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So you want to have a go at the movies?
Shortly after a discussion on Mil-Veh-List about the conduct of film/ad production companies I was approached about having my vehicles in an ad. I dug out the responses I had seen on Mil-Veh and then made some inquiries of my own. I got one horror story after another. Here are some of the comments that I can use from Mil-Veh without revealing sources, then following them the advice and info I was given from other than MV owners.
Unless the vehicle in question is being driven by one of the stars who has to be in shot, most vehicle driving scenes in the movies are regarded as 'stunts'; ergo movie union rules demand that the vehicle is driven by a Stunt Man i.e a signed up member of the stunt union.
Most of these guys are nice friendly fellows who love their mothers and go to church on Sunday but put the Stunt Man hat on and put them behind the wheel of any wheeled vehicle, even if they are only on the way to the car park or the canteen for lunch and they cannot resist identifying themselves by setting off with a screech of burning rubber, the gnash of protesting gears and the roar of a suffering engine. When they have accelerated to Mach 1, they do the whole thing in reverse to bring the vehicle to a standstill. This, regardless of the fact that the actual sounds in the movie are generally put on by the sound department in post production.
Have you ever noticed how many vehicles travelling on grass or dirt roads still pull up with that screech of rubber?
We hired two unrestored half-tracks as background vehicles to the XXXXXXXXX movie. Regardless of the fact that we had a damage and stunt clause in the contract, some enthusiastic special effects person on shooting day still moved the Dante fire burners from the agreed position outside the vehicles to under the dashboards where he thought the fire would look more 'realistic'. I suppose it did look more realistic as it fried the instruments and wiring looms but it certainly cost the movie company more for the hire fee.
Moral of story, insist on being present whilst your vehicle is being used and write a no damage and no stunt clause into the hire contract.
Mike S, England
Experience in America.
I have had my toys used in one feature movie and two TV videos. Mostly weapons.
Your folks are right. Movie people live in the land they create. When filming the movie, the scene called for an explosion and a GI to fall into the scene and grab a BAR and start shooting.
Well, they took my BAR, and when the time came, THREW it into the scene. I could hear it clattering on the stone floor of the rock quarry that we were filming in. This BAR is a 1918 original, British proofs, and was used in the movie "ZZZZZZZZZZZ" of years ago.
They threw it into the scene twice. A good friend of mine, saw it and came running up and said, "Ken, don't do it, you'll get at least five years." I was so infuriated that I could hardly speak.
Then to top it off, they took it for the rest of the movie and locked it up in a trailer. I was denied access to it for the whole shoot.
I was paid $100.00 a day for filming and $100.00 for the props (BAR,myself, etc.) Also, after much arguing and threats of legal action, I was given an additional $600.00 to repair the damage to the operating rod and buttstock.
Said all that to say this: Go ahead and let them use your vehicles. However, take plenty of pictures of all sides and equipment before you release them. Let them know that these vehicles are irreplaceable and will cost them much, much money to repair/replace. Then, watch them like a hawk. Don't take any guff from them. Be sure and let them know that you are in charge of your props--and they are YOUR PROPERTY.
I had much better experience with the videos. Better Director and the crew seemed to understand that I would take my toys and leave at the slightest provocation. Since I was supplying 90% of the props, that may have made a difference.
On the good side, it was interesting to see how these were made and some of the crew was interested. And it is funny to see how abysmally stupid some people are around historical things--did they sleep through ALL their American History classes? When did WWII occur? Now who was on our side? Weren't we allies in WWI? Wasn't WWII in the 1950s or something? I'd like to get one of these jeeps. Can you still get them Government Surplus for $25.00?
The money is good and they can be fun to work with if the ground rules are very clear. Have fun and let me know how it turns out.
Your friend, Ken
A vintage car owner I know has a large collection of pre-WW2 vehicles and has had quite a few experiences with ads and films. He has now got to the point where he will not supply his vehicles no matter how much money they offer.
One time he hired out a Dodge ute, the company was well aware of his concerns about the vehicle and in one scene, after much badgering, he agreed to let the actor drive the vehicle to the bottom of a hill about 1km away, where he was to turn around and come back, the scene involved a helicopter. The actor literally "headed for the hills" and disappeared straight over it, over 20 minutes later he returned, assuring the owner that nothing was wrong and that the light was better on the other side of the hill, although the owner was suspicious and looked over the car he could not detect anything. Several months later the ad appeared on TV and the owner was far from impressed to see a female siting on the bonnet (hood) of his car with her high heels pressed into the grill so she could hang on. Upon inspecting the car he found scratches and dents in the grill and stiletto heel holes in the radiator fins, plus paintwork scratches he guesses were caused by rings.
He stresses not to let anyone drive your vehicle. If they start pestering for one of the actors or stunt people to drive, pack up and go home, because no matter how many times you say no, they will find a way to distract you and "borrow" the vehicle while you are in the toilet or whatever.
A businessman I know has had quite a bit to do with this subject and he said sometimes they aren't the quickest to pay. On one occasion he organised a semi-trailer load of scaffolding, the profit margin for him was $1000, when the scaffolding was returned at the end of the filming there was a quantity of it missing, when he contacted the owners they calculated its replacement value at $10,000 and the whole mess was in his lap. It instantly went into the hands of lawyers and after they had had a feast with phone calls and letters flying back and forth, the film company eventually paid up. Someone had raided the set and helped themselves to what they wanted. Supposedly these days 24 hour security is the norm on all film sets!
Another vintge car owner I know owns a 1911 Wolsley (not sure on the date or spelling), supposedly the only one of its type. Quite why he hired this rare a vehicle out I do not know, but to make things worse he was not present during filming. Several months later he was sitting in his loungeroom watching TV and what should appear but the ad with his vehicle in it, complete with hessian over it and large amounts of dirt, not a happy chap.
Here's where you can really get caught. What to charge seems to vary enormously. But for arguments sake, lets say much under $400 a day in your own currency and its not worth it for an armoured vehicle. Now to the average person that sounds a lot, but allow for the fact that you will be contracted come hell or high water to be on site probably from before dawn till after dusk. Then realise that the fee has to cover getting the vehicle to the filming location, wear and tear and fuel, also, if your vehicle is road registered and insured, both are probably null and void instantly you sign that contract or for that matter verbally agree to the hire. You may also be forced to join Actor's Equity (union) if you appear at any time on film.
Also be aware that if you have been contacted by a film scout/co-ordinator the price you quote will have his "finders fee" placed on top. Very quickly your $400 becomes $800 or $1000 per day for the film company and in all probability you will be instantly forgotten as being unreasonable. You really want something in writing regarding the hire fee and in Australia that must also include a GST statement. Having a talk to someone in charge in the production would be a very good idea, not only so that they know how much you have quoted, but to resolve the possible conflicts mentioned elsewhere in this article and to get in writing exactly what is expected of you and your vehicles and so that your requirements are in black and white and contractual. Expect to be given all sorts of reasurances and reasons why that cannot be arranged. Directors etc, seem to be conveniently impossible to contact............
It seems to be normal procedure for a company to be created specifically for the production of each film/movie. This compartmentalises any litigation and protects the backers and major companies. Your chances of getting satisfaction for any damages from an off-shore company or one created within your own country, but now wound-up would be pretty slim.
Normally, all vehicle hire and "extra's" work is paid at agreed or industry standard rates. Expecting to get a percentage of the takings rather than an hourly rate is probably unrealistic, but were you offered it and the movie you worked on then went on to become another Star Wars it will be the most you will ever regret accepting a payment. Realistically, the number of successes in this industry are small. Probably better to be paid and be done with it as there are lots and lots of movies that never make a cent. Just look at the number of movies you walk past in the local video store and think "rubbish"......
A bloke hired out several tanks to a film company, well into the filming they suddenly decided they wanted to set fire to one of his tanks! You can imagine his reaction to that. They badgered him for a while and then said no more. A day or 2 later he was sent on an errand that took him off set for several hours. As he was returning he had just crested the final ridge and was in time to see a large explosion with a couple of 44 gal drums flying high into the air. His tank was involved and suddenly burst into flame. He was then even more agrieved to see one of the 44 gal drums score a direct hit on an ultra rare drop (petrol) tank on his tank and severely dent it. By the time he got to it, the fire was all but out. They had poured vinal adhesive (similar in appearance and viscosity to fibreglass resin) over his vehicle and that was what had been ignited. On set relations with him were antagonistic from then on. They refused to pay for the clean up to the exterior of the vehicle and a repaint and because the film company were packing up and leaving the country soon after he ended up settling out of court for an amount in the hundreds of dollars. It took days of work to remove the charred vinal adhesive and repaint the vehicle: I have yet to find out just how or if he managed to repair the drop tank.
Now for my experience:
I was contacted by a film scout/co-ordinator regarding the use of 2 of my vehicles in an ad. They wanted to film at dawn and dusk and because of this requirement my vehicles would have to be transported to the site (40km out of town in the bush) on a Friday afternoon and returned on the following Monday.
I was assured on-site security would be 24 hours a day.
After seeking some advice, including what came through on the internet and in person I decided that if nothing untoward was to happen I was going to have to go and be with the vehicles for the entire time (and sleep with them too) even though they would only have a static part in the ad! This all but disinterested me as at the time of writing we are going to have a week of 40°C temperatures, I reckon it would still be 35°C at midnight out there. So I then started re-arranging my life to suit the filming and ........ it all came to nothing.
The Italian ad agency canned my involvement on the grounds that my vehicles would be "too threatening considering the present events in Chechnya and the Balkans".
Looks like Political Correctness is alive and well in Italy!
I am told that it is realistic to expect a 1 in 10 success rate for actual work eventuating from enquiries from film companies, no matter how promising and "a sure thing" it may seem at the time of the enquiry.
My thanks to Mike and Ken for the text and permission to use it in this article.
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