Thursday, 11 July 2013

Money For Nothing Part I: Freebird

A debate that keeps going amongst the various filmmaking communities: when should you offer to work for free, and when is it OK to ask someone else to work for free?

Although actors, musicians, camera crew, writers, animators etc. all sometimes to feel that everyone else is being paid except them, in fact the same debate takes place over and over again – typically it’s about free workers taking jobs from paid workers, versus the need to work for free in order to break into the industry, and peppered with cautions and dangers facing the free worker.

Last month, on a certain filmmaker website discussion board, I saw one post by a composer arguing with great force about the evil of free services, followed immediately by two other composers quite happily advertising them.

Two interesting facts about the movie industry:

1. In every single movie related profession you will find both professionals and amateurs.

2. It’s as difficult as ever to break in and start a career. This is not reality TV – you can’t just pitch up with a good sob story and a willingness to give it 110%.

Peace between amateurs and professionals is about as likely as peace between Pastafarians and the Jedi. We won’t see it in our lifetimes. In fact enjoyment is just one possible reason you might offer to work for free: others might include gaining experience and exposure, making contacts, building up a showreel. All of these may be priceless benefits for an individual at a particular point in their career. An experienced artist might sign up because they approve of a cause or message, believe in the artistic value of a project, or wish to help newer artists learn and improve their craft. Are they wrong to do so? What about actors who support charity campaigns or run drama courses in prisons? be continued


Janene said...

I'm so on the fence on this issue, particularly as a blogger who writes online for free but writes books for money. Is the "free press" doing me good, or is it just feeding the beast instead of feeding me? I'm curious what more you have to say about the issue.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Thanks for your comment Janene - the free vs paid debate can crop up anywhere! In my mind your comment raises two questions - if you are writing books for payment, do you feel under pressure from people who write books and release them for free? Or, perhaps if you're writing a first novel, are there any good reasons for releasing it for free, and any dangers in doing so?