I have heard that saying countless times. I have even fallen for that trap before. On Facebook I am in a group dedicated to filmmaking in my area and 90% of the listings say exactly that. “I am working on a project for a big name producer (who’s name is never mentioned) and we are asking you to donate your time for us. Heck, even WE aren’t getting paid!” There are a few issues with that. First of all, if you are working for a big name producer why does the project have no budget to pay for crew? Second, who is the producer? My guess is it’s a nobody. The anonymity is a bait. Third, why the hell are you working for free? This is not a 1st or even 2nd year filmmaker. This is from someone with probably 7 years experience. While it is not a huge seasoned veteran filmmaker, they have been around the block.
Filmmaking and photography is a business. Most of us are in it to make money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to get rich. If I wanted to do that I would sell my soul to the devil and become a politician. I can do a shitty job there and still get paid. I don’t have that luxury in filmmaking or photographic endeavors. If I do a shitty job here I don’t get paid. I am getting off topic though.
I have done freebies before but they were for a good cause. A few months ago I was blessed with the opportunity to film Zach Sobiech perform at the Minnesota Varsity Theater. Zach Sobiech was an 18 year old musician who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. On May 20th, 2013 he lost his battle with cancer. THAT is a good case for a freebie. Zach was one of the most genuine and nicest people I ever met and he was stronger than almost anyone I have ever met. When asked to shoot his video I agreed even before I heard it was a freebie and I GLADLY accepted it as a freebie.
On the other hand, if a business comes to me and said “We want you to take a photo for us and it will become a bouncing board. If it works we will get more work which will lead to bigger and better things.” No. I will not do that. If you want me to perform a service for you I expect to be paid. This is my business. I can’t go to McDonalds and ask for a Big Mac and if I like it I will buy more later. It does not work that way.
The freebie way of doing things is part of the reason why I have pretty much given up on short films, ultra low budget features, and documentaries. They can’t sustain me as a business. I love commercials. I love the commercial world. I love a set timeline with a set of rules. Plus they have money. They understand that as a business they need marketing materials and they are willing to pay for the talent because it will help serve them to make more money as a business.
“Crew will get ccm (copy, credit, meal).” Go fuck yourself.
“It will look great on your resume.” Go fuck yourself even harder.