This mistake costs friendships. It certainly cost me one, so lesson learned the hard way.
Mistake #4: Not getting clear, signed agreements with your key partners.
This is especially important for producing partnerships on low-budget films. And even more important if you're producing with a friend.
People bring different assumptions and expectations to a film. They have different ideas about when deferrals should be paid, when a film is in profit, what credits they're owed. So it all needs to be spelled out in advance in a very clear-cut way that anticipates all that can possibly go wrong.
What happens if one partner leaves the production early? Or if one winds up doing the lion's share of the work? How might that impact credit and profit share? In what order does personal money loaned or deferred to the production get reimbursed? What happens if an investor comes aboard? Who gets paid back first? Who owns the film?
Written agreements are important across the board. But the mistake so many people make when producing with friends is thinking that a written agreement somehow shows a lack of faith or trust in the friendship. I'm not saying this agreement needs to be run by lawyers, though it's probably a good idea. But if you truly value the friendship, you'll spell things out clearly in black and white. Then type it up, print it out and sign it.