Producing : Need some education by C. Jeffery Evans

C. Jeffery Evans

Need some education

I've had a disagreement with a few wannabee production assistants about compensation. Now, perhaps I'm wrong on this. But let me tell you what I'm thinking. I'm new to all of this --- film-making. I'm focusing on screenwriting because I've always been a writer. I've decided that I need to learn more about the process, thinking that a better understanding of film-making will make me a better writer. So I've been willing to work as a production assistant even on a low/no budget indie --- without pay, if necessary. A number of PAs or wannabee PAs have gotten pretty nasty about getting paid. I'm the enemy because those willing to work unpaid bring down the compensation structure --- then no one will pay; they have bills; etc. What do people here think about that? Thanks!

Mike Herzog

Not telling you your job but any sort of compensation will put the project into perspective for very talented people who do have bills and for them to weigh their choices as to getting involved... copies of the final project, tee shirts and hats, coffee mugs, a percentage of the profits off of screenings, screen credits, special screening for them and their family and friends.... and so on.. up to you and the exec producer but nothing receives embittered souls and nothing produced.. treat talent like you want to be treated and you just might produce a project

Mark Glamack

The value of anything is determined by what someone else is willing to pay for it. We all learn from everything we do in life, but if anything is worth doing it's worth doing right. There are those out there that take the cart before the horse when making a movie with delusions of grandeur of fame and profits from their works only to find later the reality of it all. Any producer who doesn't fund the entire project first will only disappoint all involved. If the project is good enough to produce the funds will become available to hire the best people possible with all that is necessary to make it ALL happen with the best chance for success. Talented people must get paid what their worth and a real producer knows and respects that. Anything less is just fluff in an ocean of dreamers, opportunists. and unrealistic projections based on a self inflated ego without any real substance. Do it right and the industry will take notice.

Georgia Hilton

To All those wanna be and real PA's out there.... if you want to it happily, with a smile, and do it for free or for whatever the project can pay you. OR If you know what your doing, ask to get paid... Either way... don't be an asshole and don't whine about your pay/or your deal... If you take a gig, and agree to the deal, SUCK IT UP and do the best job you can for what you agreed to. If someone is willing to do it cheaper or if someone gets a better deal than you... live with it. Don't be a hater. YOU agreed to YOUR deal. You didn't have to, You could have walked... Here's a different view point. IF you HIRE someone as a PA understand that there is a Minimum Wage law in the United States and paying someone less than that for basic work where the individual is doing productive work unsupervised ( going for coffee, picking up someone at the airport, banging a hammer into a nail and all the other low level PA stuff ) is Illegal. If you want to bring on an Intern, there are rules regarding that as well. If you CONTRACT someone for a specific task as a NON-EMPLOYEE of the company there are some ways to pay less, but even here there are some basic contract laws and worker compensation laws that you need to understand. This is not to say you can't have a PA working for free... but you had better make sure you are legally covered... There are issues here that a Producer needs to understand before going out on a limb with a new untrained worker on set working for free.

Evan Marquisee

In regard to your problems with the PAs. I think people may have different expectations and if someone wants to work on a movie for free, for experience or to make contacts, or to better their reel, or whatever, it's not their obligation to try to meet the expectations of other people working on the film who may have their own expectations. Those people should worry about themselves and you should worry about you. P.S. You can learn a lot about some of the steps of the movie making process on my free website

Daren Smith

It seems like there was a disconnect in expectations. If you ask people to work on a free shoot, and they agree, they have no place to complain. If you tel them you're going to pay them and then don't, it's on you. Just set up the expectations early and everyone will be happy.

Doug Nelson

Film folk come in all sizes and shapes. The vast majority of wannabies know nothing about the craft whatsoever but many expect to be paid to have you train them. I’ll gladly bring on a green PA and provide the training necessary to advance in the filmmaking service – I feed them well on the set, but I won’t pay ‘em. Then too, I don’t charge them for the education (it’s like free film school.) If a film actually makes any money, I’m happy to spread it around to the participants. I don’t have time/patience for whiners, moaners or prima-donnas on my sets.

Laddie Ervin

I did misunderstand your post so I've deleted my response. :)

C. Jeffery Evans


LindaAnn Loschiavo

I agree with Evan. However, even when working on an Equity contract - - where no payment is expected - - I PAY PEOPLE something. Because I treat people as I would like them to treat me.

Donny Broussard

If you make a movie and you hire crew and it's a real movie with a real schedule, then they should be paid. Working for free on a short for a few days is one thing, but working 10 hour days for 2 weeks is another. Film-making is work and it takes a crew, and the more experienced the crew the better your movie will be. Experienced crew members don't tend to work for free, and they shouldn't. If you want to learn, then get an internship, but don't try to work on a real movie for free because you're taking money out of the pockets of crew members that deserve to be paid for what they do.

Doug Nelson

All true in the unionized real grown-up world but I produce only low budget shorts strictly as a training exercise for local amateur talent and crew who are looking for introductory training to go on into the job market. The choice is simple: pay tuition for film school or come work on my set for free (I’ll feed you well.) These shorts make the festival circuit for exposure (at my expense) and I’ve been known to introduce a few participants to commercial and real jobs (mostly in the TV industry.) I treat these little shorts as real movies with real schedules so they gain some understanding about the grown-up movie world.

Donny Broussard

Doug, that's fine for what you're doing, but on a real movie it's not OK to expect crew to work for free.

Shaun O'Banion

Agree with Georgia 100%. My first SEVERAL jobs in this town were unpaid. I worked as an intern on a series, at a VFX house... even at a Prop House in the Valley. I did it all happily and with a huge smile on my face. Eventually, though, I decided I knew enough to be paid for my work. And, very quickly, I was. Don't worry about what others think (or say, for that matter). Do what you need to do. And don't talk about your rate (or lack of one) with anyone.

Doug Nelson

Everyone starts at the beginning and when you start – you know nothing so you must be willing to gain enough experience to become worth paying something. I started working for free more than 40 years ago. Mostly, I was a star-struck wide-eyed wannabe that was overwhelmed by all the Hollywood glamour and glitz. I made some very valuable connections (most of whom have passed on) that served me well over the years. There is no shortcut to success so quit trying to start at the top only to work your way down. No one (even you,) is entitled.

Mark Ratering

All of this is worked out before 1 thing is shot

Mark Ratering

Another reason why I like to make films in third world nations

Doug Nelson

Todd – just one simple question. Do you think that elevated labor costs are linked in any way to the film industry’s exodus from California?

Doug Nelson

Todd, your post disappeared so I really can’t respond to it except to say that we seem to at least be on the same page.

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