Making something great without a budget. Is it possible? Are you wasting your time? Do people really work on passion in LA?
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Is it possible. It is not a waste of time. People in LA really work on passion.
I think so too. Though sometimes its hard to get below the line positions for free
Making a movie is always hard. You didn't think that sometimes getting people would be easy, did you?
It's much harder to shoot for free in LA than anywhere else I have worked. I would highly suggest getting up some kind of budget and at least being able and ready to pay for everyone's gas which is no small expense in LA. Personally, I think if you're going to make something you need a budget, just for the most basic of films, and then you often have to make your story work for the budget you have and have the maturity to know when you don't have enough money in which case you don't waste everyone's time. Passion is great-- really great-- but LA is the heart of the film industry. You'd probably have better luck with passion in a place like Austin, or Albequeque, Philadelphia-- where film is ancillary and still has it's "wow" factor.
Yes. Yes. and Yes. But it's a lot of work and the project better be great.
I've made two short films in L.A. for under $100 each, and I've done low-budget films in Austin as well. It can definitely be done. Many people don't work for passion alone, but they WILL work for copy, credit, and food. IMDb credit is a great incentive for up-and-coming actors and crew. If you submit to festivals through Withoutabox, you can easily get that for them.
I don't know about LA but, I think, across the pond we do quite a lot of work with no budget. It is possible and, with the right talent, networking and generosity, it is possible to get an awesome finish. As Eric says, though, it's a lot of hard work especially to fit several hours of work a day around your regular bill-payer so it's always nice to get to a point where you can think, "I don't have to do it unless I really really want to." Of course, at that point the problem is the couch and the next episode of Walking Dead is much more alluring...
Copy, credit & meals IS working for "passion". Everyone needs to eat and every production should offer that, for everyone, including background. Imdb credit should always be offered for any principal roles. Pay should be offered if there is a budget for the film ($100 a day is ULB -sag scale and appropriate for non union films too), because everyone is working, even for non-union productions. Copy is the most difficult thing to get because production wants to keep control of the project until all the "beans" have been spilled, which is usual. But, solid acting credits is what actors need. The purpose to work for CCM is to build credits.
On a purely legal level, it is illegal to have people work for no pay. . . Most folks understand this is part of paying dues. However, you cannot expect really great quality off of people who still feel compelled to pay dues.
I don't think you should ever work for free (unless you're doing a piece for a non-profit or for charity). No other industry will work for free. Your dentist, mechanic, insurance agent, plumber what have you. Why do artists continue to place us all in this category of 'free' by working for free? This is your career. When you continue to devalue it (by working for free) and thus devalue the entire industry, people naturally EXPECT we should all work for free. Credit, copy and food aren't going to pay my bills. It's time for artists to stand up for themselves and say no to free work. Fine if you want to work for low pay, at least THAT is something. But don't do it for free. There's is no respect for yourself or your career when you work for free. IMO.
From my experience in television development, where independent developers don't necessarily have access to budget, it can be challenging to find the right person (i.e. somebody who will work for free and who has the necessary skills to perform adequately). With that said, I've successfully gotten thousands of dollars worth of services for free over the last couple of years. You have to think of what you can give that has non-monetary value. If intermediate level shooters/sound/editors can put on their resume that they have shot/edited/whatever footage which is being presented directly to network executives, that can be the difference between getting their next (paying) gig and being passed over. On a scripted indie project, credits can be huge too. Deferred compensation can be a great tool if you have a small budget. For example, offer to pay a camera operator $100 or $200 (instead of his normal daily rate), and put in writing that if the project is picked up/distributed/makes money then he will be paid his daily rate in addition to the initial money, or double his rate, or whatever. Or give a 1st AD a chance to direct, etc. Just be clear and make sure everybody understands that there is no guarantee that they'll end up getting their deferred/contingent compensation. If you spend enough time researching and looking, you are bound to find somebody who is willing to work for free or deferred comp. And, for filmmakers who are perpetually working on many projects with low or no budgets, it can be worth it to pay to have a lawyer draft a deferred comp agreement (one or two pages should cover everything you could need) and then you have it for any future projects without having to pay legal again. Regarding what Adrian said: It is illegal to not pay an employee who has a contract specifying that they will be paid $X for a certain work, but it is not illegal to ask somebody to do something for free, or for consideration which is non-monetary (credits, deferred comp, backend, contingent comp, etc.). If all parties agree that they understand and accept the consideration which they will receive, then there should not be an issue. Verbal agreements are trickier to deal with than a written agreement, as verbal agreements can lead to legal "he said, she said" type disputes, so it is always best to put something - even just a brief memorandum of understanding - in writing. As long as everybody knows what they are getting into, and agrees to the terms, then nobody is getting screwed and nothing illegal is happening. Regarding what Viki said: Artists, creative types, and those who render below-the-line services have careers and perceived value based on the quality of their work - not based on the size of their last paycheck. I've seen people raise their daily rate by 25I% or more after doing a few more projects for their demo/reels for free or deferred comp. I think that it is important to remember that for producers and crew, past work is what determines future work. If you can do something that will give you an opportunity to showcase your skills, then it is helping you to make more money in the future. Yes, it does suck that over the last few years in the industry there have been more and more "unpaid internships" where people expect you to render full services for nothing and no credits, or for people to render services for free when there is a decent-sized budget being spent on other parts of the production. Yes, it sucks to work like a slave for free, but it doesn't suck to get an opportunity which increases your credits, lets you network with other people on set, and maybe even work on something that you typically would not have an opportunity to do. A dentist, mechanic, insurance agent, etc. has to be registered/licensed/certified because there is a minimum acceptable standard for their work, and it is easy to test for that minimum standard. Dentists have to be able to do X, Y, and Z correctly, and are educated then tested on those skills. Mechanics have to be able to fix a vehicle, and have to follow certain standards of conduct for billing, parts sales, etc. Insurance agents can face prosecution or termination from their job for selling insurance under illegal terms, or for failing to disclose certain terms to clients. All of these things are measurable. But you can't sue or bring charges against a recent film school graduate for forgetting to double-check audio levels, or a cinematographer who isn't quite as creative on your project as he was on his last project, or a PA/runner who isn't as fast as another person with the same job. Those problems, if they affect the production, are covered in film insurance plans. And for a filmmaker who is more concerned with getting their project completed for low or zero budget - and doesn't have backers and production loans to pay back - then it doesn't matter. They can't afford things like coverage or omissions insurance. If their sound guy screws up and they have to reshoot a scene, there aren't people with millions of dollars invested who will raise hell because they think their money is being wasted. Artists are different than service professionals. We labor for love, or passion, or just sheer hunger for the opportunity to do more than we are already doing. It sucks to work for free, but many people have significantly advanced their careers or gained valuable skillsets outside of their typical lane by picking up free work between their other gigs. And, yeah, the marketplace is competitive - but if you take chances and do MORE work, then you have a better chance of rising to the top in such a competitive field.
You guys make a great point. I've paid people for some of my projects where i could gather a budget. I wouldnt want anyone to work for free. However i've realized that sometimes its nearly impossible to raise money for projects. Does that mean we should give up? Why cant we all help each other move forward. As an artist you are incomplete without creating. In film you cant simply create alone. Thats the burden. Of course most often it all falls on the directors head to figure everything out.
Or on the producer's head! Thanks very much for posting your question. As always, it's interesting to hear people's thoughts on this topic. Best of luck in getting your projects completed!
Stuart; I don't think you are correct in terms of legality. As far as I understand the law, which I'll admit I am not a lawyer, but you should really speak to one before you do any film, you can only "donate" time to non-profits-- and even then you cannot remove it from your taxes. Anything which is a business, as in, out to make money, has a legal obligation to pay at least minimum wage. And also the whole idea which many get to call people interns who aren't is also illegal (not that this is party here, just yet). In any case, it is exploitative to get people to subsidize your project with their work. There is no reason someone who works at McDonalds can get min wage with no experience, but someone who is working on an Indie film cannot. And no, you shouldn't give up. But you should keep on raising money and saving your own cash, if that's what it takes to make the film you want to make. Why is it ok to assume everyone should GIVE you something? I was never given anything when i first started, but I also wasn't ever expected to work for free either. I really sickens me, to a certain extent, that people find this whole behavior ok-- hell if you want to get all sociological on it then it means that only people who have their own financial backing (to live) can afford to work in film-- which happens to exclude a great many people.
I never ask anyone to work for free. It's always as an independent contractor using an agreement which provides for agreed pay to be deferred and payable from first money in. Basically what this does is makes your crew equity investors in the movie, including credit on IMDB, copies of the film with permission to use clips for reels, with meals, travel and lodging paid. Several of our crew on Purple Mind advanced their careers or got into a graduate program based on their experience with us. And money is still a possibility. Producing in Portland, OR, not LA... Question is, what kind of miracle will it take for a name actor to invest in the same way in order to make the film really marketable?
Adrian, I think there's a difference between making a small independent film versus Warner Brothers making one with a $60 million budget. No one is being forced to work for no pay, but in order to get the paying jobs you need experience. Sometimes if you know the right person you can luck out, but more often people work for copy, credit, and food while maintaining a "day job" that pays the bills. That copy goes on your reel, the credit goes on your IMDb page, and soon you have the experience to work on the bigger sets. It's also always an option to promise deferred payment, payment that depends on the film bringing in enough revenue to recoup costs and pay those who took the deferred agreement. However, I'm always clear with people I work with about whether I expect the film to make enough money, and as of now I don't expect that with the films I've been working on.
IMDB credit is defacto for any film which goes anywhere... it's not really a perk.... Also it is very easy for a film to never make money.. even a $60mil dollar one. Look, I'm not going to sit around with you people who are so ok doing something which is at it's core, exploitative. You can wrap it up any way you want, but at the end of the day, you're asking the uneducated, the inexperienced, and the unqualified, to give you something-- to subsidize YOUR film. That's just plain wrong in my eyes, and in the eyes of most people who work in film. Very few of us, outside of classrooms, ever had to give our time away. It's not right, and the people who perpetuate is also are not right. Just because it is done, does not mean it is ok. Because, in the end, if you are producing your own film, if you could just wait before you do it, you could have raised more money, or worked harder at your job to make sure those whom you employ-- and let's not pretend you're not employing them as you are setting the times/places they have to be. That is the definition of an employee and NOT an independent contractor when they are required to be somewhere as dictated by you. Please, go look it up. Granted none of you will hire me, and quite frankly, I don't much care, because I would rather make my opinion known and be chastised it then continually acting like a beggar and giving people who are ok with exploiting others a leg up. Good day.
Couldn't agree more, Adrian.
Also, for all those "independent contractors" http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/independent-contractor
Adrian, your opinion is understandable. What isn't understandable is why anyone in their right mind would invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a project they know will likely fail financially. The major studios used to operate knowing only one out of ten films would succeed financially, paying back the losses on the other nine. They, of course, have large organizations with established systems to collect sales. Today, with 50,000 filmmakers competing for attention and the reswt wanting to find some sort of recognition in media, it is not unlike the apprentice system of the 1900's where it was standard procedure for young people to learn a craft by serving as apprentices. Sure, we're not talking about learning to hammer horseshoes or thatch roofs, but given the odds against success for most filmmakers, it only makes sense that folks looking for careers in the crafts and actors seeking recognition are willing to pay their dues in apprentice capacities. The current dialogue in DGA chats is the staggering low number of women working as directors in TV and features. That's the brass ring everyone (but me) is after, and there ain't much opportunity there unless you come in with the rubber on the road, full speed ahead. That takes experience and the best place to get it is still paying fast food wages.
Apprentices, both then and now, normally received a stipend. And we're not talking 100,000$s here. If we are, then obviously you need to step back and rethink your budget if you're talking about a shoot. The common way people would do this often would be, save up their own money. Learn how to producer and pre-sell their content, and in today's world with the myriad "crowdsourced" methods of funding there is even LESS reason why you shouldn't be able to pay at least minimum wage to your employees on a set. And, if you can't raise the funds, you do what any normal producer would do, move on to the next project. Perhaps because this one isn't ready yet, or you haven't yet made the right connections. Hell, it even happened to Spielberg, who, according to a recent talk he gave with Lucas spent 15 YEARS trying to get Lincoln made. Yes, many films will loose money-- and if you're an unproven entity then it's hard to raise funds. So you need to work on proving yourself and stop asking people to prove for you. What is stopping a budding young director/writer/producer from going out and buying any camera they need and making a story with it on their own? With their FRIENDS and Family? Nothing, except that actually takes work on their own part. What's stopping them from making up a collection of shorts and partnering with Amazon's CreateSpace to try to monetize that? Nothing, but their own laziness. What stopping them from writing an amazing script and getting backing for it? Well chances are, quite honestly, it's their own lack of creativity or wherewithal. But what do I know, anyway? Really, if you're doing a short, how hard will it be for you to get the 5~10K you'll need to shoot it? That just a few Tax refunds if you know what you're doing. And then you have 2 years to do all your pre production so when you do shoot it; you know what you want.
Adrian, here's the bottom line. Don't sign up for any deferred position whether as an indie contractor or not unless you BELIEVE IN THE PROJECT and the TEAM based on your own understanding of the business. Perhaps that's what should be the first requirement in film schools - a deeper understanding of the business of film.
Ali, I think it's pretty clear from this thread that there are those who would be happy to work for free on the right project--whatever their reasons--and those who would definitely not. You have to find the like-minded and have a project that gets a small, committed team of like-minded's excited and passionate. I teach no-budget filmmaking (http://www.NoBudgetFilmSchool.com ) and have been in that part of the film world for the last 20 years. The history of successful no-budget filmmaking is made up of projects where a small group of people worked for free to create something special. It happens all the time, every year. Just saw a great little film at the LA Film Festival last night made with a tiny cast and crew, most working for free. I can assure you that those people--who were standing in front of a huge audience at a major film festival--did not feel exploited. Yes, there are assholes who exploit in this business. We can usually spot them. But I have worked for free MANY times and did so with my eyes open and for my own reasons. I've certainly hired people who worked for me for free and who were happy to do it, for their reasons. In LA and elsewhere. Legal or not. Good luck!
My last word on this, and it's more food for thought for you, is that you realize, by keeping up the work for free thing, is that you are only undermining yourself; right? Seriously, think about it for awhile.
Everyone keeps saying that you need credits to get the paying gigs. That's not necessarily true. It is not difficult to start out as a PA and get experience that way and move up the chain. It's not a lot of money, but it's money nonetheless. There are a lot of companies that will hire grads fresh out of film school with pay. You work hard and prove yourself and before you know it you move on up to higher paying jobs. There is always a way. Whether it be in the union or non-union sectors. I work in both. As far as I'm concerned I got my experience during film school working for free on my classmate's projects and vice-versa and on a few projects that I deemed worthy after that. Not one project (after film school) resulted in paid work. I had to go out and find that myself. I also didn't pay thousands of dollars to go to film school to learn my craft only to give it away for free. Like Adrian says, it's exploitative and it gives this industry a really bad rep.
Good luck with your movie, dont be dis-heartened people will never work for nothing but you dont always have to give them cash in return for their time, like a couple have already said things like credit, expenses, experience, etc are all valuable to people and if your movie becomes big it could be the start of their career. That is exactly the idea behind my fashion magazine www.ctmagazine.co.uk everyone gets full credit for all their work and its great coverage, although I have to cover all other costs for the magazine, it works really well.
Adrian grew up in the biz in Hollywood. He learned (apprenticed) with his father and was a qualified DP at an early age. With that kind of background, he would be foolish to work for free because his experience and skill is established. Perhaps because of the tremendous competition, he finds himself offered too many "free" gigs and sees those producers as exploiting others. In my case, I took four untrained college kids and gave them the experience of working with a skilled director making a feature film. Kept my costs low, potential to recoup high and invaluable experience for the crew, which are all moving on to making their own films.
Not Hollywood, though. Actually most of my shooting when I was young was over seas, primarily in NZ; then back to Philadelphia working on a lot of TV shows-- mostly cooking, back when foodTV really needed content. Glad that you can read my bio though. Look, point in fact is this, you hire inexperienced kids and you get crap product. You also have to deal with people flaking out in order to pay their bills-- I guess flaking isn't the right term when you're just giving them copy, credit and a meal. It's funny, it really is almost a willing slavery. The difference between those producers who go about things riding on the backs of others is they eventually get tossed off of them. I've been around long enough to see it happen many many times. And let me ask you seriously; how many of them moving on to make their own films have any idea how to pay a crew now? Or even yourself, for the next one, are you honestly planning on paying for a crew when you got results you like from not paying, or are you just going to get 4 college kids again, use them for all their worth and move on?
What does "without a budget" mean to you? Zero dollars? Impossible. You have to spend gas to get where you are going, you have to eat and have snacks to keep moving, you need to have insurance if you are smart which is about $280 a day... if you mean under, let's say $500. no.
Which is great if you have a town composed of your relatives all willing to pitch in, a studio putting in a few million of post production, and a release during a writers' strike.
I have worked for free and I have pulled in some huge favors for friends -- mind you I have known them since Jr. High -- one of those favors got one friend signed to very large agency as a director. How was I paid back well he left me off the credits as the DIrector of Photography when 500 agents saw the piece and let me tell you I was FURIOUS to say the least and I didn't speak to him for a long time. Long story short, we have since made amends and have worked together again on several projects since one of which we are co-writing -- Another project I worked on I did a huge favor to what I thought was a friend -- I didn't know him since Jr. High -- I actually met him when we did a film school project together -- he was in film school not me -- he was a really nice kid who wound up gripping for me on several projects -- worked for me for several years -- I even gave his brother a lot of work when he came into town -- anyhow -- I gave him a really good deal on the gear and got the crew next to nothing as I was doing a huge favor for him and the DP who also worked for me as a grip for several years -- both the DP and the director have known each other since film school. Anyhow, I did this huge favor for him as I wanted him to succeed with his project -- Oh and I had also known several of the actors for several years -- anyhow, I gave them carte blanche on the gear and five ton truck and getting the crew and what happens -- they get the show picked up -- with a three year deal and I get fucked out of the show (and yes it is a very popular show on cable) -- I also heard they screwed a lot of people as well so I wasn't the only one. Anyhow -- long story short -- we all take our chances, some make amends others just are in it for themselves. So now I don't hire his brother for anymore projects and I refuse to watch the show. -- but I digress -- Free is okay if you know what you are getting yourself into. What is not okay is asking for free work -- gear - materials, etc. If you want someone to work for free it should be that they walk onto set and everything is there ready for them to work -- not hey work for free and bring all your shit. All the other stuff -- dude you gotta fucking pay for! -- Am I venting -- well yeah!
because when you helped your friends in a professional way then they give you a good credit as a Director of Photography which is one of the biggest credit in your experience if they can help me in some film projects they everyone is welcome
Can I make one comment in all of this. Hypothetically speaking, If I'm the director and writer why are we assuming it's MY FILM. Why isn't it our film. Yes it's my idea, but that's because I'm a writer. It YOUR cinematography, YOUR makeup. I see film as collaborative. When I'm on set I listen to all voices. Why is it only my burden to take care of everything?
"Why?" Because when you sell our film suddenly there is a "Y" added to our film and all the rest of the crew gets a pat on the back for helping on "y"our project. While you smile all the way to the bank. That is why hypothetically speaking you are the party most responsible. It is easy to talk wine and roses when there is no money on the table -- add that in and suddenly it is the writer/director who sweated blood and tears to get the project out into the world and in the writer/director eyes the crew just rode his coat tails.
Well said David N.
Because that's how the world sees it. While someone might get praised for the art direction, it's as a collaborator with you. The spoils go to the director.
If you are the writer/director then of course it's your film, it's your baby. However, it takes a village to raise one. Without your cast and crew, and the goodwill of those who (passionately) help you to see your project become a reality, then your "baby's" growth will be stunted. If you cannot afford to pay them the going rate then at least offer them some sort of compensation. Feed them, pay their transport, offer them copy, whatever. But please don't expect people to work for nothing. The last time I looked work meant 'labour in exchange for compensation'. Unless you're a slave. And the last time I looked the plantations were long gone and the workhouses long since closed. Workhouse: now there's a whole new discussion. May I introduce you to my work in progress? https://www.facebook.com/TheMentored
I've never shot anything without giving the cast crew copy/credit/food and sometimes compensation. That being said... I agree with David that the world has that view. I however don't. I feel like my job is to create a story, yours might be different. I have more authority on set perhaps, but then the investor/producer has even more.
Hi Ali, I know what you are saying as I am marketing my new children's book series and I do not have a budget. It is hard but keep at it. You never know what is around the corner. If you have any children or know any children could you tell them about my new book series which starts at the end of June this year in America. The first book is called Mary Sumeridge Beginnings and it is all about a little girl who with the help of her Granny Ann and Poppy the troll go on an adventure to save a ghost child. The met a lot of magical creatures along the way. You can see Poppy the troll flying on Willys back pulling the sign with the name of the book. It is a great animation which Bill Smith did for me. Mary Filmer authr. Web Page : http://maryfilmer.com/ While you are there can you alos like my face book page as there is a link to the page on the web site. That is if you have time. Mary Filmer author
I made and sold two features in LA over the past year. I wouldn't say no budget, but the money spent will mainly go towards things that don't show up on the screen: insurance, rentals, food, etc. Actors in LA will work for credit/vouchers. Good actors. They do it all the time. Make sure you understand union issues or someone will regret it later. As for crew, maybe you can get help but I didn't hold my breath. Instead, I learned everything I could about production and post, and did it all myself with my wife who's a producer.
Believe it or not, I made a film with absolutely NO budget - it was filmed at a celebrity impersonator's convention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4GIH7xocAM
I'm with Evan. Filmmakers Alliance in LA has a great model which encourages filmmakers to work on each others' projects in order to qualify for help when it comes their turn. Anyone in LA should check it out. I'm sure they're still going strong. At least I hope so.
Thanks for bringing up this discussion, Ali. Very educational. As an actress, I'd rather would work for free, especially if the role is great, then do nothing at all and get rusty. Not sure if the same would apply for the crew... I am about to look for a crew for a project we are going to produce, and since it will be my first time producing, I can't promise any pay, except for food, credit, and copy. I can see it will be not easy to find people. Crew is my biggest trouble right now.
Hi Alina, did you find the crew? Mary Filmer Children's Author
Still working on it. But not yet through Stage 32. Trying to contact people I know who know some other people who know some one who would be able to help... I am still learning how to search for crew here, on Stage 32.
Hi Alina. Best way to search for any needs for your film is to post a listing in the PROJECTS section. You can post all the details of the project as well as which specific roles, etc, you are looking to fill. For any other questions on how to best utilize all the features and resources Stage 32 has to offer, we've set up a HELP section at the upper right side of the MAIN MENU BAR. Within you will find our GETTING STARTED and FAQ areas (these are also accessible in a blue box on the right side of your wall). Hope all this helps! Best of luck with the project.
Thank you, Richard! You are doing a great job with Stage 32, but it just lot's to learn anyway. (Reading like crazy lately!) I mean, I know I have to post it in projects, but I am just getting myself ready for that. Or may be I am afraid to put my project in projects, I don't know. This is a my first time and everything is scary for a first time, you know...
Hey Alina! Appreciate the kind words! Have no fear! Jump right in. This community is as friendly and selfless as they come. There are no "mistakes" here. If you're ready - fear aside - post the project! Get some feedback. Take on some inquiries. Life is a learning experience, but only if we're willing to put ourselves out there! In the meantime, thank you for being such an active, positive, and productive member of this community. I, for one, am deeply appreciative!
Shooting with no budget happens all the time and there are plenty of people who will work for the experience. It can be beneficial for all parties. Personally, I have my own camera, sound and lighting equipment but I wont shoot unless I have enough to at the very least pay for gas and have meals and snacks. It shows professionalism and appreciation for talent and crew, you don't want to make a name for being unprofessional.
I didn't mean I was going to starve a my crew and actors! Working on catering right now! God, I will cook myself if anything... I am good at that too, as well as very picky with my food choices. So on my production all meal is better be good. No pizza! No donuts! I will name my production company "NO Donuts Production". Gas money, however, is a more complicated issue, just because we don't have any yet. Will be working on that as well. Thanks a lot for your reply, E.B.! You are more then 100% right.
I would like to join this discussion. I may not really have much right as I'm a London based crew member and not L.A. based, However I'm always looking for work for myself and my crew, my main role is as a camera operator and director of photography however I also own a TV and film production company and therefore also produce and direct as well. When I produce a TV series or program or film. I'm always working to budget for the cost of the crew so they/ we all get paid for our hard work and professional experience and technical abilities. . I hate applying for a role as DP or camera op when the add says looking for an experienced camera operator or DP with own equipment then they say that they want that operator /DP to own a RED camera or an Arri Alexa etc. but only covering expenses. I and other camera crew with their own RED or Arri camera equipment have had to spend ten of thousands on buying the camera and the tripod and dolly if they have one plus lenses and follow focus kit, matte box etc. to then be asked to shoot a feature or even a short that takes a week or so, and to do it for basically free. As well as supply the camera for free is in some respects a joke. How are crew meant to make a living if they keep working on films that have no budgets giving up their time and expensive equipment. Even worse is if you don't supply the camera they would have to go and hire one from a camera house who would charge them regardless. When I started working as a cameraman I worked for two years for free and almost had my house foreclosed on several times. Just to achieve working in an industry I wanted to work in. I and by business partners have sunk literally hundreds of thousands in to our production company. I think that is important to understand when producers gear up to shoot a film short or feature Length. When they expect crew to work for nothing. Please Don't get me wrong I do still do some work for nothing and in the last year I have shot six short films for free and about to shoot another next week for free. But now when I shoot a film for free and provide $100,000's worth of camera kit on set for free I want a producers credit as well as I'm also finding other producers films as well as I brought the camera which effectively means Im paying for the camera hire. I just think it would be good for producers working with micro budgets to consider the crews financial needs as well. OK lol I have said my bit good luck with your film making and hope that producers will consider my comments ; )
@ Alina Chorna. I really have to stay far away from Pizza in NYC it's really expensive here. LOL
But Pizza in NYC is good, Luis!
lol lol lol
Ali Murtaza!!! What are you outta your Mind? Rednecks need to eat. People do work with passion but not in LA. … There is more poor people in LA then in Africa. I remember when I was in LA as a kid. I when into a mall an old lady was lying on the floor having a hart attack! people past her by like it was an everyday thing.. Why would you post a question like that? Are you like superman from another planet?
If people have bills to pay, and can't manage to pay them with viable paid entertainment work, then they're ignoring the needs of their situation. Working for free to the exclusion of labor that actually pays bills is irresponsible and not sustainable. Get a day job and pick up free gigs on the weekend or evenings; don't blame an indie filmmaker making a noncommercial film for not offering typical pay for crew. It's not the filmmakers fault that somebody can't pay their own rent. Opportunities are valuable in many cases, except those where - as Owen Smith points out above - some filmmaker with a budget is asking legitimate working professionals to do something for free or almost zero. There's a difference between somebody who is a camera assist just out of film school looking for free work and somebody who has spent the last ten years establishing themselves and spending as much of their income as possible on improving their kit. It'd be NICE to get a RED/Arri/etc. kit for free, but it's not a REQUIREMENT to shoot a project. Anyway, there are plenty of shitty producers/directors that want to get everything for free even when they could afford to pay, and there are plenty of people who will complain about how hard it is to get paying work when they have absolutely no credible background/reels/experience and want to get paid $100/hr because "that's what union members who have been doing it for twenty years get paid". Then there are the legitimate people who are just trying to get something made for their benefit and the benefit/experience of those helping them. The legit folks who just don't have budget and won't make any money from the project are the ones who it can be worth working for, as long as you're not starving to death waiting for paying work.
No one can say it beeter then you Nate Estelle
My take is that you can make a no to almost no budget anywhere. And, you may be able to put a big feather in your cap. But, the question is, is it really ethical. We, the crew, need to pay out rent and make ends meet. We don't live on your feather.
Fast, Cheap, Good. Pick two.
I have just one thing to say and that is do not give up on your dream. Go for it. They can't kill you for asking for help can they. Mary Filmer Children's Author http://maryfilmer.com/
Sure, there's no right or wrong, just legal and illegal. It's illegal to not pay people for work. Hate to break it to you. Hell, even in some states, such as CA, anyone on a film set, even if they volunteer, is a statute employee-- meaning legally they can only every be an employee and if any of them ever dislikes you, well they can send you to jail. Just not worth it. This isn't to say there is something wrong with working for free with friends-- but I mean real friends. However, when you're making a movie, which you as a producer own, can sell, and are using for your own financial benefit, asking strangers or allowing them to indenture themselves to you is not only illegal; but morally reprehensible. It's exploitative, degrading, and perpetuates artistic poverty. In an industry based so much upon earned respect, and reputation, one must be very careful how one treats those around them.
Sure there are some people who will share the profit-- that's all well and good I am just personally against the notion that people want work, talent, and gear, for free. As mentioned, friends, students in a class, and maybe those one or two people who you really want to do a solid for for whatever reason, that's fine. The problem is that is rarely who is expecting people to pull out 100K+ of kit for their passion project. Further, with crowd sourcing, there is less and less excuse that one cannot raise a budget in the first place. But hey, if people want to go out and be taken advantage of, by all means.
Adrian, you talk about this issue like it's black & white, but it's really a lot of grey. Absolutely, there are producers making low-budget, COMMERCIAL projects, who may be paying below-rate wages or nothing. And then there are producers making more risky, artistically challenging films who are often investing their own money and who are hiring people for below-rate wages and/or for nothing. When I started out, I worked at Roger Corman's, which I would describe as the former, and my last self-financed feature I would describe as the latter. I didn't feel exploited by Roger Corman, who was getting rich off these films, and probably neither did anyone else on that set or on previous sets, like James Cameron or Martin Scorsese or any of the other now-famous directors who started out working for Corman. On my film, I paid experienced people $100/day--certainly below-rate, or nothing. I can tell you that no one who was either paid or not paid felt exploited. My unpaid art intern did such a fabulous job we gave him Art Director credit and two years later he was making far more than I ever had as the prop master on "Entourage." On this particular film--like most indie films--I made not a penny and will probably lose close to $40k of my own money. That is typical for an "art film." So maybe I'm exploiting myself, but I'm taking huge risks and asking people to come along. They don't have to come, and often they benefit more manifestly than I do. And I also have a profit-share with cast and crew, but everyone knows that will probably never kick in. Producers won't tell you this, but almost every low-budget indie loses money. As for doing everything by the book and legally, well, that just doesn't happen in no-budget filmmaking. I'm sorry. Just about every no-budget film I've ever worked on (and where I was paid), people were paid on a 1099 as contract wage earners, not employees. That's illegal and it's done all the time. I rarely pull permits. That's illegal. It's just the way it is. You take those kinds of risks. Hopefully not with safety, as we were all reminded earlier this year, but often with other areas of the filmmaking process. And that's not just me, that's also well-known filmmakers with successful films. Not everyone is comfortable working this way and that's fine--they can choose not to participate. And some people believe it's morally wrong not to pay. That's fine, too. All I ask is that they tell me this before they work on my film. (Actually, I can usually suss that one out in the interview...)
Hi! you can watch a great pilot episode with no budget here: http://www.jamesonnotodofilmfest.com/cortos.html?id=cw5328ef08777ac
Well done, Eva!
Good luck...just remember sometimes you get what you pay for!
Pamela, the answer isn't always you get what you paid for. If you worry about that too much, you'll likely do one of two things: never make a film; or, spend too much. Artists for centuries have thrived on their limitations, allowing them to fuel their creativity and imagination. Throwing money at problems isn't always the best creative solution. And waiting until you have a lot of money, for most filmmakers, means never getting to make your film. There are a lot of filmmakers working at the studio level today that might not have ever gotten there if they had waited around for a lot of money to come their way. I met many of them at that point in their careers--Chris Nolan, Joe Carnahan, David Gordon Green, Justin Lin, Darren Aronofsky, Marc Forster, Craig Brewer, and others. They all started by making films with their own meager resources, paying no one, so that the world could see what they could do. And some of those people they didn't pay then are still working with them today. I just saw "Noah" and the DP and Composer did Darren's first film "Pi"--and I worked on that film for several months, and I can tell you, they didn't get paid to work on "Pi".
Money Makes Money
Yes, Alle, and the odds are really much worse than that. Hardly any independent films make their money back. This is the dirty dark secret that no one wants to tell you because it's so embarrassing. One example (and there are TONS of these), a friend's film that premiered in Competition at Sundance a couple of years ago. Great indie names, who are all working in films and TV, great reviews. Small theatrical release and it plays on cable constantly. They only spent $600k and probably will lose $300k-$400k of that. That's the reality, not the exception. And for most filmmakers who don't have that kind of success, who don't get into Sundance (and aren't making cheapy genre films), the reality is you will probably lose 95%-100% of your money. So, spend all the money you want, just don't expect to make it back.
Alle Segretti are you for real? films are judge by production value by distributer if you have a distribution deal.
Mark Stolar you are 1000% right but those words doesn't apply for those who's feet are inside the doors already.
Mark Stolar it's also about what is audience you are marketing your film too. I have lot of friends that are doing well. but the again they are connected.
Alle Segretti I think me and you should talk. My Cousin is one of the executive producers and film company for the new John gotti film starting John travolta. skype me harddriveentertainment.. any time
If you are making a straight-up genre film, pre-sold or vetted by a foreign sales company, then your chances of returning your investment are very good. If you are making a more speculative type of film with equity money only--the kind of film that you often see at film festivals--then you are likely not getting your money back.
Mark Stolaroff do you have any films out on the big screen or on dvd?
One of my films was released on video a couple of weeks ago (http://www.ThePigPicture.com ) ; my new film (http://www.TheHouseThatJackBuiltMovie.com ) is playing festivals right now. I'm currently at the Phoenix Film Festival.
If you have a great story and great actors you can make a great film. Be prepared though, for absolutely no one ever seeing it. It has to be enough that you are happy with what you have accomplished, not for how many people have viewed it or for what the critics think of it. Also, take film festivals with a grain of salt. They'll take your fifty dollars fee and you'll never hear one word of thanks from them.
How long is it?
do folks have mortgages to pay out there or is everything free???!
Nice to see this 11 month old post still going. I wonder if Ali ever made his movie....
I think NO budget is so hard, it is almost impossible. I think if the director and producer take the crew with them when they move up then great, but I have often been doing free shoots and then the director goes to shoot a big movie, and I dont go with them. Clearly a new director and a new DoP is hard for producers to stand the risk, so thats what happens. If you have a passion then its great, you have to convince others it is beneficial for them too, and so many have had their fingers burnt, like me in the long distant past.
I'm 80% through my third feature right now - 10 main roles, 15 minor roles, a dozen locations. Been shooting for three months and it will take another month. For all three features I have a crew of ONE - me. The last one won an award (a small one but an award non-the-less). If you're going to pay anyone, pay your actors.
I would hope that the awards would help you get funding for a paid crew,as its ambiguous that you say "if you pay anyone,pay actors".Crew always earn small amounts in comparison to actors,so I hope you have respect for their expertise also,as you cant always be a one man band.
Story first, Deliver of the story second (acting), then Sound - everything else is further down the list. If you think crews get paid less than actors then you've never made a low-budget film. You say "you can't always be a one man band" - that may be your limitation but it's not mine.
James is absolutely right. On a big film, actors may make more than crew, but on an indie, it's the other way around. Actors are the first to line up and work for free. If they're SAG and it's a SAG film, then their union allows them to get paid a little, but often those films mix non-union (and non-paid) actors in with the SAG ones. Crew members typically get $100/day minimum (if they have good experience) on even the lowest budget films. And also as James says, story, acting and sound--those are your priorities.
actually,have,and have also worked on massive budget films.............................................
think priorities should be the care and responsibility towards the folk that are working for your glory!
I think what's lost here, in this whole conversation, is just how different a "no-budget" film is from a "low budget" film and certainly a "massive budget" film. They are a completely different animals. Mostly, the glory is shared, if there is any glory. Producers, writers, directors are not getting paid and are often risking their own money, on a project with very little likelihood of ever recouping anywhere close to what's spent. That sounds crazy to anyone who pays a mortgage and makes a rate, but that's how's it's most often done. It's not a slimy producer taking advantage of everyone stupid enough to work for free for him or her. Often, it's a small, like-minded team with a shared do-or-die attitude to make something, and money is not the reason for doing it. Not everyone is down for that kind of thing--and that is clear from this thread. And that's fine; no judgement here. But if you are the one putting this type of project together, it's important to separate out those that are doing it for the money--to pay bills, etc.--and those that have other aspirations. I've never been paid a dollar to produce the films I produce and have lost thousands of dollars financing them. That's my deal--I don't expect others to weep for me or even understand that. I saved up money to take those risks. I'm not out taking advantage of those who go on those journeys with me. I tell them upfront what they will be paid (if anything), I treat them fairly, feed them well, and try to show my appreciation for what they do as often as I can. A lot of no-budget filmmakers work the same way. These are very speculative projects and we're all after the same thing--to try to make something special, good, against all odds. Every once in awhile it works. I should think that most of the people on this platform can relate to these kinds of ambitions.
I concur that this is not a philosophy that I share,I know that film producers can bring fantastical and historical events into our lives,but also feel quite queasy at the millions made and spent for the making of such;maybe now I`m older,unless there is more to it,for the good of all and the benefit of all,(and by that I think I mean the global issues),for myself the ambition becomes redundant.,but that's just me sharing some thoughts for Easter.Good luck all!
What upsets me is the amount of waste on set - especially when I know what it can really be done for. I belong to an editors group where one of the pro editors was cutting a 90 second commercial for a very large, well-known company. He showed the group the commercial - very ordinary, no FX, no season changes, no particularly difficult shots - all very ordinary stuff. Then he told us what was involved - 21 actors(only half of them ended up in the final cut), 119 crew!!!! 119 crew!!! - this is a totally ridiculous situation and is "bloat", plain and simple. Somebody exploiting a relationship big time (and giving the client a royal screwing) and giving a black eye to the entire industry. This type of thing is why I have zero interest big crews - they don't exist because they are needed for the film - they exist because of somebody's need to feel important.
Quality projects made without reasonable budgets that get some sort of attention beyond a few festivals are so rare you cannot name many, if any. Those that are successful using little money often are helmed by experienced, not new, filmmakers, and free or underpaid cast and crew come on board because of the reputation of the filmmakers or more likely their own past experience with that person on larger paid projects. When we hear about notable filmmakers getting A-list actors to come out on a favor and full crew in support of the effort, it's pay-BACKS, not pay forwards. The players are already established and have made union rates with the filmmaker. That said there are many motivators ; cast need footage, DPs need footage, crew need experience and some sort of credits. So most micro budget work especially in L.A. is ( today ) quick and dirty no budget material that will be posted on youtube and receive a couple hundred views. It's good for newbs to figure out who's who and what they want to do, but little more. As to the SAG ULB contracts, the $100 is for 8 hours, and is the scale not the quote- many SAG ULB shows still pay thousands a day to names and come in under $200K by getting "intern" crew... which is an abuse, but nonetheless it happens all the time. It's important to separate hobby / exercise projects from commercially exploitative productions. Both are prominent in LA.
I guess it is important to know what you mean by “reasonable” budgets. “Quality” is often in the eye of the beholder. I agree they are rare, but not so rare I cannot name any. Or are you narrowing down the options by narrowly defining “reasonable” and “quality”?
To me, "quality" means a product that delivers satisfaction to the audience. I've watched pictures with complete crap production values and been totally satisfied; and I've seen big budget films that looked great but were crap. Budget generally increases production value - better imagery, effects, sound, etc. - but it does NOT make a poor story better and it does NOT make actors act better. When I'm talking no-low budget I'm defining it as less than 50 grand (none of my three features has cost more than 25 grand and of that, over half went to actors each time). I can write and I can do all of the crew tasks - but I can't act. My point being that for "lo-no", crew tasks can be done by anyone (so they bring substantially less value than the story and the acting) but the writing and acting cannot be done by anyone - if you're the writer-director-producer and going to pay anyone, pick the right actors and pay them before you pay for crew. Just my opinion.
what a very low opinion you have of salt of the earth crew, who have to deal with folks who value them so little!
It's called reality - the writing and acting are far more important than the crew. I have, by myself, crewed 3 features so I know what the real situation is. Yes, it's a LOT of work but I know it can be done and I know what it's actually worth.
no,its delusional,ALL people are important,and your only as good as your crew,and with your mind set,you will be forever working on your own,and I think that's best for all concerned.Happy Easter.
My definition of "reasonable" budget is one in which participants in said project are not out of pocket expenses, things like meals, locations, permits, insurance, and equipment rentals are budgeted for, and at least minimum wages are paid to participants. That is a very low budget but still disqualifies most indies today. If we look at film as a hobby, then I don;t know what's reasonable- pot luck cinema. My definition of "quality" is simple- a deliverable film that can pass QC at any major distributor or their client- if it can play on Netflix or be sold on BluRay at Walmart, it has quality. If it does not look or sound as good as anything there- it is not quality. Which is not to say lesser distributors may not accept it as deliverable- lots of unwatchable genre stuff, and enough festivals out there that anything can play somewhere.
Think of the crew as the "body" and the writer and actors as the "mind". Ayn Rand - Atlas Schrugged "When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made the factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it; for the work of the inventor who waved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing. . .How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay check was created solely by your physical labor and that those rails were the produce of your muscles? The standard of living of a medieval blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden."
Yes, and overpaid CEO's of stockholder companies should also consider all that has gone into the making of the company of which they are heading...not just the lowly union worker!!!
Royce, as someone who lives and breathes in the area that you're talking about, I have to respectfully disagree. I make films in the "under $100k" arena and more importantly, I watch those films, at Sundance and other festivals. Your definitions and assumptions are off. There are all kinds of bad films made--at all levels--and whether they get a distribution at Walmart is certainly not my metric for whether they're of quality. No-name directors make these films all the time. For many now-name directors, this is how they got their start. I personally worked on Chris Nolan's "Following," a 70 min. film that was made for $12000 and launched one of the biggest careers in Hollywood. I worked on Darren Aronofsky's "Pi," which was made for $80k; I worked on Joe Carnahan's "Blood Guts Bullets and Octane", which was $7k. We probably wouldn't know who these filmmakers are now if they hadn't gone out, with a tiny team of unknown cast and crew--mostly unpaid--and given their filmmaking aspirations a chance. It still happens today. I teach a no-budget filmmaking class and I have guest speakers who represent this kind of filmmaking in every session. Who knew of the "Bellflower" filmmakers before they built a camera, shot for 2 years and got into Sundance with their $15k feature? Sure, if it doesn't succeed, people like you will call it a hobby. But I know a lot of filmmakers making films for $500k to $1 mil. that aren't making their money back. Are those films hobbies too? The two scenarios you describe--the no-budget quick and dirty where filmmakers post on Youtube to a couple hundred views and the one where experienced actors make beyond ULB scale while crews make a penitence--don't exist in my view. Yes, many newbie filmmakers use no-budget filmmaking to figure out what kind of filmmakers they are. Jay Duplass (of the Duplass Brothers) talks a lot about this. You can read it online, using no-budget filmmaking to develop your voice and craft, which they did on films like "The Puffy Chair," ($15k) and "Baghead" ($50k). You have to start somewhere and you never know until you try. Often, the more successful ones, while not making a lot of money, will go on to play festivals and will get some kind of distribution on digital platforms. I could make a long list of these. And then I've never heard of the film where actors negotiate bigger than scale with intern crews. Generally, if you have name actors who are making bigger than scale, then you certainly have crew making better than "intern" wages. Maybe The Asylum works like that, but no arthouse indie filmmaker that I know--and that's all the filmmakers that I know--works like that. Every cast member on the films I've made, if they were SAG, made ULB scale, (which is about $150 for an 8 hour day or $250 for a 12 hour day, with P&H figured in). This platform--Stage32--is a forum for the indie filmmaker, not the Asylum-type filmmaker. To characterize all no-budget prospective features as "hobby/exercise" is not only wrong, but completely against the spirit of a site like this, IMHO.
Mark, respectfully, we may agree more than you think, and my assumptions are more experiences... I have been integral to 50 features, none over $1M, producer on 10 or so... they range from pure exploitation to art house to my own Slamdance and other successes. So I do know what I am talking about... just as you do. For each notable filmmaker you have the pleasure to have helped there are thousands of similarly budgeted efforts that went nowhere. In the end it's not the budget it's the vision, the pilot and the team... and admit it, luck and timing. You brought up Asylum.. I skirted it... but that is lets just say the type of operation that has been known to pay name talent a quote and crew with newbs at the lowest possible price, if any .. exploitation; genre. I was very specific in my generalizations- about " reasonable " budgets and " quality". When I spoke of quality I made no reference to artistic or storytelling content... just the ability to deliver a film that could be distributed, because despite today's technology, a lot of otherwise great efforts sink due to lack of qualified crew to execute a quality product. Remember this thread is in spirit about " can you make good stuff without $". I never quoted any numbers as to what "reasonable" budgets were, just the elements of those budgets in my humble law abiding opinion. In fact, I have produced feature films from under $4K to just under $1M. The highest grosser cost $15,800 and had "no one " in it. It would never play at Sundance. It is available everywhere. The $1M feature premeiered at L.A. Film Fest, full of names, shot and finished in 35mm, lovely film I am proud of... didn't make any money and got the filmmaker nowhere. The two scenarios you suggest do not exist; that flabbergasts me- both are obvious and real daily occurences here in Los Angeles. If not for go-unseen content generated en masse, the companies providing all this great digital video revolution technology wouldn't exist. Now by definition most of this realm is in fact a hobby- it's not treated as a monetized business, and often times that means its not taken as seriously by some involved. That doesn;t mean bad, I never said that - Olympic athletes are amateur. As a matter of fact, amateur filmmaking is what indies often are- but the term " amateur filmmaking" has been a bad word since the 1990's, when low budget started to take itself very seriously. I started as an amateur filmmaker... most of us do. Indie- I am not even certain what that means today. This is not to denigrate anyone's effort to make small films or learn the process. I have done it and will in the future. In fact I am a huge proponent of the digital revolution and democratization of cinema in some ways ( not all )... I was simply joining into a thread that is (albeit old ) very timely and in which I have 2 cents worth... and would say you must spend over 2 cent, as a rule. Features in each budget range you mentioned are ranges I know well... very well. And again, it's how that money is spent and what you get for it, and how people are treated, that matters, regardless of the goal, be it sales, festival accolades, or simply experience. Wow, that diatribe cost me way more than 2 cents ;) Thanks for reading
I think there was even a five dollar word in there Royce.
Check out our no-budget feature which just completed a one week run at Quad Cinema in Manhattan: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/13692
Yes, it is possible. You're wasting your time only if you're unrealistic and don't see value in the people you work with. People do work on passion BUT you should still pay them for their time. Payment isn't always $. You can call in favors from friends and family. Check us out at www.americanhikikomori.com It's a short passion project with no budget but everyone working on it sees it's true value as a film.
As a filmmaker and acting coach for more than 30 years I have seen the entitlement generation enter the acting world. They demand to be paid, and if they have the branding to justify it should be paid, but most do not. Hollywood does not and never has hired talent, they hire branding, and too many actors today think that all they have to do is look good and they are going to succeed. Filmmakers should pay if they can and actors should understand that their real value is how many butts they can put in the seats. If the answer is none then they should be paid accordingly. Actors should be training, networking, and building branding that they can sell to the industry, but too often they think that all they have to do is audition. My advise to filmmakers on a budget is write the script to accommodate your budget. Keep the cast size small, and make absolutely sure you cast well not just cheap. If you can show actors that you have made, and do make quality product, and you have a real plan to market your films not just send them to festival, then they will act for you and will do so for little or nothing. If they are branded you should pay them and you will find you have to.
Hey Ryan, that is a very good way to articulate what's going on with actors and casting.
Ryan, what you're saying is that the %99.9%
Ryan, what you're saying is that the 99.9% of actors without "ability to put butts in seats" don't deserve pay. And all actors that do have that ability on a meaningful scale were paid before they reached that scale. The overwhelming majority of monetized projects are no longer based on ticket sales. The biggest money is in scripted TV and film, but a larger volume is web and new media, etc. Regardless of sales, actors contribute to the quality of any project, and deserve pay. Not all projects can pay, but I'd say that more than 0.1% of actors "deserve" to be paid for their contributions. I don't think we can write off people wanting to be paid for skilled labor as a characteristic unique to "the entitlement generation" either.
The key phrase in your response is "skilled labor." If they are untrained, have no branding, and bring nothing to the production other than a bad performance why do they deserve to be paid? No profession behaves this way. Would a hospital hire a medical student that did not complete their training to handle the position offered? Would any business? What that hospital would do is provide an internship, often at no or low pay giving the student the opportunity to become the professional. Acting is the only profession I can think of that demands payment before they qualify for the job. 99.9% is your number not mine. I made it clear in my post that an actor who brings value to the production should be paid in accordance with the value they bring, but that is often impossible to determine upfront. The untrained, untested actor should share the risk if they are asking a producer to take that risk and the producer should compensate the actor if the risk pays off. The alternative is that the opportunity to learn to be a professional will diminish and your 99.9% will never be given a chance to become the professional they often think they are. I am just saying that no one is entitled to anything by virtue of the fact that they simply want it. They have to be able to produce.
It's such a pity we have labor laws in this country.
There is no labor law that requires any employer to hire and pay someone that is not qualified for the job. Qualification in the acting world means you will be a financial asset to the movie and then they will pay you. I will say it again, actors need to train, work on branding and business skills so they can sell what they have to the industry and not simply demand to be paid. I am tired of the entitlement generation asking government to give them something for nothing. If an actor comes to me with those skill sets and can bring value to my project you bet I will pay them.
Actually the law says you have to pay any employee-- but if you wish to go a head and continue to show your ignorance of the law please be my guest. Also, under California law all film "workers" are what is refereed to as a statue employee; meaning you can't pull internship or Independent Contractor on them, legally. I recommend you start educating your actors to demand that their time is worth money, like everyone's is. After all, I doubt you allow your clients to vet you, or, if they decided you weren't "brandable" for them, allow them not to pay you for your coaching. The simply fact of the matter is that if a production is employing an actor, that actor deserves to get paid. Granted, SAG new media nullifies this in certain situations-- which is pretty idiotic. After all how in the hell do you recommend a background actor brand themselves?
Also, in terms of your "qualification" argument, if I get a job at McDonalds and I get fired within an hour-- for being unqualified, then guess what I get paid for that hour.
I will ignore the childish attacks as I assume you are simply misinformed. Labor laws come into play once someone is hired not before. So I recommend that the thousands of independent producers that currently give actors the opportunity to enter the profession but can not afford to pay them much simply stop producing and allow the actors to take decades to develop the resume they need to become a professional and actually have a career. Simple isn't it? By the way a background "Actor" is an oxymoron. Background actors are just that, background. They should be paid because they are being used just like furniture, set pieces etc. not talent. They are a financial asset to the production. I am not demeaning the individual that does background work just stating a fact. No training, branding etc. is required to stand in the background. Can we please have intelligent discussions without the personal attacks? That sort of thing just drives people away and accomplishes nothing.
I will certainly attack anyone who wants to take advantage of people. Look, you open by saying that actors are "demanding to be paid," and that only if production "can afford to pay them" should they. Well sorry, you're dead wrong. I highly recommend you actually look up some labor laws, since they come into effect even before you hire someone. You can demonstrate your ignorance all you like but don't think you you (with your entitlements as well) are above being corrected by people. I am not either. Here you go, I highly recommend you and any producer actually read this stuff: http://www.dir.ca.gov/ Most importantly here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/dlseWagesAndHours.html and more broadly on the federal level: http://www.dol.gov/ this is nothing to do with "branding" and everything to do with the fact that workers-- and actors are workers-- have a right to fair compensation for their time.That a casting director, producer, or whomever may have hired someone who doesn't have market clout is irrelevant to their right to be paid.
If anyone would like to have an honest intelligent conversation about pay for actors I would love to have that discussion but I am not going to respond to heated personal attacks and name calling. The simple fact is value is value. If an actor is not qualified do not hire them. If they are qualified by all means hire them and pay them what they are worth. If you can not afford to produce under the current laws don't produce simply allow the untrained actor to fend for themselves. If you knew anything at all about me, which you do not, you would know that I have been volunteering my time and money to help actors succeed in the industry for more than 30 years. I have been providing free acting classes 4 days a week, free scene study classes, and I have produced more than 200 plays where the actors kept 100% of the box office. I write and produce films for my actors and they own them. I fund salaries for actors hired by other independent film companies. I have not made a penny off an actor in my lifetime. So please do not talk about things you know nothing of. I repeat there is no law anywhere in the U.S. that requires an employer to hire an unqualified employee. Simply don't hire them and leave the jobs for professionals and serious actors only.
There's a lot of discussion about "labor laws" in this thread, but please, let's get real. I have been producing theater and movies for over 25 years. And I've worked on people's shows many, many times in all those years. It's just a reality that many actors and lots of inexperienced (and sometimes experienced) crew members will work for free in this business. That's how this business works. It's literally "not brain surgery." No one is going to hire a brain surgeon who isn't qualified, and "all" you have to do to get a job and work as a brain surgeon is go to a million years of school and pass tests and intern and do your residency and then you will get a job and get paid. Acting, (and art direction and ADing, etc.) isn't like that. You need experience to get anywhere in this business, and people will jump at the chance to work (even for free) to get that experience. I don't think I've ever cast someone in a play or a film who thought I was taking advantage of them, even if I wasn't paying them. They were thrilled to get the part, and they understood that no one was getting rich off their backs. They probably understood that I was likely going to lose money on the enterprise, and they were happy it was my money and not theirs, even though it was their opportunity. Simply, if someone doesn't want to work for free, they don't have to. I've never been forced to work for free on someone's film. And I've done it a million times. This is a silly argument. And the discussion of labor laws when you're making a $10,000 feature or a $300 short film is silly. YES, you're breaking that law! Get over it.
Hi I sit on both sides of the fence. I'm a freelance DoP and Cinematographer but at the sametime I head my own broadcast television and film production company. The issues that have been raised are relevant and sadly there is a deeper discussion to be had on both sides of the coin. I hope to give a comprehensive view looking at booths sides of the coin both speaking as a freelance crew member and as a producer. In my response to the discussion I would like to cover both sides of the argument or discussion. Because there are two sides. To begin with I will start with my working as a freelance camera op/ DoP and cinematographer being asked to work for free which if I got a dollar for every time I was asked to shoot for free I would be a rich man lol. How many time I read an advert for crew saying something on the lines as the following. "The Film title job role Cinematographer / DoP and then we are looking for an experienced DoP to help shoot our (project) we are looking to make this a high quality production and are keen to shoot our project in 4K. We are looking to shoot on. RED camera or Arri Alexa camera and need a creative cinematographer / DoP with their own camera kit. However this is a self funded project so sadly we can't pay more than just your expenses but we will provide lashings of hot tea and coffee and you will be fed meals we will be entering the film into film festivals and you will get the chance to network with other crew and gain an IMDb credit and receive a copy of the finished film". Looking at this from a freelance DoP/cinematographers perspective I think to myself wow ok so they have a script and they must have cast the film project no doubt they have arranged the locations and have a minimal budget. However they are expecting someone like me to not only shoot the project but they want me to turn up with my RED camera and full kit tripod fluid head and if I'm going to shoot the project well providing high production values etc etc. I should really provide them with a camera dolly and lighting etc etc. but the project doesn't have the budget for them to hire any kit from my they are just expecting it for free. And why because its self funded? Ok well firstly the film is not going to be self funded because with out the cinematographer providing what amounts to over $100.000 worth of kit for free the producers would not have a film as clearly they don't have the money to hire in the camera & electrical kit to make their film project. This is really asking the DoP to pay for the camera hire by providing it for free and to add insult to injury asking them to work for free as well. I own six cameras ranging from a solid state RED camera kit, two Sony ENG Broadcast HD cameras and kit four of my cameras can shoot in 4K and five are solid state cameras. Additionally I own two camera Dolly's. one spider dolly and one ride on camera track & dolly as well as an 18 ft camera jib. To move this kit around I had to invest in a large panel truck as I have lighting kit and C stands and Arri sandbags etc etc.. This means that I have invested over $250,000 in American money though to be frank I am UK based in London. So I question who is funding the film project when they say its self funded? Lets look at self funding then I say to myself ok the producer is funding their project themselves so they say. What concerns me is that the producer is expecting to hire crew and gain access to free camera and electrical kit at no expense expecting the crew to work for free and which in many respects they are all loosing money however the producer who is "self funding the project" is still able to pay his or her mortgage or house rent at the end of the month where crew who worked for free might well be short on funds to meet the house payments. I know professional cameramen DoPs having to live on other people's sofas at times because the industry demands crew work for nothing, its a joke why train for years and invest in cameras and kit simply to be exploited by producers who clearly don't have the money to make films or TV projects. Ok well that is my view as a freelancer. However I will say that on the one hand there is a need for young graduates and crew to gain experience working on set and clearly there may not be the funding to pay all the crew. Though experienced crew should always be paid but if you are a new crew member with no experience gaining an opportunity to work on a film set allowing you to see first hand and learn from the experience and to gain a credit or two to help build up your experience is expected and Los as Mark Stolaroff rightly puts forward that this is how the industry works. I have to say that when training as a camera op I worked for two years without getting paid learning my skills and working with others with much more experience than I had. And this is something I did investing in my career and future. The real issues is that too many producers are taking advantage of crew and I say this to the point that they are not even trying to set a budget to cover crew wages they are simply saying well It's going to cost XY & Z to shoot this film and that's not taking in to account crew hire costs. So I know lists hire a crew for free there are clearly too many media /film students and inexperienced crew out there desperate to gain experience working for free. I'm sure we have all done it and as I have said I'm one of them I worked for two years for free building my experience and credits up and this is how the industry works. The issue is that too many producers are choosing not to do there jobs and that is to produce a project gaining the correct amount of budget to make their project and choosing to exploit crew. Eager to make their project or film without doing the work of the producer which in part is to raise funds to meet the films budget which should exclude crew wages. But they are not doing that and only offering an IMDb credit expenses and a copy of the film on DVD. Wow great that means that all the crew can pop down to their banks and say No its ok. I know I can't pay my mortgage this month. But it's ok I earns an IMDb credit can I pay my mortgage with that instead of money? Clearly not so what is the effect of this? Well sadly it's killing the industry or at least the freelance side of the industry more TV companies are cutting budgets because they know producer will pay crew less and less and some crew will not get paid at all more independent films are being made for less and more and more experienced crew are choosing to leave the industry I had a mate who was a very experienced camera grip. He had his own grip truck, tracking cars, jibs Dolly's etc etc and years ago I used to work for him straight from uni. He worked on some of the biggest and well known features and TV Series in the world. But as a result of this can afford to pay the crew only expenses he lost his home and ultimately his marriage and today he is a driving instructor. I have tried to tempt him back in to the industry to work for me but he said never again I'm happy teaching people to drive its more secure and I'm earning more money he said. I conclude that there is a need for young people to gain experience in working on set for free as it is sadly a route to gaining experience and to learn the business and make contacts and develop. The issue is that producers are exploiting this free market and then one has to ask why hire seasoned crew to shoot make your production when you can exploit crew willing to work for free so let's not even bother to raise funds for crew wages less self fund and get the DoP to cover camera costs which will save camera hire costs of £1,500 per day or more. And even if we complete the film and it goes on IMDb it doesn't mean we have to list all the crew as we said we would as it takes too long and we can't be bothered to do it. When I have worked on films for an imdb credit half the time the credit never actually gets put on for at least half the crew and all of this is killing the industry. At Red Skin Media Ltd we always pay our crews we have paid crew late one occasion but we always pay and the reason we always pay is because we always budget for paying the crew. So if your a producer then please please please consider what you are asking when you decide to go into production with out a budget for paying crew. It might be who the industry works but its not good working practice so step up and do your job properly as you expect the crew to for free. Looking at things from a producers point of view budgets are hard to put in place at times and I think we can all be too eager to start shooting when the full funding is not in place. There are times when we look to shoot a TV program pilot and we don't have the budgets in place and we look to shoot on a shoe string this is true. In such cases we will consider the markets and if making a pilot is the best way forwards given that we might not have a full budget. That said we are or I'm am extremely lucky as I own a considerable amount of kit covering cameras lighting grip equipment production transport sound equipment and editing equipment so if we as a team believe that shooting a pilot is worthwhile that those are the times we might choose to shoot a pilot on an almost zero budget but all crew get expenses and fed. And all crew get a contract that if the pilot is commissioned as a t.v. show then all crew will be hired on salaries relating to union rates to the grade. In this case such options being asked to work for free. Is a way or working to build an opportunity for each crew member to have a chance of helping to create a paid job opportunity to work on a TV series once commissioned. These are the only times I think crew should be asked to work for nothing and its their choice to work for free or not and only if a contract to hire if the series is commissioned. The other failure many producers have is after asking crew to wrk for free is when they gain a project that has a budget they never come back to the guys who worked for free and invite them to work for pay they simply go elsewhere to find crew they will pay. We must ask ourselves what kind of an industry exploits its own self? Your comments are welcome... Owen A Smith (MGTC),DGGB Group Chief Executive Officer Red Skin Media Ltd. Director of Photography, Director & Producer
The irony is people think they're entitled to make their films without a budget-- they aren't. Owen puts it well, do your job as a producer- that's just about it. It's laughable the logic people try to add onto why they can't pay people. It's always "this is how it is, and how it's always been. " Such justifications were used for many other things as well which were equally as exploitative. I make absolutely no apologies for calling out people who think they are entitled to exploit the desperate.
The cure for true exploitation is for the actor to walk away and sell their talent to professionals that can and will pay. The actor needs to protect his ability to work and filmmaker needs to raise his/her standards when hiring and do not hire anyone that feels they have a right to the job even if they are not qualified. For 30 years I have watched the profession I love kidnapped by want-a-be actors who are more hobbyist than actor. They don't have the time to act so they want the producer to work around their schedule, they don't want to train so they want the producer to accept their lack of professional skills and understanding of the industry and still pay them. They submit for everything without reading the breakdowns and then fail to respond when contacted. They schedule audition appointments and never show up or cancel. These so called actors are a plague on our industry and we need to stop hiring or even auditioning them. Filmmakers do not have clean hands in this issue either. With the advent of the DSLR camera being used to shoot movies anyone with $500 and few home depot lights can call themselves a producer. Filmmakers need to be held to a higher standard as well by actors. Look at their portfolio of films, talk to those that they have worked with, check out what equipment and crew they are using then walk away if they are not professional. You actors that use social media to attack everyone that does not give you what you want also need to go away. We all need to protect our industry and raise the standards. Acting and filmmaking is an art and yes we make sacrifices for our art but that does not mean we let those who are looking for the quick fix, instant fame, pay without equal talent destroy what we love.
If a career sound recordist wanted to direct his own film and offered to trade services with me, then I'd say "Hell yeah!" I'll do you a solid and shoot your film for free and you can come and do sound on my movie for free. There's a legit give and take there. But most of the time, the "Filmmaker" who expects everyone around him to work for free has no actual tradeable skills (backed up by legit IMDB credits) of any kind . Which makes it laughable that they want you to work for them for free. Since they clearly can't return the favor.
I'm not sure that I would agree that IMDB is the way to determine the talents of any crew member but it certainly is a place to start. You are right Michael that there are far too many filmmakers that simply have little or no skill sets. The problem in our industry today is that there is no longer an objective standard for determining the professional talent of crew or actors because training has virtually disappeared. When I was a young actor, so many years ago, if you were not training with a reputable institution, coach, regional theatre etc. you were simply not considered a professional of any sort. I still hold that anyone, crew or actor, that can not validate that they have years of professional training should not assume they deserve to be paid as if they do. We need to treat both crew and actors like we do any other profession. If your training, portfolio, and experience validate your right to call yourself a professional than you should be paid on that level. lf not, you should not expect to be paid much until it does. In the last year alone I have auditioned more than 2000 actors around the country and I can say with great confidence that 90% could not call themselves professionals and yet they were demanding professional pay. We need to raise the bar on both sides.
Ryan, all you're saying is not to hire bad actors but that there are good actors who should get hired and do deserve pay. You've shifted the grounds of your argument and are no longer making any real point. You're just backtracking. Please go back to teaching acting classes. I'm certain that you aren't telling the people who pay you money that they don't deserve money for what you're teaching them, so it seems like there's a fundamental disconnect in your argument. Either you believe what you initially said, before shifting your ground, and don't believe that most actors "deserve" to get paid, or you believe that most do deserve to get paid ("if hired" you said) and you're trying to backtrack. So, yeah, obviously actors deserve to get paid if they're hired. And all you're saying is "don't hire bad actors" which has nothing to do with working for free/shooting for no money.
Stuart you are the one that has the argument wrong or is not reading what I am saying. I will make it as clear as I possibly can. Every actor that works should be paid but any actor that does not have the talent or branding sufficient to make money for the movie should not be hired. Producers who do not know what they are doing and are hiring anyone that will work for nothing should not be respected and no real actor should work for them. We need to push the industry in a more professional direction on both sides of the camera then the issue of pay will be of no concern. The industry is full of want-to-be actors with no training, and producers who are willing to work with them because they work for nothing. We need to eliminate that reality. It seems too many people want government to mandate what they are worth and that is frighting. The free market created our industry and it must remain open and available not regulated by feel good politicians or freeloading actors who do not want to do the work to increase their value. If we do this then actors will have to go back to training, become talented and branded. Then there will be far fewer films but they will be professional and able and willing to pay these trained actors. So yes, the answer to pay for actors is to stop hiring bad untrained actors and for real actors to stop working for untrained or unprofessional producers for little or nothing.
If an actor shouldn't be paid unless he/she is "professional", how does one build a portfolio without working for free?
The fact is pay structure in the film biz is the wild west - you don't get what you're worth or paid relative to skill or experience - you get what you can wrangle out of someone. This means a 50-year old RADA-trained actor who has done guest star spots on 20 network TV shows will work on a SAG no-budget indie for $100 a day or deferred pay, and a 23-year old key grip just graduated from the SouthEast Idaho University Film School won't get out of bed for less than $250 a day.
Welcome to real world. I have said it now many times, talent is only part of the formula. Hollywood pays for branding. That means what about the actor puts butts in the seats. If your branded you will be paid no matter what because you have real value. If I hire a no-name actor with amazing talent to perform in a black box theatre the show will likely not succeed, no one will see it, and no money will be made or paid. If I hire a name actor with less talent to do the same show it will make a lot of money and everyone gets paid well. No one can force you to take a low paying job. I had to take many low paying jobs as I worked my way up the ladder in the legal profession before retiring and going into the acting world full time, and that is the way the world turns. In every industry in America the salary is based on the value you bring to the company and the demand for your labor. In North Dakota McDonald's employees are being paid $20 an hour because of the demand caused by the oil industry. The same is happening in Texas. That is the model for success. Ability and branding meets supply and demand. If you bring in regulations you reduce demand and end up with jobs vanishing. I am not a fan of unions but most of the professional work is being done under union contracts and they pay very well. Not getting paid by an independent producer making a movie on a shoe string budget is something you can not fight to change, there is no money there. Many actors believe that all these independent filmmakers are ripping them off making huge amounts of money and not paying them. Nothing could be further from the truth. 70 feature films a year get theatrical distribution out of hundreds of thousands of independent films made every year. Of course there are producers that take advantage of actors. DON'T WORK FOR THEM and the problem goes away. Actors need to build their branding, and yes that means taking low paying jobs to get the portfolio and build a fan base but you could pay 20-40 thousand dollars a year and go to a university acting program, or wait 15-20 years to build a portfolio. Be happy there is an alternative. You want a six figure income do six figure training and acquire real value. That is not to say that a university degree will get you a job but the equivalent in professional experience will. Acting is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to do the work before they will hire you to do the work. If you have and are doing the training, networking, building branding etc. then you should be getting work. If not you might want to consider a career change.
We have huge problems with wannabee make-up artists here,minimum expensive training,no real qualifications,desperate to meet stars and charge low rates,I`m considering leaving the profession because of no control on standards or ethics.
Eve sounds like Real Estate. LOL! To OP the real challenge is the UN-stated 'grease' for your project to be considered. Who gets a lunch date with an exec... The one who 'Pop's for nice Sushi lunch? Or the one who buys an Ice-tea begrudgingly at a Coco's diner? Say you have a masterpiece done, it must now be put on the shelf front and center. This is in any Supermarket you visit.