Saif Ali Khan’s home production, Happy Ending (working title), ran into some trouble in Los Angeles recently. Following that, the cast and crew had to shift to Michigan to continue the shoot.
Says a source, “Saif, leading lady Ileana D’Cruz, and the crew landed in Los Angeles last month but they couldn’t shoot there. His partner (Dinesh Vijan) employed people from the street, paying them a token amount, to be part of shooting, like they do in India.
He was not aware that he was breaking the law by doing that. In LA, units have to hire only members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and pay them wages as prescribed by the Guild.”
Saif and Dinesh realised that hiring SAG artists would have make a big dent in their budget. They figured that it would make sense to shift the shooting to another venue Detroit where SAG rules didn’t apply. One trick of reducing cost of a film while shooting abroad is to hire non-union crew.
While most studios abide by the SAG rules, there are directors even in the West who are also known to use the skills of experienced non-union crews for their films to save money.
Saif agrees that they faced a problem in LA. He elaborates, “It was not as simple as wage laws and going over budget.
We are not that amateur or foolish. They have different levels of tax depending on your budget. They needed to be convinced we were of the budget we said we were that’s all.
It was more of an issue for them thinking we are bigger budget than we are. We will shoot in San Francisco, LA and do our interiors in Michigan. That was the original plan. But we will be coming back to shoot in LA as it’s all fine now.
We have negotiated with the unions and have learned a lot too.” Saif laughs and adds, “It’s not unlike dealing with unions in Mumbai. It’s exactly what would happen if a Hollywood crew tried to shoot in Mumbai.”
Saif confirms they are currently shooting in Michigan. “It has a great rebate system and our directors specialise in bringing the film home under budget so we are very happy. In fact we have almost wrapped the film just the songs are left.
Ninety per cent of the film is done. I’m very happy with that.
We will come back for the songs and a couple of scenes.
We have pulled it off because the directors are from here (directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK) and we are now experts on shooting in America too. It was a great experience with no loss.
This film will be less expensive than the most we have made and will look as big that show we are learning! The whole crew is American so it’s just the actors who fly back and forth a few times which is fine.”