film Tax Credit
- Production Services Orientation
Live Action Production
- Live Action Production (Introduction)
- How To Behave On Set
- Set Protocol
- Safety Practices During Production
- Working with Electricity
- Working in Heat
- Shooting on/near Streets and Roadways
- Cars and Other Moving Vehicles
- Elevated Work Platforms
- Fire and Open Flames on Set
- Smoke, Fog, and Lighting Effects
- Power Tools
- Production Trucks
- Prop Weapon Usage
- Stunts and Coordination
- Animals in Film
- Desert Insects / Animals
- Water and Boats
- Makeup and Prosthetic Materials
- Filming in the Rain
- Film shoots on Campus
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- Chemicals and Flammable Materials
- Using Foam(ed) Plastics
Post-Production and Sound
- Post-Production Wrap Book
- Sound Effects
- Recording Sessions
- Sound Mixes
- Color Grading
- Master File Deliverables
Digital and Analog Workflows
- House Codec
- Standard Naming Convention
- Digital Workflow Overview
- 16mm Workflow Overview
- Production Drives and Making Backups
Copyright and Clearances
- Copyright and Clearances (Introduction)
- Copyrighted Material
- Original Music
- Logos, Brand Names, and Trademarks
- Location Releases
- Character Names, Addresses, Phone Numbers, License Plates
- Copyrighting Your Own Work
Marketing, Screening, and Distribution
- Marketing Your Project
- Film Festival / Contests / Distribution Information
- Screening Opportunities at CalArts
- An Introduction to Film Finance
- Adding Your Film to IMDB
Grants and Scholarships
- CalArts Flaherty Seminar Scholarships
- Experimental Animation Named Scholarships
- Princess Grace Film Grants
- Sekula Documentary Award
Vendors and Discounts
- Vendor List
- Software for Personal Devices and Educational Discounts
- Los Angeles County Library Card E-Resources
Contracts, Releases, and Forms
- Contracts, Release, & Forms (Introduction)
- Actor Contract/Release
- Backstage Casting
- Call Sheet Template
- Crew Contract/Release
Cast/Crew Sign In Sheet
- Cigarette Release
- Crowd Notice Area Signage
- Crowd Notice Audience Signage
- Emergency Medical Information
- Emergency Phone Numbers
- Event and Performance
- Extra Release
- General Release
- Insurance Request Form
- Location Contract
- Minor Release
- Musician/Composer Release
- Nudity/Simulated Sex Act Rider
- One Sheet Example
- Post-Production Questionnaire
- Prop Weapons Use Notice
- Reception Request
- Right of Publicity Agreement and Copyright
- Safety Inspection Form
- Safety Meeting Attendance
- Vehicle Release
- Weapon Release Form
- Insurance for Travel Outside of the US
- Facilities Supervisors' Authorization Form
- Volunteer Agreement
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- School Policies
- Academic Advising
- CalArts School of Film/Video MFA Thesis Guidelines
- Grading Procedures
- Graduation Reviews
- Independent Study
- Mid-Residence Reviews for BFAs
- Residence Requirements
- Campus Maps
The sign in sheet is a useful tool that tracks who is on set and arrival / departure times. It helps the filmmaker monitor if people are consistently late and offers quick information to help aid in turnaround times. It allows the filmmaker to think ahead in terms schedule and timing.
Start Forms for Cast & Crew in Film Production
This post discusses the start forms given to people in film production. A start form is required for everybody on crew, cast, above the line or below the line. You need to fill out these documents in order to get paid. If you don’t, you will not get paid.
Don’t delay the submission of your start forms. You should turn them in on your first day of work because, if you’re hurt (a simple cut or worse); those documents are important to making sure that you’re taken care of.
They ensure you are documented and that all of the employer processes are started in order to make sure you’re accounted for. Hopefully, nothing bad is going to happen to you, but it does happen. So, in case it happens, just make sure you protect yourself beforehand.
The documents you are usually going to find in a start packet are:
- Form I-9, and;
- Company deal memo
Sometimes you will find a nondisclosure form, sexual harassment disclosures, and other extraneous documents you need to fill out, but the list above is usually the minimum. The key documents here, however, are your Start Form, I-9, and W-4.
The start form has many fields you need to fill out and it’s a bit confusing (unless you do a lot of it) to know what to fill out and what to ignore. The most important fields are; your name, current street address, city, state, Zip, your social security number, and your phone number. Other fields such as the production company and the title of the picture will typically be filled out already. If the other fields are not filled out already, accounting or production will complete them.
If you’re working on a union picture, simply fill out the union you’re working for. If it is WGA, DGA or SAG, put that in. If you an IA member and you belong to a particular local and you’re working in a covered category, fill out your local number. For example, if you’re in LA, and you’re a local 44 member, simply fill out 44.
You can fill out your ethnic code if you want to. I’d recommend you fill it out if you can, if it’s simple, or if it applies. Other important things to include are your citizenship status and resident status. That is a place where you currently live; have lived for six months or more; where you intend to file a tax return for the year. If you’re new to California, for example, and you intend to work there for a year, simply fill out California. The same applies to all states. If you are unsure what to fill out, simply fill out the state where currently reside.
Another important field you need to fill out, but which the production company will typically fill out, is your start date. If it’s left blank, fill in the day you started; your first day of employment.
Here are a few things you should not do when filling out your start form: Don’t fill out your rate or your job class. Don’t fill out your occupation code, any account coding, production company name, or the project name. These fields will be completed by production company or the show paymaster.
If you’re working under a loan-out corporation, you will need to fill out the area on the form or on a separate form that lists the name of your loan-out and the state where your business is registered. You need to include the state, the state number, the date incorporated, and the state of incorporation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the state where you’re working because you may have to qualify in multiple states.
For example, if you’re a California Corporation or a California resident working in North Carolina, you technically should be qualifying to do business in North Carolina as a corporation. If you don’t, some states will withhold some percentage of tax for your loan-out and one of the ways you can avoid that is by qualifying to do business in those states.
Qualifying to do business in that state has a fee. You should talk to your tax preparer or business manager about how you want to take care of that.
Some payroll services will require you to send in your corporate documents. Most states have the status, the name, your corp ID number, and all of those data points online with the secretary of state website so that the payroll service or the company that’s paying you can corroborate the status of the loan-out. In other words, to verify whether or not you’ve paid your state bill, whether it’s current, or whether it’s been revoked.
Payroll is checking the information on the state website to make sure that the corporation is current, active, and in good standing. They are not really worried about who they’re paying. They just want to make sure that the document and the company that they’re paying into are valid and in good standing with the state in which you’re organized to do business, which is where you’re incorporated.
The last point you need to know about the loan-out corporation’s start work is that you won’t need to fill out a W-4. You may be asked to provide a W-9. If this is the case, make sure you include the name of your Corporation, the address, city, state and Zip, the entity type on the most recent W-9 forms. Then make sure you sign it and make sure you date it. Those are required. If you don’t do that, it’ll get kicked back to you and you’ll be required to fill it out again.
Finally, if you are working under a loan-out or considering creating one, we use eminutes for all of our corporate filings. I derive no benefit by recommending them, but I tell everyone who asks to call them first. They are not the cheapest, but the work is good complete and they will cover all you annual filings using an automated website that won’t have you stuck with a $500 late bill because you or your lawyer forgot to fill out a form and send in $20.
For the W-4, you need to fill out your number of dependents and your marital status, which can be single, married, married filing jointly, or married filing separately. You can check out our blog entry on W4 Explained that will give you details on how to calculate your tax obligations to determine whether you should fill out married or single and your number of dependents.
But basically, if you’re married, fill out married. If you’re single, fill out single. If you are a single man or woman, your dependent status is going to be one. If you put zero, you will get the maximum amount of taxes taken out. So, the higher your number of dependents, the lower the taxes taken out.
There is nothing illegal about claiming married when you’re single nor is it a crime to claim nine dependents when you have only yourself as a dependent. You’re only using the marital status and dependents to estimate what your withholding tax for the year will be.
Don’t fill out exempt in your W-4. If you put exempt, most payroll services and employers will probably list you as single and zero and that will withhold the max. The only way you can claim exempt is if you did not pay tax in the previous year and have no estimated tax obligation for the current year. However, cases like these are rare in entertainment business.
Persons who live below the poverty line have no tax obligation on the state or federal level, but most people who work in film production are making good money and they’re making salaries far in excess of the poverty line. So they are not exempt from paying taxes.
Make sure you sign your Start Form and W-4 and indicate the date that you signed both documents. It’s an important data point.
Every employee who works for a production company, or any company in the United States, is required to fill out an I-9. The important data points on this form are your first name, last name, your middle initial (if you have a middle name), your street address, city, state and zip, your date of birth and your social security number. Then indicate whether you’re a citizen, non-citizen, a lawful permanent resident or an alien allowed to work. Make sure you sign and date the document.
I don’t provide email address here because these are public documents and I don’t want my email out in the world. Note that the form I’m referring to expires in 2019 so it may change slightly, but it’s unlikely to be substantial.
The next thing you need to provide are documents proving that you can work. If you check the box for citizen, all you have to do is provide a passport OR a driver’s license AND a social security card. So the easiest thing is to bring your passport. You’re going to need to show it to someone to sign off or show someone a copy or send them on a scan of the document. The same applies to your driver’s license and your social security card.
Everything else, such as the paperless transfer and the employer documentation is not for you to fill out.
If you are a non-citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien authorized to work; you will need to provide your green card and your other documents from the federal government. Make sure you show up with those document and make sure you have them checked before you start working.
When I say have them checked, I mean the employer you’re working with will need to corroborate that the documents are accurate and that they’re genuine. If they’re not, then you won’t be able to work. Verifying the documents of anybody who is not a citizen is a little more complicated so give yourself some time for those documents to be vetted, corroborated and confirmed by the payroll service.
As production accountants, we don’t even look at those documents when we receive them. We send them straight to the payroll service for verification. What we want to know here is whether you are allowed to work and whether the documents are genuine. It typically takes 24 hours to get a response from the payroll service stating whether or not you are allowed to work.
Employer deal memo
The content of company or employer deal memos vary across different producers. They are usually formatted slightly differently. However, the key point here is that you need to fill out your name, street address, city, state and zip, your telephone number, and your date of birth if required. Then you need to sign it and write the date you signed it. If there are fields for your sex (male or female), your ethnic status, or other details, fill them out if you can or if you want to (you’re not required to).
Non-disclosure and other documents
Finally, you need to fill out and sign the non-disclosure forms and the other documents that they may ask you to fill. While some companies take them seriously, others don’t care so they won’t ask for it. It just depends on what you’re working on.
Sometimes, we’ll be working on commercials or projects which we can’t tell anybody about the title much less what we’re working on or who we are working for so don’t be surprised if you are required to sign a non-disclosure.
There may be other documents that you need to complete and sign. One of those documents is fringe. It’s not very common. But you may get other documents your employer requires you fill out. So go ahead and fill them out to the best of your knowledge and sign them if they need to be signed.
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Cast and Crew Release Form
This is a template I found for a cast and crew release form.
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- 1. Cast and Crew Release Form PARTICIPANT'S NAME: HELP WANTED (Hereinafter referred to as the “Production”): Producer(s) (Hereinafter referred to as “Producer(s)”): ______________________________ ________________________________ For the opportunity to participate in the Production, I agree that the Production may be broadcast and/or distributed without limitation through any means and I shall not receive any compensation for my participation. I also understand that the Production’s title listed above is tentative and can change without releasing me from the terms of this contract. I confirm that any and all material furnished by me for the Production is either my own or otherwise authorized for such use without obligation to me or any third party. I grant the Producer(s) the irrevocable and unrestricted right of use of my name, likeness, image(s), voice, and biographical material produced via my participation in the Production. Producer(s) may exhibit, advertise, promote, and otherwise exploit Production or any portion thereof in any medium, whether or not such uses contain audio and/or the visual reproduction of myself and whether I am identifiable or unidentifiable. I understand that the Producer(s) has the right to use the materials created for the Production in any way he/she chooses and I have no right to inspect or approve those materials. I further agree that my participation in the Production confers upon me no rights of use, ownership, or copyright. I understand that all materials and intellectual properties produced in association with my participation become properties of the Producer(s). I release the Producer(s), their employees, individuals assisting with the Production, agents, assigns, and/or third parties associated with filming locations from all liability which may arise from any and/or all claims by me or any third party in connection with my participation in the Production. I agree to pay for damages to any and all items, property, and/or equipment related to the Production that results from my negligent and/or reckless behavior. It is understood that the Producer(s) are under no obligation to broadcast or distribute the Production. I give the right to the Producer(s) to assign all terms stated in this contract. I also understand that by agreeing to the terms of this contract, I am not guaranteed participation in this Production. I, _______________________, agree to and sign this on the ____ day of ____________, ______. _______________________ / ____________________________ / ________________________ Participant's Signature Street Address City ____________________ / _________________________ / _______________ Home Phone Number Emergency Phone Number Date of Birth ======================================================================= If participant is a minor (under the age of 18), the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required: I, ____________________, am the parent or legal guardian of ____________________ and I am in agreement with the terms set forth in this Release Agreement in his/her behalf on this ____ day of ____________, ______. _______________________ / ____________________________ / ________________________ Parent or Legal Guardian Street Address City, State, Zip ____________________ / _________________________ Home Phone Number Emergency Phone Number ======================================================================== _____________________________ / _____________________________ / _____________________________ Producer(s)’ Signature Producer(s)’ Signature Producer(s)’ Signature Date: ____________________________ / _______________________________ / _____________________________ Phone: ___________________________ / ______________________________ / ______________________________ Email: ___________________________ / ______________________________ / ______________________________ Please bring a valid driver’s license or photo ID when returning this agreement. For any questions/concerns regarding this contract or the production, please call or email one of the producers listed above.