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Weathering the storm: The freelance perspective

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Producers, broadcasters and distributors are venturing into largely uncharted territory as the COVID-19 pandemic upends production activities across the globe. With ‘Weathering the Storm,’ Realscreen will examine the impact of the disruption upon various sectors of the non-fiction screen content industry, and reveal how different companies and stakeholders in the business are coping with the changing landscape. 

The novel COVID-19 coronavirus — the pandemic that has left a landslide of productions dropped and delayed over the last month alone — was just starting to make headlines in China as John Peterman was finishing up a job in Chicago.

Peterman, the founder and CEO of New York production outfit Ngenuity Entertainment, works as a freelance production manager and coordinator. In December, he was capping off his latest contract.

“As my job is ending, this virus is starting to begin,” he says. “I was literally out of work. I came back to New York with several interviews already in place and I started to sense that there was something happening because the interviews went well but people were like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to hire at this time because something’s happening in China that could affect us soon.’”

The trend escalated dramatically in the coming months, leaving some of the industry’s most vulnerable — largely those circulating in the ‘gig economy’ — without work.

“Production is shut down across the board, that’s pretty much what we’re seeing,” Lynn Hughes, independent producers and chair of the Women’s Impact Network at Producer’s Guild of America (PGA), says. “Folks who are not aligned with some of the big production houses or studios have been sent home.”

Hughes says a number of the PGA’s members who previously had full schedules are now faced with “very little to do.”

“A big chunk of our membership in the DC area are losing projects just because they can’t go into production, especially in the reality world,” she adds.

‘BLESSING AND A CURSE’

Jay Schlossberg, president of D.C.-headquartered Media Central, works with freelance producers to supply local camera crew, gear and production support to projects across the U.S., Canada and 114 other countries.

“Things started to cancel the week of March 9th — little shoot here, little shoot there. By last Tuesday, almost everything was canceled,” he says. “That includes cluing up in a number of cities around the U.S. but also in London, Berlin, Madrid, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo — they were all this month. They all just went away.”

Schlossberg has a number of “strict protocols” in place for crews that are still operating, such as disinfecting equipment and practicing social distancing on the job, and says he’s doing what he can to support freelancers.

“There’s a lot of hungry people out there that are scared, all of a sudden everybody lost all their work, especially the freelancers. I know that production companies, their employees are going to be hurt too because production has stopped,” he says.

For Peterman (left), the lack of work has its upsides.

“On the one hand, we have all this time to concentrate on our projects and on the other hand we’re literally faced with a pandemic that has an uncertain future,” he says. “We’re so used to having our lives lived by a schedule. We have everything planned out, we know what the end game is. Now, I don’t know what the end game is.”

Now, Peterman spends his days working on a project that has been in the works since 2015, but gained new momentum at the end of 2019. “We were going to go full steam ahead with this and then the wind got sucked out of our sails and now we’re sitting here coasting,” he says. “What’s our next plan of action? When are we going to go back to work?”

Elsewhere, in the UK, London-based freelance producer Olivia Strong was contracted for a project from January to July, with filming expected to get underway in May and June.

“I work in documentaries, non-scripted. I normally have contracts from anywhere between a month to a year,” Strong says.

A few weeks ago, the small independent production company she was working for instructed the team to work from home. “We’re in pre-production right now so we can work remotely,” she explains.

Still, shortly thereafter, layoffs ensued. Strong’s contract was changed from five days a week to just two. The plan, she says, is to jump back into filming by June, assuming the virus has dissipated.

“[It’s] obviously not great… You’re out of work, and there is no other work out there at the moment,” Strong says.

“The positive side is that as soon as we are ready to go again, there’s going to be a huge influx of projects that take off, across the whole industry — TV, film, everything. I just don’t know when that’s going to be… If I continue on a two day week, I could really use this time to develop. When else are we going to have this time to do it?”

Peterman echoes Strong: “I’m not going to put a timetable on it, but in the near future I feel confident our industry’s going to rebound, people are going to go back to work, and jobs will be filled up… We’re just on this balance beam and we’re not sure which way it’s going to go.”

STEPPING UP

Though some key industry players and government officials have provided some relief, more can be done to support the freelance production community.

“I’d love to see the industry step up a little more,” Hughes says. “I know it’s going to be hard on everyone, but I do see that there are some players who could help alleviate some of the hardship. What Netflix did this week was great.”

Since the start of her career, Strong has gone from contract to contract, and has never been out of work. Though she says working freelance has benefits, the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the instability.

“When things go wrong in the economy, there isn’t a lot of support,” she says. “It’s not just me in this situation. Every production has stopped. I’m fortunate to have these two days a week… Time will tell. It is a really scary time.”

On March 26, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled new measures to support the country’s self employed, including a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month.

Similarly, in Canada, the federal government established the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which would provide CA$2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who have lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

cherylStill, for Cheryl Dillard Staurulakis (left), principal of Florida-headquartered Orama Filmworks, and Canadian filmmaker Phyllis Ellis – the team behind Toxic Beauty  — documentary filmmakers are a vulnerable community at the best of times.

“It impacts Cheryl and I on different levels: developing a film, shooting a film, posting a film and then distributing a film. And then all the ancillary things; awards season, and how do you get nominated? All of those considerations. And then you come back down to, why does any of that matter in this moment when we’re facing one of the greatest health and economic crises and in our lifetime?”

Toxic Beauty is “signed, sealed and delivered,” Staurulakis says, though the pandemic has interrupted its campaign. The pair were also in production on a sports-focused documentary, with another film in distribution.

“Specifically for documentary filmmakers, producers and directors and writers… How do you develop a film when you don’t even know if you can get to where you need to go?” Ellis asks. “We have a film in production right now. How do you finish shooting a film? Do you wait?”

For Ellis (pictured below), the industry is concerned about the future, job stability and their livelihood — and the situation has left many on shaky ground.

phyllis“What people don’t understand is when production stops… Let’s say you were going to shoot in April, but now it’s been pushed to June and it may be pushed to October, the entire team, the entire army of people gets pushed, but they don’t get paid,” she says. “That puts a lot of pressure on an industry for sure.”

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Rhode Island Comic Con Panel Recap: Choose Your Realm, Westeros or Hogwarts?

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Courtesy of Co-director, Lindsey DeLuca.

Rhode Island Comic Con was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center this year from November 1-3. Nerds and Beyond joined the large crowds of people that were in attendance for an amazing time at the biggest show in the smallest state.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the variety of celebrity Q&A panels that were available for attendees to sit in on. Keep reading for our recap of two of the panels that were not to be missed!

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Winter is coming (really), and what better way to usher in the White Walkers’ favorite season than a chat with Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor)? The Game of Thrones panel, aptly titled “One More Trip to Westeros,” was an excellent and insightful journey.

The panel began with a question about how the actors felt now that Game of Thrones is over. Nairn reflected on Hodor and explained that he initially wondered how much he could bring to the character, as he wanted him to be real, not a ridiculed laughing stock. He then realized that he was able to convey something beautiful and human with Hodor, which was very apparent on-screen. Allen, meanwhile, said that he had a specific and unique journey because his character was initially hated and ridiculed (before Theon’s big comeback!). He feels that it’s interesting to look back on it objectively now and is ultimately eternally grateful to have been a part of the show.

Because of what his character went through on the show, Allen discussed how he has a lot of conversations with people now about mental health. He went on to say that in regards to being able to talk about it, being honest, and being a symbol for it, he “can’t think of anything better.”

When asked if there was a character on Game of Thrones that they wish their own character had gotten a chance to have a scene with, Nairn replied that he would have liked to have worked with Charles Dance (who portrayed Tywin Lannister). They were then asked if they would like to have played any other character, and Allen said Ramsey (because there’s a lot of license to do what you like in that role), and Nairn said Varys or Brienne.

Allen, when someone inquired as to which scene in Game of Thrones that they were most proud of, referred back to the scene in season 6, episode 1 where Brienne and Pod show up to save Sansa and Theon. Allen described a moment (which he said was small but important to him) where Theon had been staring at Sansa, but turns his gaze to the ground when she looks over at him. He explained that this small reaction was not planned, he just naturally did it because it felt right, and he really liked how the scene turned out.

Nairn, of course, referred to the infamous door scene. He laughed as he reflected on how many doors were involved throughout various takes, and also explained that there were a lot of emotions because filming fell on his birthday, and those were his last few days on set.

Allen was asked what made him say yes to the role of Theon Greyjoy. He explained how big of a deal it was at the time for someone to have a chance to work with HBO, especially in England! He said that it didn’t seem real to him that he could potentially be a part of an HBO show, as he was actually watching HBO’s The Wire at the time. Interestingly enough, Allen actually auditioned for the roles of Jon Snow and Robb Stark before eventually taking on the role of Theon.

The topic of off-camera moments was brought up, and Allen launched into a tale about a time when he, Richard Madden (Robb Stark), and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) went out to a club (which Nairn was DJing at!) and found themselves in a bit of trouble. Trouble being defined as Allen inviting himself up on stage to do his own “routine” amongst the ladies that were up there performing. Unsurprisingly, he was quickly removed from the establishment.

Nairn, meanwhile, went on to discuss how one of his first days of filming ended up being one of his toughest days on set. As he was new to the acting world, he didn’t really know what to expect. He specifically referenced the scene in which Tyrion presents Bran with his newly fitted saddle, and Hodor then has to carry Bran. Nairn quickly learned about how difficult the repetition of filming scenes can be — eight times!

When asked about their previous knowledge of Game of Thrones before working on the show, Nairn stated that he knew nothing about the book series and hadn’t even heard of it. However, when he told his mother he was auditioning, she “freaked out” and told him to say yes if he got the part. She was the one that encouraged him to take on what ended up being his first professional acting role!

Allen had not read the books, and when he later asked if he should, he was told that they would leave that up to him. Though he did start reading them, he eventually stopped because the direction of the story changed as the show took on a life of its own. He also laughed as he remarked how he looks nothing like the book version of Theon.

Overall, Allen and Nairn’s panel was an absolute delight. It was a pleasure to hear about their experiences working on such a huge and epic series that has meant so much to so many people. 

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Wands at the ready? To end off this phenomenal weekend, RICC brought us back to Hogwarts with “Avada Kedavra! Wizarding 101” featuring Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood). Before we launch into the panel’s details, we wanted to commend RICC on their organization for this massive panel. It was clear as we queued that not everyone who had lined up would be getting to the panel, and RICC handled it flawlessly with only allowing a certain amount of fans into the ballroom at once, the staff communicating effectively on how many more seats were available before sending another group in.

It’s no secret that Lynch had been a Potter fan before her casting — and that Luna Lovegood had been her favorite — but it’s still always wonderful to hear her talk about that love she still holds for her character. She retold a story of how just the year before her casting as Luna, she dressed as her for Halloween, even hand-making her own set of radish earrings. The designers over at WB loved her version so much that they purchased the pattern from her and replicated them for the film and memorabilia later on. “She had a mature mindset,” Lynch reminisced about Luna, “I found solace in her character. Her self-acceptance made it so she didn’t judge other people.”

The Harry Potter cast across all the films feature some true masters of their craft. When asked which of their veteran cast mates they enjoyed working with most, the Phelps landed on Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), and Wright enjoyed David Thewlis’ portrayal of Remus Lupin, her favorite professor from the books, so much she asked him to star in her directorial debut, Separate We Go. Lynch recalled as an actress new to filming the ease and playfulness of Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), and how watching them taught her that acting really, truly is about playing and having fun.

What would a celebrity panel be without one the most classic questions at a fan Q&A: what was the funniest moment from set? The group laughed as they told a few silly stories, one of which being when Dumbledore’s Army is discovered in the Room of Requirement in The Order of the Phoenix. Straight faces were limited, they remembered, with each take getting progressively funnier the more it was shot.

Harry Potter also breaks the hearts of its readers with some fan-favorite character deaths, and the Phelps, despite one of their characters dying in the books, mentioned Harry’s trusty owl Hedwig’s shocking demise as one of the most impactful deaths of the series. Lynch had to tell her mom to take the book and hide it after Dumbledore’s death in The Half-Blood Prince. Wright thought Sirius’ death packed the most punch, and that’s definitely up there for us, too. Speaking of the books, James Phelps loved Prisoner of Azkaban, Oliver Phelps thinks Goblet of Fire is the best of the bunch, and both Lynch and Wright agreed that Order of the Phoenix is number one.

This series is important to a lot of people, and gaining more fans every day, and this panel made it clear it was just as important to the actors in the films. James Phelps felt fortunate to have worked with such a fantastic crew and set that was fun to go to everyday. It gave Wright the inspiration to go to college and study film, the knowledge of the craft of filmmaking enrapturing her. Lynch was amazed by the creativity involved, and she learned that imagination really is a magic power — the ability to see something in your head and then turn it into a work of art.

Lynch also volunteered herself for a role in the films when they get rebooted — she’d love to play Trelawney! And in the same token, she hoped that they would consider an entire series of one episode per chapter, and the crowd certainly agreed. But the question flipped from who they’d like to play to how the characters defined them as actors. The Phelps both agreed that Fred and George were very saturated versions of themselves, while Wright noted there was a blurred line where Ginny ended and Bonnie began. She remembered it took a few years to process the whole experience and realize how significant and formative it was, and to celebrate it. Lynch commended that the characters were so well written and developed, it made the job easier. She wanted to find more individuals like Luna who inspire her and make her want to be better.

The panel ended with the actors revealing their own Hogwarts houses. Oliver Phelps wanted to remain a Gryffindor, but it turns out that the ever-popular Pottermore revealed them both to be Hufflepuffs! Wright mirrored her on-screen character with a sorting into Gryffindor, where she was joined by Lynch per the quizzes, who was happy with her sorting (although she sometimes wished it was Ravenclaw).

It was so great to see these old cast mates together once again, the love for their Potter characters still abundantly clear. It was just like going back to Hogwarts, even if only for an hour.

The Nerds and Beyond team was at Rhode Island Comic Con all weekend, and we had a blast. You can read about our take on RICC as a whole here!

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Originally posted 2020-04-28 15:16:15.

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VIDEO: Preview for ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 15, Episode 5 “Ghost”

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This upcoming weeks episode of Criminal Minds titled “Ghost” will follow the unit as they investigate a possible copycat killer.

While there may not necessarily be any spirits flying around the BAU, that idea is haunting in itself. At the end of this week’s episode four, there was a teaser that showed Simmons and Alvez inside of a warehouse tied up and in danger with a male’s voice that says “I will watch both of you suffer”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBw1C4vgbIc

Check out the synopsis for the episode below:

“Ghost”– Following a series of fatal shootings, the BAU team travels to Des Plaines, Ill. to investigate what appears to be a copycat serial killer. Their efforts are thrown off track when members of the BAU are targeted, on ‘CRIMINAL MINDS’, Wednesday, January 29 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

There is also a trio of sneak peek videos on the Criminal Minds YouTube channel for next weeks episode that you can watch here.

Criminal Minds airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Originally posted 2020-04-27 15:52:31.

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A Step By Step Guide On Getting Your Company Ready For GST Implementation

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GST came into effect on 1st July 2017. Nearly all indirect taxes got subsumed because of its implementation (minus a few state taxes). It is a multi-staged tax and gets collected at points of consumption.

Economists also refer to it as destination-based tax. GST council is accountable for regulating the tax rates, and it oversees various rules and regulations of GST.

The government introduced GST to substitute a slew of indirect taxes with a primary charge. Everyone expects it to reshape the current Indian economy and take it to higher levels.

Some people have also reprimanded the way this government implemented it. However, GST has shown positive outcomes in practically every aspect. It has served businesses and authorities alike.

You can read all about gst and gst latest amendments here.

It is compulsory for all entities or personnel involved in buying or selling goods or rendering services to be GST registered. All such businesses whose annual turnover is higher than INR 40 lakhs are eligible and have to register for GST compulsorily. For service providers, this limit is INR 20 lakhs.

Certain business entities need to file themselves under GST no matter what their annual turnover is. Here is a list:

  • Input Service Provider (ISP)
  • Casual Taxable Person (CTP)
  • Non-resident Taxable Person
  • Inter-state supplier of goods
  • Any service provider
  • Goods supplier through an e-commerce portal
  • E-commerce portal
  • TDS/TCS deductor
  • Online data access or retrieval service provider

All the business firms that compulsorily need to register themselves under GST may face a penalty if they don’t do so. The government may impose a fine of up to 10% of the taxable amount up to a maximum amount of INR 10,000.

You need to realize that you don’t have to spend on GST from your pocket. The government collects this tax from consumers as an output tax. There is a provision for an input tax credit in GST.

If you have paid GST for buying raw materials or any other services for manufacturing your commodities, you can file for a tax return. The administration will credit it back to you.

When listing your business under GST, you need these documents:

  • Your PAN Card (Personal Account Number Card)
  • Your Identity proof (for example Aadhaar Card, Voter ID Card)
  • Proof of business registration or certificate of incorporation
  • Bank account statement or a cancelled cheque
  • Digital signature
  • Authorization letter/ board resolution for authorized signatory

Things You Should Know Before Registering Your Company Under GST

GSTN (GST Network)

The government has made sure that there is no obstacle or delay to the taxpayers by shifting the whole registration process online. You can register your business under GST without having to run hither and tither to government offices.

To facilitate this, the government put together a network dedicated to everything related to GST. This network was called the GST Network (GSTN).

This portal is used by the government to track every single transaction ever recorded. This portal also facilitates the registration of firms and businesses under GST.

This portal handles everything from registration to filing taxes, from tax returns to maintaining all tax details.

Major Secret of GST Identification Number (GSTIN) and Applicability

GSTIN (GST Identification Number)

When you register for GST, a state-wide PAN-based unique number is provided to you. This unique number is called GSTIN. This number helps you to track your transactions, tax filings, and returns on the GSTN portal.

Many people get confused between GSTN and GSTIN. Both are not the same. GSTN is the network where you get all services related to GST. GSTIN is the unique number you get for registering under GST.

The format of GSTIN is vital to know. GSTIN is a 15 digit number. The first two numbers determine the state where this business belongs. The next ten digits tell the PAN Card number, and the last three figures show us the number of registrations in that state and the check code.

GSTIN can be obtained free of cost by the GSTN portal or from GST Seva Kendra set up by the government. Your application needs to be approved by the GST Officer before you can get a GSTIN.

GST Invoice

If you are a GST registered vendor or a service provider, you have to give your customers GST compliant invoices for the sale of goods or services.

Similarly, the vendors that you purchase from will provide you with a GST invoice. If you are a GST registered vendor or a service provider, you can file for a tax return.

A GST compliant invoice must contain the invoice number and date, the customer’s name, shipping and billing addresses, and customer’s GSTIN (if applicable).

It should also consist of HSN Code/SAC Code, item details, taxable values, and discounts, with rate and amount of taxes (CGST/SGST/IGST).

Remember, if the customer is not registered and the amount is higher than INR 50,000, there are different provisions. In that case, the invoice should compulsorily include the name and address of the recipient, the delivery address, and the state name and code.

There are tons of GST software in the market nowadays. These software help you in managing your GST while also validating the purchases and sales.

These software are capable of uploading the data to GSTN automatically. They can even file tax returns for you. Having such an automated computer client is always easier.

An Overview: GST Returns - PayU Blog

GSTR (GST Returns)

GSTR is a monthly return that is the summary of all outward payments of a vendor or a service provider. The GSTR-1 form has a total of 13 sections that you need to fill.

Every business needs to file for GSTR based on their yearly turnover. Firms that have a turnover of up to INR 1.5 crores will file quarterly returns. Whereas firms with turnover higher than that will file monthly returns.

Once filed, GSTR can not be revised. Any mistake made in the GSTR, you may rectify it in the next period. The government will impose a late fee of INR 200 per day for defaulters.

Conclusion

GST implementation is not a lengthy process, thanks to the quick and secure portal of GSTN. Now every person can register for GST and enjoy the benefits of the government’s policies.

The government also provides a GST composition scheme. Under this scheme, small taxpayers who have a yearly turnover of less than INR 1 crore can choose to pay GST at a fixed rate of turnover.

In simpler words, GST has simplified taxation for the government and has simplified tax returns for the public. Getting your business registered under GST is a smart move. 

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