Cinematography : Non paid Job Opportunities by Christian Wiltshire

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Christian Wiltshire

Non paid Job Opportunities

Hi Everyone. Like me you are all probably sick and tired of looking at all these great opportunities open to us but unfortunately with no pay. To add insult to injury they also state you must have your own equipment. I am 24 years old and studied for 6/7 years to achieve a degree in Media Art and have spent with the help of my parents many thousands of pounds on equipment. We are trying to break into a multi billion pound Industry but are being treated not short of slave labour. What other Industry would expect you to turn up for work using your own transport using your own fuel in your own time with your own equipment to earn absolutely nothing. Your comments please. Christian.

Carlos R. Diazmunoz

I hear ya' Christian. Welcome to the downside of the industry where everyone is a film maker now days even with their Iphone or an inexpensive HD DSLR. Don't get discouraged and get some experience out of these lame free oportunities. Best of luck.

Crystal Diane Stevens

I agree. We have done short films and not with huge budgets but we still did our best to treat everyone respectfully. Even if it meant low pay, covering transportation, providing all meals, etc. It's NOT fair and I think that people who can't at least afford that shouldn't be making films at all until they can afford it.

Yale Gurney

It's pretty simple - if you don't need the work for your book or to garner experience for the future, just say hell no. And never feel guilty that you turned it down. Really.

CJ Walley

I respect the issue, writers feel the same. But it's an unfortunate and frustrating dynamic of an industry that's massively imbalanced between supply and demand. It's the same in areas such as fashion, journalism and PR.

Baz Hodson

I do agree but it's the beast. I never expect something for nothing particularly if it involves kit and always cover expenses and often even at least a half day rate on top. What I have to keep reminding myself is that I'm not getting paid anything, it's generally all out of my pocket.

Hank Isaac

This may be one of the most-discussed topics in the world of low-budget indie filmmaking. And I really don't think there is THE answer. If I like a project, know the people involved, and feel inclined to help, I will. I'm sometimes disappointed with a production's lack of consideration for its obvious "volunteers," however. Food, not wasting time, and a clear purpose go a long way toward making my unpaid participation worthwhile... to me. If the only satisfaction from working in this industry comes from being paid, then I'd urge an individual to rethink his chosen profession. I once put the word out to agencies and casting directors in the area that I was looking for an actor with some rather unique physical characteristics. I stressed that I'd be willing to train a beginner in exchange for the right "look." One local casting director responded with, "I'm a casting director. I get paid for what I do." Well, okay. Good to know. Thanks for sharing that sentiment. One common response I hear when someone is asked to work for free or expenses is: "I should be paid so I can earn a living doing this." Honestly, how many people do you really know who actually earn a living being paid to work on indie films, compared to the vast pool of capable talent who are not? A local actor proposed that ALL his fellow local actors refuse to work in any films which do not pay. Though he somehow seems okay with himself performing in local theatre (rehearsals, performances, etc...). So I guess the 400+ actors in town can somehow divvy up the dozen roles that breeze through town each year and pay well. I need to brush up on my math skills, I think. Maybe I should start demanding compensation when I go to hold a door open for someone. After all, I really don't derive much of a benefit from doing that.

Mark Schaefer

no one is putting a gun to your head. so, it's legal. FYI, I've had much MUCH better luck waiting for paid gigs. So much more respect there.! :)

Christian Wiltshire

Hi Everyone. I am not saying that if the right gig comes along I won't consider it if there is no pay. My recent video Nightmare on Hobbs street was unpaid and I am presently editing the whole show for free. Most of my You Tube videos were freebies but I have enjoyed making them. At present I am working in the Construction Industry to help with money and I am living at home with my parents who are very supportive.

Hank Isaac

I think the film biz is like mayonnaise. The ingredients occupy the same space and are finely intertwined, but they never actually combine chemically. or even physically, for that matter. Trying to describe the art form that is the film industry in business terms is like trying to separate the components of mayonnaise with a pair of tweezers. "Pay" can take many forms. And one of those forms is the enjoyment and satisfaction of doing what you like. If one believes in reincarnation coupled the with foreknowledge of past lives, then it really doesn't matter what one does with one's life -- it can always be fixed in the next one. I gave up six figures to write films. There is no mathematical formula in this Universe to adequately describe the slope of my income drop. But I embarked on a career change that (1) made me feel better and (2) gave me far more satisfaction. I was leaving something of myself behind, whether anyone notices or not. Accumulating wealth is somewhat overrated, because the truth is: When you die, everyone else gets your stuff.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

This has been debated by many - yet at this time we have not been able to break this barrier. Like you the best us "unknowns" can do is shoot shoot and do the best we can to showcase our work. Stage 32 is one of those places. Hang in there and you get better and better and sooner or later it hits. You should put links in your signture so others can see your work. Can you post a link so I can see what you have done !!??!!

Merri Christi Pemberton

I understand your frustration. I have advice for both you and for the filmmakers who may not pay their crew/actors (see below for the advice to filmmakers). I do believe in compensating someone for their work. It is your choice whether to take on a non-paid job or not, but if the film is one that you feel very passionate about and if they provide other benefits besides getting paid in money..then it may be a good idea to at least consider it. When a film does not respect its workers, and expect them to do this "bang up" job without offering them some kind of alternative compensation or benefits (decent food, reasonable work schedule, reimbursement on gas money, etc.) then my question is why even work for a film like that unless it has a director or other members/actors who have the kind of clout that can get you in the face of a higher profile network of industry people, access to paying gigs, and etc. My advice to you as a cinematographer is choose your jobs carefully. Don't dismiss a film if it doesn't pay money..but instead look at what this film may have that will directly put you in the face of the right people and the right jobs that will pay you. Now, to all filmmakers who want to hire a crew and cast but not pay them, let me ask this question: What can you directly give to your crew and cast that will put them in the face of the higher profile industry people, or higher profile figures in general. Don't just offer them the "this is a good experience for you" reason, because that only shows you don't respect the art form of filmmaking and you don't know how to do business. In this industry, you need to know how to do business, not just make a pretty film. If a crew member or cast member does good work for you, then you make sure he or she gets something sweet in return..whether its great press attention, hook them up with an influential contact (even if it is a business contact), put a "bug" in the ear of an influential, high profile director about the crew member, etc.). You can even get creative with what you can offer, but do some good business and respect your workers for your own career's sake.

Joanne O'Kennedy

I agree that as "newcomers" we do deserve respect and compensation for our time, talent and efforts. So far, I have received copies of the films I've been in (sometimes it takes a reminder or two) but I do get them. I can use them for my acting reel, for resume-building and for the experience of working on a set, taking direction and learning how to work collaboratively with actors and crew. I have also been able to gain experience in location scouting, being an assistant to the production manager, a driver and even security! My primary role was actor but filling those other positions was interesting and provided insight into what it takes to produce a feature-length film.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

@Pemberton some very good ideas and it is always good to see them written somewhere - I am sure most film makers and artist follow this advice. The sad fact is that with so many new comers on the scene - they have to use what ever resources they can (no money) but I have never been on a non-paying set where the "principles" did not go out of their way to offer what they could to the staff.

Lloyd Vance

Like others have said, in different ways, it is because there are so many people who want to be in the industry coupled with 'cheap' equipment that it creates a very competitive job market. Also, with people desperate to make a film, even if it means using their own money, they often don't have enough to do it right (paying). Also, all industries require you to pay your dues. Only the true rock stars jump to the top of the industry... even Spielberg directed crappy television shows early in his career. In my opinion, this isn't a pass to treat people poorly, however. Also, depending on what If you're doing for the film, you could, even if you aren't getting paid have in your contract some possibility of pay at some point, if the film makes money. Don't forget though, this is one of the few industries where you can do it yourself. If you don't like how other people run their 'studio' create your own. Gather your contacts and friends and make your film.

Merri Christi Pemberton

@Monserrate: I understand that many filmmakers who are just starting out do have a hard time having the money to pay. I believe that many crew members and actors/actresses understand that situation as well. There are ways to get some money, like crowdfunding or having a small business pay money to have their products placed in a film, which can help filmmakers to have a little extra financial boost.

Merri Christi Pemberton

@Lloyd: I agree with you on if you don't like something, then filmmaking is an industry where you can "do it yourself". With crowdfunding platforms and other avenues to bring in money (such as inviting small businesses to pay money to have their products placed in a film), then that can add in a little extra money for the film and maybe to pay the crew and cast a little something.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

@ Pemberton product placement is something the studios have been doing for many years. Product placement for local companies (mom and pop or even something a little larger) is an interesting theme that will take some kind of good PR and sales experience.

Stanislav Shakhov, C. S. C. Associated

it's not system in charge. ONLY people. "you have a greate opportunity to PAY me without work. if you want" - that's my answer. 1. can you fly without payment? yes. one or two meters, if somebody kick your ass. money - just a equivalent to mark something. it's like a final agreement, that subscribe that you FINISH something and now MAY go to buy a meal for you. that's all. 2. it's REALLY possible - as a game between children, or even between students - just to study a World of Adults. no more cases. 3. WHEN you're support this talks - you're support the sick ideas of strange peoples. I-searchers - I call that type of people. their's idea is VERY simple - there IS a one man on million or on MANY hundreds of thousands, that don't need a money this moment by a personal reason(s), and this one have a possibilities, that I-searcher's needs. all that I-searchers need to do - only find this one idi... I'm sorry :) hm... man. P.S. first time I have 5 minutes before a lunch, and decide to spend it for this UNNEEDED talking. why? because I find a screams of your Soul between a lines of your letter. I hope, I'll never do this ... strange doings :) in the future. AH! just forgot about another one opportunity - it WILL be, when will be a world without money :) but it can be only in the Future, not now...

Hank Isaac

Okay, I just have to respond to this. To Stanislav: First, thank you for attempting your comment in English. Most of us know only that one language. Second, to make money the sole governing factor in whether a film is produced is what provides us with the ever-increasing numbers of expensive-but-worthless gigabuck spectacles that screech and howl and blast bright light in our faces. One of the loudest cries in the world today is the extent to which the moneyed power mongers control the rest of the population. So why does the notion of someone working on a project salary-free make so many Stage32 members uncomfortable? Particularly if that person likes the project and feels he or she has something to gain -- beyond a bag of cash -- from being involved. To my knowledge, no one has ever been forced to work on a film for free. Anyone is free to say, "No thanks." But believe it or not, there are "commercial" films out there where some of the individuals involved actually DID work for free. And they weren't PAs or interns. They were principals. There's clearly a surprising amount of anger over all this. But I suspect a single D.P. working on a tiny indie film without pay won't herald the downfall of the profession of cinematography. Some of my short films were financed entirely by ME. I was never paid. Should I, therefore, refuse to make the film because I won't be paid to make it?

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Hank your statements are true but anyone who is in this business knows that what you stated "comes with the territory" Blaming the money people is a cop out - no one is to blame - now changing the way things go is the real challenge and many people have found new ways to get around this "money" need. We have all put our money on line in one way or another in order to get ahead. IMHO - that is why we should all do what we think is necessary to help each other move forward

Caroline Gauthier

I agree with most of the comments. I think it has to be an individual decision for each film maker, actor, cinematographer, when they decide they will no longer work for free. That doesn't mean no one should work for free. I'm an actress and starting out as a filmmaker. I don't have money to pay myself or my collaborators but I do try to treat everyone as well as possible.

Brandon Shafto

What everybody else said. Thats the breaks mate. Gotta start somewhere. I've found the best thing I've ever done for myself was going freelance and self promoting through Twitter, Facebook and just plain having content to show. The right gig will come at just the right time and then you'll be grinning ear to ear.

Brandon Shafto

@Hank Isaac, your tact is admirable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Your in Calif - much closer to the "money" so I can see how this might cause people like you a greater uphill battle or are their so many "wanabees" they all feel the need for green. LOL

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Thanks for the invite and I can tell you rise above the crowd - so what are some of your ideas if you can reveal them - ?

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Of course you, you have the charm and attitude of a person who knows how things get done and the understanding that working hard and consideration for the others that most lack.

Royce Allen Dudley

Christian, When I was 24, I had my sights on cinematography as a career for an equal amount of time. The difference is, I didn't think it could come for decades.. it didn't for most others. DoP's used to come up in ranks as camera assistants or electricians... now, many think they can buy a camera and make a living as DoP. They may get paid work, but not enough of it. It's a numbers game. How many of your ex classmates are fully employed in the business ? How many schools like yours graduate how many people per year ? Then how many real jobs are there ? Forget schools... how many people merely enamored of filmmaking compete for the same job you want ? MANY have a trust fund or benefactor and don't NEED a payroll- how can you compete with that ? Even many old pros are struggling in this New Cinema Era, but their phone numbers and names are known, so their struggle isn't as harsh as yours. Passion and effort are OK all along the way, but so is being picky. A non industry job is a good choice for many of us; I was a carpenter for 10 years concurrent with occasional work as camera assistant or electrician on any number of things; if you really just want a paycheck right now, studio truck drivers can do well and don't require equipment. It's both SHOW and BUSINESS... you have to locate your own balance, which can evolve over time. You are much too early in the jpurney to be frustrated. I first worked in Hollywood at 17 but not again until 37. I knew it would come round...and it did. but just remember, it's not the camera, or your show reel, oreven your education, it's YOU they are hiring. YOU and what they feel you can bring to the project as a key collaborator. You merely need to figure out what it is you do very well, and make sure everyone knows it. At some point, when you say "no", they will return with money they found for you, as if by magic.

Christian Wiltshire

Hi Royce, Thanks for the advice.I am working as a labourer in the Building Trade at the moment and picking up small bits of work in between. Thanks to my Dad I am earning a wage and still live at home with my parents. Thanks Again, Christian

Monserrate Pagan Jr

With this support from your parents you should try to get as much camera time as possible. Even a "short" walk around the neighborhood video or a trip to the post office - I know this sounds boring but making those two interesting enough will give you skills not only in shooting- editing - but you now have something to show - best of luck

Kira George

This is hit or miss... I've seen great quality film making with no budget... I am a true believer in if you really believe in what you are doing, it doesn't matter if you are paid to do it or not. Not all of us have the parental support or PR ability or even a great 'business' head... (Some people just want to create and not bother with the technical side and leave that up to the person who actually enjoys business). In having said that, showing respect to someone isn't through money, it's through genuine attitude and care. When I started, my intentions were never to make a living from it. I just wanted to start filming. Also, I find great quality films are made from a group of people (most often friends) who love it just as much as you do. I am rambling, but trying to shorten a lengthy blog. :) All in all... if you want to make a living from this, by all means, find the paying gig. There are no right or wrong answer... Everything, I find, is all subjective.

Hank Isaac

Thanks, Olivia. I also have a personal policy which simplifies to: "When dinner is served, I will always be the last one to eat." I had a great history prof. senior year of high school who said, "If all you want to do is make money, print it."

Don Johns

I just did an interview on this very subject. If someone wants you to work for free, they are not professional and I wouldn't work for them. It's unbelievable how people think just because I'm passionate about what I do I wouldn't mind doing it for free, the point is those who don't want to pay you for your services don't respect your field. You can build your reel on your own, don't fall for that trap. Yes, you might have to do other things in between but there is nothing wrong with that. Stick to your guns, the work will come. Make sure you work with a contract as well. People afraid of signing contracts are people you don't want to work with. It's a very hard way to make a living, but if that is your hearts desire, the doors will open. Best of luck and let me know if I can help any further.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Don Johns - I don't know what world your living in or who you interviewed but calling someone unprofessional because they work for free is pretty erratic. It has nothing to do with professionalism - it got to do with a tradeoff - sticking to your guns only gets you cold and hungry. You should listen to some super stars or A listed actors how they worked for free and used it as a stepping stone. Sure when your at the bottom of the food chain it is rough but using every opportunity you can to climb up that includes working for free (in return for something) so it is really not free - we pay for a lot of things in this world not necessary with money

Royce Allen Dudley

There is a difference between agreeing or offering to do something free for colleagues or peers vs. for strangers. The internet has globalized the economy and digital technologies have removed most barriers to access to all the creative fields.. music, sound, graphics, video... and combined them in new ways as well. It's a weekly norm for most pros to get strangers requesting pro work for free. The requesters are clueless, mean well, and are only occasionally true opportunists. Remember that so many people have stumbled into the realm that many assume everyone else is as passionate and non-monetized as they are, and aching to collaborate. To be insulted by those requests sounds like uncertainty, maybe an insecurity that all paid work will disappear if enough people will work for free (it won't). Digital democratization ( "access for all" ) does have the side effect of making video / cinema one of many things perceived as "easy" and "cheap". If I said I was a cinematographer 15 years ago people assumed I shot studio movies or network television; today, they assume I just bought a DSLR and jumped on the hobby wagon like everyone else. Neither was / is the case. There is so much confusion amongst people now of what is professional, amateur, hobby, passion, commercially viable, art.... it's a great time to be in the realm because it IS the Wild West, and the smart creatives will navigate what's right for them personally, with no one telling them what to do. I have found people adamant about "NEVER EVER work for free" are often not getting enough work to begin with, and in many cases sunk a ton of cash into gear without realizing that a production company is 75% about the talent and the people, and not the gear or the building. Half the people I know here in Hollywood do spec work here and there... and still pay their DGA, SAG , and IA dues. I don't think they are unprofessional, they just choose wisely. I try to.

William Ardani

I have the same problem and the same sadness about this job.

Adam Strange

If you're a pro football player, throwing a ball earns you a paycheck. But not everyone that throws a football gets paid. Sometimes people play football just for the hell of it.

Lloyd Vance

Fantastic comparison. Yes, and just because people want you in their pickup game doesn't mean they're bad people for not paying you. You have to make the call and figure out if that is what you want.

Adam Strange

How do we separate the "pickup gamers" from the people that are "only interested in going pro?" I'm actually not much of a sports guy but just because my chances of going pro (in the film industry) are incredibly slim, doesn't mean I want to give up my sport. I want to play pickup games with other people that are less focused on paying their rent and more focused on having some fun on the court. These two communities shouldn't be at odds with one another. They should be very symbiotic.

Hank Isaac

Maybe the thing to do is look at the core or heart of what is filmmaking. Everyone likes to jump in and say, "It's a business, after all." Well, sure it is. But it's first and foremost an art form. Why? Because it isn't necessary to sustain life. It just makes us feel and think. So why would someone choose to push a camera dolly around instead of driving a forklift at Home Depot? Because I'm guessing there are more forklift jobs in the world at any given moment than there are dolly grip jobs. That's if all one wants is "a job." The problem, IMHO, comes into play when one tries to somehow find an equanimity among all jobs. An artist and a house painter both use brushes and paint. I had a great English teacher in high school who once said, "If all you want to do in life is make money, then print it." I wonder if Picasso was paid by the hour? It's funny that with all the money I've spent on productions, no one has ever commented, and certainly never complained, about me never having paid myself. Guess I don't count.

Kira George

I love this whole "pick up game" thing... I agree with you guys on that...

Monserrate Pagan Jr

I will take the view of a house painter vs an artist - When most people say artist they envision someone with a special skill and the ability to visualize something or look at something and put it on canvas or some other form. I painted the inside of my house once- the realtor told me the trimming was un even the ceiling line was bad ext - so I hired a professional and he cam in and fixed it in a day - so the point here is that a skill in what ever business or field is something that most people have their own take on and dmost take it for granted that movies require no special skills

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Well Adam Strange - as was posted by a few others - having a passion for movie making goes a long way - it's got nothing to do with going pro or just a pick up game IMHO having the passion give one the drive energy and will to make it happen. Anyone who loves what they do has that wow factor and will move ahead one way or the other. I agree these two communities shouldn't be at odds with one another. They should be very symbiotic, but I also see the realities of life and everyone has to work it the best way they can

Joanne O'Kennedy

The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman said recently, "Audition and act as much as you can." If you want to see his "exact" words go to my twitter page, @jookennedy1

Hank Isaac

I helped a friend paint his house. I literally painted half of an entire house. Question: Should I have charged him for my time (and yes, my considerable skill)? Should I be chastised for clearly taking a job away from a "professional house painter?" Or because I don't call myself a house painter and he was my friend, does that then change everything? Are there no friends in our business anymore?

Adrian Sierkowski

There are plenty of friends, Hank, but friends don't often post on craigslist for other friends to come help out. Perfect example, my gaffer and I were on a (paid) shoot together. he brought up he was DoPing something middle of the week to me and would love to have me come out and lend a hand. I said, well it's a long way, and he said he'd cover gas, I said sure. But I've been working with this gaffer for over 5 years-- so there is a real relationship built up. Plus I didn't have to bring any kit (though I did bring and leave him some of my lights). It's a world away from "Cool people, free food, IMDB credit, use on your reel," strangers. Now, that's not to say that in 100% of cases you should pass up on that work-- once in a blue moon a non-paid shoot pays off really well (using new camera system, working with legitimate actors. or free travel) but those are the massive exception to the rest.

Dmitry Puzyrev

Well, working gratis we get important things - our portfolio and experience. Later you can use it to sell your service, show your works, getting hired for advertising/film work, make connections with people from industry and so on. Without it you just can say: "I'm so talented! Believe me! I can do perfectly what you need" :) Wish you luck and great projects.

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