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Taking Care of Business
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Old February 27th, 2009, 07:03 PM   #31
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Oh, who's really profiting on low-budget indie stuff?
Maybe you don't read craigslist much. A large number of projects are actually for businesses. In fact some like to present as if it's a "project" when it's really a marketing video.

And some "indie" films actually do make some people money and others feel ripped off. Try reading about what happened to some of the people in "Borat"

What they thought would be a low budget doc turned out to be a blockbuster.
Romanian Villagers Angry About 'Borat' - CBS News
THR, Esq. Entertainment & Media Law Blog: Borat

BTW I've worked on two low budget films, one under $50,000 and the other not much more. They BOTH made money in DVD release (for the distributors).
I Was a Teenage Zombie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Horizon Films and Charter Entertainment made money on this and no one else in the crew did.
Black Cat Cinema - Transgression
The producer paid me out of his pocket for me to do the online edit.
The movie made money.

Lloyd Kaufman is a millionaire from Troma films. Ask the crew about their pay.
Some of the ads on craigslist are his. That's how he gets people to work for nothing these days.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 07:20 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Craig Seeman View Post
Recently I saw a Law Firm looking for an UNPAID "Intern" WITH EXPERIENCE to shoot Video Depositions. I doubt the Law Firm would take risks with Video Depositions. Mistakes can be costly if not fatal to a case. They were looking for the one skilled trainable person who'd be DUMB enough to work in that field for FREE. Video Deposition is NOT something EVER given to newbies . . . but it can be done by someone who is skilled but has no clue how to value their work.
With respect to working 'free'...
My commercial experience doing video is zip.
My actual profession is as a Computer Engineer/Programmer.

But if I was working commercially, I'd be saying you want skills, equipment, a work ethic, and expect to pay less than what a Household Appliance Repairman charges?
What the hell? Bye bye...
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Old February 28th, 2009, 10:47 AM   #33
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One final note on 'social tape-rolling' - I see this as a distinctly different phenomena than 'working for free'. If me and some friends have an idea for a funny two minute short, and we get together and shoot in on a weekend, - that's not 'working for free'... that's a social gathering with a creative theme.

If you want to work for someone you DON'T know, without pay - for the chance to 'make connections' - or for the promise of 'future work' then you are working on honing your professional chops. If that's your goal, then approach it professionally. DON'T WORK FOR FREE. Work for SOMETHING in exchange. If you show up with your gear, show up with a contract that says THEY will show up with their gear WHEN YOU CALL THEM. Ask them to sign it. If they won't - walk away. Their word is not as good as yours, and their 'experience' is useless.

(This is assuming an 'unkown' entity. If Steven Spielberg asks me to be a gopher on his set - I show up two hours early with a smile. That's a KNOWN entity...)
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Old February 28th, 2009, 11:57 AM   #34
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Richard has the right idea as do several others.

It's good to see many of us hold to standard that we expect something concrete in return. It bothers me that some don't which is why those types of ads continue to thrive on craigslist. Most disconcerting is how common it is for for profit commercial businesses to ask for free labor and free access to gear. Obviously they're getting it. Sometimes they're even using deceptive practices giving people the impression it's a "project" or "student project."

I think the key message in Harlan's video is that if the entity's objective is to make money you should get paid.

IMHO as long as the entity INTENDS to make money (even if it fails) you should get paid.

If you're asked to give something of value you have the RIGHT to EXPECT something of value in return even if it isn't money.

Maybe we need to list the common deceptions on craigslist (and many other media job sites actually).
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Old February 28th, 2009, 03:09 PM   #35
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I think I misunderstood the kind of work you were talking about then. By no-budget, I don't mean a 50,000 dollar movie. I certainly wouldn't do that for free. I'm talking about something more like 5,000, where it's the person's first or second movie and they're just learning the ropes of actually having equipment beyond a consumer camcorder.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 04:36 PM   #36
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Kyle, I STILL wouldn't reccomend working for someone like that 'for free'. I understand having a limited budget - that's why I'm suggesting BARTER or TRADE in exchange for services. Take your work seriously, ask for a written agreement of exchange of service/time/gear for what you are bringing to the table. If they won't agree to it in writing, then you're not ever going to see a 'benefit' for your labors. Again - talking about an unkown entity... some fly-by-night newbie with no traceable connections.

A local production company with established connections has no business advertising for 'interns' - unless they have a real agreement with an ecredited school to supply valuable school credit in exchange for services. Again - that's not 'for free' - you're getting school credit.

A note about 'barter'. Perhaps the 'producer/director' of the no budget indie - has a real 'day job' that they are using to finance their Magnum Opus. Fine - simply ask them to barter some of their time - "I'll donate my services as a soundman/DP - you do my tax return, fair enough?"
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Old February 28th, 2009, 06:34 PM   #37
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There's a solution to this conflict.

Nobody ever has to work for free. I'd never consider asking someone to work for free because there's a mechanism by which you can solve the problem of no cash-- its called a deferred salary, or a profit percentage. IF the product is sold outright, then as part of the sale, all the deferrals have to go into the price, or if its independently distributed, then the income after distribution expenses is distributed until all the deferred salaries are paid, and after that its divided by points.

Probably best to offer them their choice of the two, or a mix. Negotiate a realistic salary for the work involved, or a realistic percentage based on the target value of the final product. One advantage of this is that you are putting a dollar figure on the services- thus the person you're hiring can use that as a reference for their next job, and you know how much you need to recoup to see a real return. (I'm imagining some people are sloppy with their accounting.)

For every project I've done, since I quit being anyone's employee, I've taken risk in the project, and the other side of that risk is if the project pays off, then I will get rewarded commensurate with the risk.

I would never expect someone to add value to my project without giving them a cut of the upside as well.

In fact, if you have a really good project-- you should want to pay someone a salary (even deferred) because after you've paid that off, more of the upside goes to you.

So, evaluating whether the producer wants to give you a share or cash or deferred cash can tell you what they expect the value of the product to be. Its ok if they simply don't know.

But everyone-- whatever their role in the project-- should be paid, or have a claim on the project if it eventually turns profitable.

(Unions may have a problem with this, but generally I don't work with people who are in unions-- I wouldn't exclude someone because of membership, unless it became an issue.)


Also, amazing to hear they don't send out DVDs. All the creative projects I've been involved with (not hollywood movies) sending comps of the final product was almost a religion--sometimes weeks or months later, but it would always show up.

Not doing so shows an extraordinary amount of callousness.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 07:25 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Liza Witz View Post
(Unions may have a problem with this, but generally I don't work with people who are in unions-- I wouldn't exclude someone because of membership, unless it became an issue.)
Oh those nasty no-good unions... trying to make sure hard working people get paid... how inconsiderate! <tongue planted VERY firmly in cheek>

From a FORMER Union President and 2 time union member.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 11:43 PM   #39
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I feel that I need to point out that anyone wearing a $30 t-shirt made in Malaysia at a salary of 50 cents/day is in no position to moralize about "working for free" or exploitation until they start payng those sweatshop workers a decent wage. ;-)

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Old February 28th, 2009, 11:57 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Shaun Roemich View Post
Oh those nasty no-good unions... trying to make sure hard working people get paid... how inconsiderate! <tongue planted VERY firmly in cheek>
My problem with unions isn't their making sure that hard working people get paid, but their making sure that NO ONE but they get paid on the project.

I'm raising financing for a short film and I wanted to take this opportunity to pay back all the good, qualified people who donated their time to me in the past. But I can't, because 85% of my crew has to be union. On a 9-man crew, that leaves less than one full person who can be non-union.

It's not a money issue, either. I advertised union rates for everyone. But I got a LOT of e-mails and resumes from people starting out and aching to get enough experience to sign with the union, and I have to tell them that I can't hire them on a union shoot until they become union - which they can only do by working on a union shoot...

Kafka's mind would reel. ;-)

(member of 2 unions)
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Old March 1st, 2009, 01:06 PM   #41
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Fundamentally this is all just about allocating power and money.

Because money follows power. Initially, the person organizing the work and taking responsibility for the results has the power to hire or fire. If they're successful, power and money escalate rapidly into their hands. That leads to the temptation to abuse their power. When the abuse gets out of hand, their workers collectively band together to fight the abuses. Good for them. Then as power and money shifts to the union - SOME of the same temptation for abuse of power that infected the owners/producers then can attach to union management. When that happens, they also need to be called to account.

It's unproductive and venal and simply wrong for the producer not to compensate workers fairly and treat them with respect and insure their safety. Period.

It's also unproductive and venal and simply wrong for the union to restrain common sense ("You can't move that box two feet, dammit, you're not the designated union box mover and yes, we'll wait 30 minutes for that member to get back from break before the damn box gets moved!) just because they've negotiated the power to do so.

Both sides have legitimate arguments. But this is a big money business and money and power walk hand in hand and both sides will ALWAYS struggle over the money and the power.

Such is life.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 07:55 PM   #42
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Excellent points Bill. The world would be very different if people simply did the things they knew to be right.

Having worked in broadcasting for seven years, my experience is that's there no industry that needs unions more than the entertainment biz, and I'm not a pro-union guy. As this thread has described quite eloquently, there are a ton of people who want something for nothing and, at the extreme many will simply just rip others off.

This will continue to happen as long as the pool of people wanting careers in the biz stays large and the parties with the power continue to behave badly. Sadly, it's the nature of the beast and I wouldn't expect anything to change in my lifetime.
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 12:24 AM   #43
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I have to disagree - as long as movie making is an artistic endeavor there will be more underfunded, than well-funded projects. And those underfunded projects will always be looking for people to work for free. Theatre has been like that for centuries.

Having worked in LA in the entertainment industry for a lot of years, I rarely see the real hucksters thrive. Most non-paying jobs don't get filled. Those producers don't thrive as someone described above. The prevalence of the ads proves the lack of funding for most projects - not the success of getting people to work for free. Right now, on CL, you see ad after ad for an executive producer, a financing producer - none of those people are finding funding. The fact of the matter is that you have to be offering something of value to get people to work unpaid. Most of those gigs simply don't offer anything to make it worthwhile.
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 12:53 AM   #44
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The other side of the equation

This is from the other side of the equation.

I've been working on a movie-of-folly, one that I started when I didn't know anything about how tough it is to do a movie, a project I started mostly as a stop-gap to my own sanity.

If I'm honest with myself, it's got a 50/50 shot of ever seeing a rough cut. I just have too much on my plate with the day job, paying freelance jobs, and Improv promotion.

Of course, I'm a stubborn bastard...

Everyone who has worked with me on this movie has gotten paid. This is despite the fact that it's being done totally out-of-pocket. No grants, no funding, no angel investors. I work my day job - that's my source of funding.

It hasn't been much, but I've been able to look people in the eye and tell them straight up: "Look, I'm an amateur. This is not the next Steven Spielberg you're talking to, it's the current Don Quixote. The experience may not, in the long run, be worth crap, the movie may not work out, and I don't feel comfortable with 'spec' work. If the movie sells, you'll get a piece, but if it doesn't, you don't walk away empty handed. I may not be a professional, but by god, I try to do my best to act like one."
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 06:48 PM   #45
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Ok, several mods have had to waste their time removing politically oriented posts. This ain't the place. Closing the thread at least temporarily while we decide whether to take more time to clean it up or just put the whole thread in the electronic File 13.
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