View Full Version : Designer Residuals

08-29-2010, 04:04 AM
I'm currently composing a contract to give to the production company that wants to hire me to design the costumes for an independent short film. The production has a very small budget, and so is paying a single flat fee to be a one-woman wardrobe department, including everything from designing, buying and building the costumes, to being the on-set wardrobe key.

As the short is a period piece, and mostly silent, the costumes will have a much larger-than-average impact on the film, so that, combined with the fact that they are paying me significantly less than industry standard, I thought it would be appropriate to add a residuals clause to the contract.

The problem is, I have no idea how much to ask for, or how to word the clause.

I thought I would ask for a percentage of the net profits of the film, should there be any. Short films aren't known for being big moneymakers, but, on the off-chance that this will be making money for the production company, I'd like a share. A share that reflects the importance of my work in the overall impact and appeal of the project.

Any suggestions?


08-29-2010, 07:43 AM
You are wasting your time. No short makes net profits, or gross profits, or any profits. Or any revenue for that matter. Especially not a mostly silent period piece. No matter where you pull your cut the total will be zero. It's also very unlikely they will agree to pay you more money when they already low-balled you so much that you're wanting a cut of the film to feel whole.

If they do agree, it's because they know they will never have to pay you an extra dime. But they will be happy to start asking you for even more work, since you are getting this mythical cut. Assuming they are willing to agree, the only end result is you will have to work even harder and provide even more.

Most likely they will laugh and find someone else to do this bad gig. Since if they turn you down, you'll either not be interested in doing the gig, or will do the gig poorly.

You need to turn this down. A fixed bid on unlimited work is always a bad idea.

08-30-2010, 07:30 AM
While msorrel's post was somewhat negative, I tend to agree. I don't know if I'd put it in so many words.

Here's the thing. They need the costumes to shoot their film. It's unlikely they'll film the movie in the modern era for lack of funds. So you have leverage there.

I hope you're not paying for anything out of pocket, hoping to make it up on the backend. I'd forget the share: get in and get out with the amount of money that makes you confident to do your job. If you're getting lowballed, and there's no mutual respect there - you'll end up second guessing your relationship to the movie. It might even reflect in your attitude and your work. Then you'll be screwed because those little things will confirm the lowball price they're paying you, and they'll come out thinking they should have paid you less.

Just quote them the price you'd be willing to do the movie for. If they pass, they pass.

Sad Max
08-30-2010, 01:04 PM
Not to add to the negativity or anything, but...

...costume designers do not get residuals. Period. Not at any professional/union/guild level of production,* and I'll venture to guess not at the level of any non-guild/union project which is unlikely to earn enough to make residuals an actual issue anyway. In the US system, that is; British designers are indeed party to a residuals deal but unless you are covered by the appropriate guild, and the production is signatory (which sounds unlikely) I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree.

And, it gets better - or, depending upon your point of view, worse - say that you design a costume for a show, and it's a hit, and that come next Halloween kids are running about in the thousands, wearing costumes derived from your designs - you get nothing. Zilch. Bupkiss.

Welcome to the wonderful world of work-for-hire.

Anyway, as msorrels observed, a residual is a percentage, and considering that you are talking about an independent short...any percentage of zero is zero.

* individual designers may be able to negotiate residuals for themselves on a case-by-case basis - I have never heard of nor been able to find word of this happening, but it's at least theoretically possible since the Union contracts merely stipulate minimums and you are welcome to a better deal if you can negotiate it for yourself...

Erik Olson
08-30-2010, 02:01 PM
In my experience, the vast majority of BTL crafts enjoy no residuals.

Sad Max
08-31-2010, 07:48 AM
The closest thing that most union BTL people see to residuals are the Motion Picture Health and Welfare and Motion Picture Retirement programs. Though of course the 'residuals' payments go into the funds, not directly to individual members as compensation for their work on any specific project.

08-31-2010, 06:09 PM
Well, that would explain why I couldn't find any info on it. The residuals thing was suggested by my stepmother, who is a very successful producer, but in theatre. I guess my thinking about it is, this project isn't following the IATSE or ACFC guidelines for wages (which put "costume designer" as "negotiable" anyway). They can't afford to actually pay me decently, and it's not unheard of for all kinds of projects to attract people they can't afford by promising them a share. No, I don't actually think there will be anything _to_ share, but this piece is based on a well-known work of literature, and it's a Canadian production, so there's some slim chance that the Ministry of Education or the NFB may pick it up. *shrug* If nothing comes of it, nothing comes of it. I'm being paid a flat fee already, and the budget for materials and additional labour is _very_ separate from that, so it's not something I'm counting on. And, you never know. sort of like the mentality that causes people to buy lottery tickets. Not that I ever buy lottery tickets. But adding a clause in the contract costs me nothing, so I figured I may as well. And, hey, maybe I'll start a new trend. ;)

Thanks, again!

Sad Max
08-31-2010, 06:25 PM
This sounds like the sort of gig that you should take if it will satisfy specific goals and objectives that you can articulate independent of pay/residuals. Compensation is not always in the form of lucre; if this is an opportunity to train in useful techniques, work creatively, make something you're proud of and get good portfolio pictures - or whatever you personally consider worthwhile - there's your payoff.

08-31-2010, 09:44 PM
Well, the project just fell through, which I imagine won't be a huge surprise any of you. I'm trying to be more relieved than disappointed, but I was actually really excited about this project, despite all the budget and time issues. Period costuming is my thing, and this film was based on one of my favourite works of literature, and.... sigh.

But thank you all for your input and advice, and I will attempt to put it to better use next time.

Sad Max
09-01-2010, 06:35 AM
Good luck with the next one.

Erik Olson
09-01-2010, 06:50 AM
There will be more. Look at the upside, it's always better to have a production stall-out in pre-production!

09-02-2010, 07:38 PM
Thanks, guys. I'm combing around looking for something new. Wish me luck!