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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old September 1st, 2004, 06:26 PM   #1
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"What the heck are we supposed to be looking at, Josh?"

Well, as I've been looking for work up in NYC, I've come across more and more posts, in recent weeks, that are not job listings at all (that forum is ONLY supposed to be job listing), but people simply posting to see what a travesty it is that anyone would dare ask anyone else to work for free, and responses to such statements, etc.

First of all, it's amusing, but more importantly, it brings up an important argument, and I wanted the opinions of this board's members on that subject: working for free to get experience/whatever in the video/film/acting biz.

Now, me personally, I wouldn't have have the knowledge and experience, nor demo reel material, without the free gigs that I've done. I learned a lot about lighting, cinematography, etc., by using my gear, and other people's on non-paying gigs, and wouldn't know most of this stuff otherwise. The jobs I have been paid for are so far little ENG style-shoots, and one set of interviews for a training video.

I don't think people should work for free forever, but come on, where are you supposed to learn anything, if you don't? If you're right out of school (and let's assume I don't mean film school, since I think those guys tend to learn a hell of a lot more than I did in my two video classes in college), what are you supposed to do? You can PA for 10 years, and work your way up the chain that way, but I think it's better to get out and actually shoot/act/whatever, screw up, learn, and get better, without money being at stake (assuming most of the non-paying gigs are from people who really can't pay you, not rich production companies that are simply @$$holes).

Same for actors. . .who gets paid to act, just 'cause you've got a drama BA? Very few, no? I think short films, plays, all that low end stuff can help you hone your craft, in addition to building up an actor reel (there are such things, right?).

I know a grip, a young guy, who is working reguarly, and doing jobs that pay well. However, this guy was right out of school when he started, and only got in to the biz that way BECAUSE of a free gig he took. He worked on a feature for five weeks, no pay (or maybe they were impressed and paid him something at the end, but it wasn't SUPPOSED to be paid), and after that did more free gigs with a roommate, also a grip, and finally started getting paid. So there.

Anyway, I'm sure I will work for free again, sometime, if the project seems like a good learning experience (but they don't get my gear for free. That's over with).

That's my rant. Thoughts?
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Old September 1st, 2004, 09:48 PM   #2
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I'd love to get to the point where I can do more than buy people lunch, but right now for me, working for free is primarily about developing relationships with people that you really work well with. People who can inspire and motivate you. Getting experience and/or monetary compensation is merely secondary.

I've been lucky enough to be able to meet and pick the brains of some very successful people here in New York, and they all have the similar stories. They have a small close knit group that they rely upon to help them get their projects off the ground. And generally, I can say, they're always looking for "good people" ... not "good" because they have skills or equipment, but "good" because they can work well within that group of people.

It might be a director that jives with a particular editor, or a producer who just loves using some sound guy. Stuff like that. I, for example, only use one particular director on my movies, she and I just work really well together, and that relationship has created a larger group that we now work with.

Luckily, though, my day job pays the bills, but, our little group which was built through recommendations from people we know, has been starting to see some monetary benefit from our "after work" efforts. And I notice that as my group becomes more successful, other groups are starting to send a little work our way.

Well, anyway, that's my angle on it, from someone who's shooting to making narrative films.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 10:08 PM   #3
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Oooh. . .you're in NY? Can I look you up when I eventually make my way up there?

I think it's contextual, the whole working for free/wasting your time thing. If it's "hey, we need an intern to file paper", then screw that, but if it's "hey we need an intern on set to assist the DP/gaffer whatever, and you get to work with pro gear and learn how to use it," then that's good stuff. Probably not the case most of the time, but hey.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 10:40 PM   #4
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Sure, shoot me an email when you come up.

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