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Old January 16th, 2004, 09:53 AM   #1
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Should I allow myself to get "Juiced" for recognition?

This is a conversation I usually have with local friends who are also into video production, but many of you are as good of friends as any that I see in person so here it is.

I had a thread previously that was more of a rant about this very thing, but since I don't really see an easy way around this I wanted to get some opinions.

We have a sickness in Saint Louis and I'll bet we aren't the only town with this sickness... but we may be the worst.

Saint Louis has a relatively small population of video-producers who actually laid out their own cash to get in business... but it's full of "people who know people" and they want to get projects done.

Sometimes the ideas are good ideas. Sometimes they are poor ideas that originally sounded good.

Well many of you may have found that to keep your videographer skills advancing... there is a benefit to helping others create their idea.

So my question is, "How do you feel about being 'juiced' to get somebody else's project done?"

Being "juiced" is being squeezed of time and equipment ONLY to get a credit on somebody else's job.

Since I enjoy video and there are few prospects in Saint Louis, I usually take anything I can (as far as independent films) when I'm not working on my own stuff. Also it's a good way to meet other people for your own projects.

The downside is that some of the people you do this for aren't creating anything good with your time and equipment... so do you just swallow the bitter pill or what?

I know somebody's going to say, "that's why I make ALL my own stuff"... and I guess that's a pretty good answer, but I've found that to be limiting. I originally thought I'd just make all my own stuff too... but there's a big difference between people with a passion for doing this stuff and simply the people in your circle who share a LITTLE interest. So what do you think? Keep busting my ass for credits?

Will the "next level" eventually present itself or am I wasting my time?
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Old January 16th, 2004, 10:03 AM   #2
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I'd really like to do that, particularly on ideas I'm fond of. But I always end up putting it on a back burner to paying gigs and then feel guilty about leaving others to do all the work. Maybe one day, I'll have my own shop, and can budget time for indie producers.
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Old January 16th, 2004, 10:34 AM   #3
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I have a "9 to 5" job as a corporate videographer/audio eng. , and I do DV work on the side. Some of the stuff is volunteer. I do this because it gives me a chance to get my creative juices flowing again. It's a lot of work though, and the people are sometimes a little pushy, not understanding yet what all goes into the process of making a professional looking video.

I've made friends, and I've submitted (and won) some awards through different competitions with the video I shot and edited. Here at work, I may shoot a couple of segements, and I wont see the project again until it airs. By that time a number of other people have contributed. I haven't been able to compete with aything until now.

You need to ask yourself what do you want to get out of that relationship, and weigh whether or not it will be worth your while. Dont let people think your time isn't worth anything. I heard this years ago too, but I was eager to get experience.
Make sure you are getting something in return. Dont spend anything out of pocket though.

My two cents, and good luck!

Jeff Patnaude
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Old January 16th, 2004, 02:07 PM   #4
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Well, hopefully it won't be a "bitter pill." Either you'll donate your time because you believe in the project, or because it will help advance your career (via networking, adding to your credits, or whatever). If neither one of those applies, then don't volunteer your time. Why waste your time on a project that you neither love nor helps your career. There's better opportunities for good karma out there...

That said, it also depends on what your time is worth. If you are balls-out busy all the time, then you really have to be selective in what projects you donate your time to. And if you're really that busy, then you don't need to further your career -- just donate your time to projects you care about.

But... if you've got nothing on your plate and haven't even looked through a viewfinder in two months, then why not donate your time to a project, even if it does suck? Keep your skills fresh and up to date...
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Old January 16th, 2004, 02:22 PM   #5
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I think John has pretty much said it, and you never know when the "payback" if any, is going to come. Maybe some struggling filmmaker you help ends up getting funding for a paid feature one day, or becomes a director and thinks of you when they get their paying gigs? Who knows.

Because I want to get into filmmaking and documentary making, I will put myself and my gear out there for free to get whatever experience I can and to meet whoever I can. If I end up working on a huge project of my own, then of course I won't be able to help others but again, I'd give people the chance to be involved if they were keen. I'm all for fostering a community of filmmakers - I like to be around people who are passionate and will do stuff regardless of how much money they have and will not fight like it's a war and rather help, share with and encourage each other.

In New Zealand I guess it's even harder to get stuff done cause we have bugger all funding available, so most people are low/no budget filmmakers so we probably are more used to being jucied for things.

Oh yeah, and I just offered to help out a guy on his short film recently, and when I meet with him found out he knows Richard Taylor (SFX guy from Weta) and has met Peter Jackson, so I'm waiting for my phone call from them any day now ;)

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Old January 23rd, 2004, 09:40 AM   #6
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I guess I'm a little slow in saying this, but I think John Britt said it best.

I'm still a little hesitant on some projects. It seems like everyone I know has been really burned by somebody...

As I see it, to handle your volunteers in a professional manner you should:

1) FIRST explain exactly why you want them and what you need.

2) Tell them what they will get in return. (credits, video copy)

3) Thank them for showing up. (individually)

4) Have decent refreshments available during the day.

5) At the end of the shoot thank them AGAIN for their time.

6) Call everybody a month later about progress on the video.
(You may not call this soon for BIG projects, just shorts...)

7) Make sure everybody gets a copy of the video when it's
completed, and thank them again for their time.

8) Reciprocate. That means be willing to return the favor when
somebody needs you... if you're available.

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Old February 5th, 2004, 05:34 PM   #7
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I hate to add to this post, but every few days I check it to see if anyone has added anything and I see new views of it, but no new replies. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it, but just in case anybody in St. Louis reads this and knows me or any of the people I've been involved with here is what I should have started with...

I met some guys who agreed to collaborate on some projects. In the first job I was to offer gear as well as be one of the actors. I showed up and they had a friend to replace my part, but we still used my gear. I get a "co-credit" plus I'm a PA.

Next job. I'm asked on as a lighting director. I end up bringing almost everything I have for lighting, but get the responsibility of a PA. On the third day I'm asked to bring my camera so I can shoot B-Roll and second angles, as well as some "making of"... as soon as I get there they say "we need to use your camera and we want to use our camera guy"... so this time I supply a lot of gear and again I end up as a PA and perhaps a "co-credit".

The final straw was when one of the actors from the last job offered a social partnership, NOT a legal partnership, where I'd offer my gear and my help on his projects in exchange for credit, and MORE IMPORTANTLY he'd offer himself as an actor and he'd help on my projects.

The first project I asked him for help on, he denies because he says it may turn out bad! You gotta' be kidding me! This guy had NO gear of ANY kind! So HE dissolved our social partnership after I told him that I'd be too busy on my own project to tackle his current one!

Things like this are why I started a thread a while back called "Anyone care to vent on the social process of filmmaking"...

If I could have just deleted this whole thread I wouldn't have added this final "bitch" on the topic... but since the threads are now permanent I want to be sure any locals know where I was coming from.
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Old February 6th, 2004, 08:16 AM   #8
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I wouldn't consider deleting this thread -- although I understand what you're saying. I think any real-world anecdotes are all helpful and useful here in the "Taking Care of Business" forum.

I also think you are making an important distinction at this point: There is a difference between donating your skills to a production and being taken advantage of.

I think you were probably a victim of your own kindness. It's tough once you show up to say "No" and not help out. But I think you have a right to say "We're not putting on a play in an old barn" and expect that you will do what you were asked to do. Either they lied to you when they asked you to be lighting director or they were horribly unorganized. Regardless, working with someone like that is probably a waste of time (and negates both of my previous conditions: you can't believe in a project run by liars, and if they can't get organized enough to properly create this movie then it probably won't advance your career)

And I think you have *every right* to say, "No one's using my equipment but me." If you bring your lights/camera because they say they want you to do lighting/camerawork, then I don't think it's unreasonable to say, "This is expensive stuff. Either only I use it, or I'll give you reduced rates on rental and insurance fees."

I think this brings up the important question, "How do I deal with situations like this?" I think many people have encountered this problem, and it can be hard to say "No -- you asked me to be lighting director," or whatever. I wonder how others have dealt with this sort of "bait-n-switch"?
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Old February 6th, 2004, 09:59 AM   #9
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it sounds like they are walking all over you.
Stand firm with them. If they dont want to hire you to do anything other than PA, then maybe you shouldn't offer your gear-unless they pay or trade something in return.
You'll be respected more for being firm on this.

We used to do our conventions at the stadium there, and had a contract for 5 years. The unions drove us out and we decided to buy out our contract rather than go back. I remember having a shadow cameraman for my shadow cameraman. It was nuts. Sorry off topic.

Try advertising?
Good luck.

Jeff P.
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Old February 6th, 2004, 11:43 AM   #10
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Thanks for the "support" guys. Video isn't the source of my primary income, yet. So it's important to me to either feel like my efforts are worthwhile or at the least I want to enjoy myself while I'm helping someone else to create their idea. When I find myself in a situation which accomplishes neither, I get discouraged.

To build on the anecdote (since I got a reply)... The actor I mentioned for the social partnership seems to be a good actor. Where the problem comes in is when people want to do it all and they have zero gear. I was excited about having at least one guy to TRULY collaborate with who would be reliable and trust my abilities. He had no problem "trusting" me if all his friends were in positions of authority on his projects! FYI there is no benefit to having "a hand" in the development of somebody's project when you're supplying the gear and only getting a "low level" credit.

Things further decayed as I realized that his project was going to be a way to get exposure for several family members who are interested in film-making. This guy has a cousin and "he's so serious about film-making that he's opening his house to us."

I'm sitting there thinking, "hmm, I should have just allowed people inside my house and saved the FIFTEEN FREAKIN' GRAND that I scraped up over the years for buying gear and learning how to use it". All I needed to do was let people inside my house and that means I'm a serious film-maker. Damn, I wonder if those Jehovah's Witnesses really just wanted to make a movie?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how most locals just want to play film-maker. I've had people discover my slate and then use it all day... clacking "ACTION"... even though we were doing ON-CAM sound. I guess they just wanted to unsettle the inexperienced actors with the "CLACK" of the slate... lol.

Welcome to film-making in St. Louis. As a good friend of mine with YEARS of actual FILM experience said, "All anyone around here ever wants to do is pop open the champagne and toast, 'WE are film-makers!'" He pretty much nailed it on the head.

Again, if ANYBODY worth their salt in St. Louis is a part of one of my projects you will have a totally different experience [of dignity] then what you're used to.
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