I am frequently asked by filmmakers: How do I split my project between me and my director/producer, directors/producers, or others who are involved heavily in the project? My answer is usually: Split things 50/50, or 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, or 25% each. The reason for this is that if you split something by any other means, someone will be angry. Someone will do more work and someone will do less work, and things might not seem equitable, and thus will likely go downhill very quickly.

Additionally, people can be paid more or less in salaries later on once a full budget is clear. This “split” is only for the backend — which, in the film business you are unlikely to see much of anyway unless you have a rare runaway hit. For example, even if you and your producer split your project 50/50, but your producer doesn’t go with you when you have to live with a Native American tribe in Northern Alaska for 2 years, you can still pay yourself a salary for the 2 years of work you have put in on top of the 50/50 split. And your producer can pay him/herself a salary for raising the budget. Again, negotiate this upfront and identify who is responsible for business and creative decisions. Also negotiate how you will resolve any impasses that may occur.

Every negotiation is a conversation. And every negotiation requires trust. If all members of the team aren’t doing top quality work, you can bet your bottom dollar that the project is unlikely to happen. So you must trust that your teammates will do an excellent job by following through with their obligations, and sometimes picking up the slack for people who don’t.

However, it should be noted that if one or more people are either paying for the project themselves, or raising the financing for the project, they may demand more ownership over the project. Depending on how badly you want this project to happen, you will have to either accept or reject this offer, or negotiate something different. Sometimes, a bad deal, or a deal you don’t think is totally fair, is better than no deal at all if it means making your project hapen.