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#1 Anton Delfino

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 01:24 PM

I am considering jumping on a 4-day freebie but felt some apprehension after meeting with the director and producer. I am full aware this is a decision I will have to make myself, but I'd like to get your thoughts about the situation.

The production company is shooting some opening scenes for a feature to raise money. The deal is I work for free on the 4-day shoot and in exchange, I would be reserved a spot on the crew (with a very low day rate) when the feature goes into production later in the fall. My first question is: is this arrangement a common occurrence in our line of work? And if so, how realistic are the chances of 1) the film actually getting funding and 2) getting called back?

Secondly, I was also given a document to sign which states that should i flake (for any reason INCLUDING medical), I would be responsible for paying a certain fee. It was presented to me as a way to "cover" themselves since someone who had signed on previously had bailed for a commercial gig. I guess what irks me here is that they're already asking for a HUGE favor and still expect you to drop everything. As most of you are experiencing, things are really starting to pick up here in NY. 4 days over a weekend in April can mean a good chunk of change, maybe a couple of months rent if you're really lucky. Don't get me wrong...it's not always about money. But after a slow winter, you kind of want to get as many days as possible.

They told me they were shooting with the Red. I haven't seen one in action yet, so that might be cool to experience. I'll be meeting some new folks which is always a benefit in this business. And I get to be on location in CT (yaaaay! :P ) I haven't read the script yet, which may ultimately be the deal-maker (or breaker).

What other factors weigh into your decision to work pro bono?

ps - Any chance that someone on the forums is working this job too? I'm pretty sure it will put my mind at ease.
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#2 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 03:37 PM

For a moment, I thought this was a thread championing U2!

The contract sounds bogus to me. Work for free and if you get sick you have PAY THEM?!?!?

I guess it depends how much you want to use the RED.
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#3 Anton Delfino

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 03:59 PM

Yeah, right? I mean, I'm sure I'll see the Red eventually.

Another thing that kind of worried me was that the director and producer both work full-time gigs. Nothing against passion projects that have to get done on your own time, but I have to wonder what else these guys have produced. I imagine a full-time 9-5 makes it pretty tough to work on a lot of sets, no?

I should probably remember to ask that next time.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 04:44 PM

!! :blink:

I would tell them in no uncertain terms where they could stuff their "document." The idea is that when you work for pay you get paid for that work. It's an even exchange -- they get labor, you get money. No one is doing anyone a "favor." So if you do work for them for free, you're giving them something. Them asking you for a financial commitment -- to do them a favor -- is just plain nuts!

It doesn't matter if they're doing it to protect themselves and secure a crew. There's a tried and true solution for that -- you PAY THE CREW! You don't ask them to pay you!! These guys sound either too ignorant or too greedy to want to work for. If they can't understand how basic business works, or respect what you're doing for them, then you don't want anything to do with them.

For the record, I've never seen a "promised spot on the crew" come to fruition. It's almost impossible to enforce anyway, and rarely a good idea even when it can be implemented (you end up with what amounts to "political hires").
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 04:48 PM

Walk away from that one. The decision to do any "great project" has to be made based upon what YOU will get out of it. Generally, money isn't even a consideration. The chance to work with new equipment sometimes is enough incentive, though the best you can hope for is that someone you meet on the show will like you and remember you for something down the line. It may not even be the person you're working directly for. A random PA on set might remember you at some later date when somebody asks if anyone knows somebody who can do X.

But doing anything for free in hopes of getting "something" is always a gamble. The best reason to go is if you believe that you can build new contacts and form new and longlasting relationships. The carrot will likely never be the promise of a specific job at some undefined later date. Too many variables.

And beyond that, they need you more than you need them so instead of threatening to bill you for work you haven't done :blink: they should be thanking you for every minute you devote to their project.

Run away from this one and don't look back. And if you want to truly help others, it couldn't hurt to put out a warning to anyone else that these sharks might try to ensnare.
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#6 Anton Delfino

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 05:03 PM

I guess the lesson here (and perhaps in life in general) is to trust your instincts.

I appreciate everyone's replies.
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#7 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 05:31 PM

Don't walk . . . RUN away from this BS.
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:10 PM

Even I wouldn't take that deal.
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#9 Hal Smith

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:18 PM

My 2 cents is simply that the people who shoved that "contract" in front of you don't trust anyone and think that they're doing you such a huge favor by letting you work free for them that you owe them. Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.
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#10 David Sweetman

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 09:59 PM

This has been pretty well answered, but if you're making a film without paying anyone, you just live with the risk. People have to eat. You should probably plan on your crew fluctuating. So I was with you till you mentioned that contract, that's just a major red flag...I'd let them know that's not how it works.

Even if they agree not to force that contract on you, what will their treatment on set be like if they keep this same attitude, if they care about the bottom line to the detriment of the crew? That's not how any film, regardless of financial predicament, should be run in my opinion.
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#11 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 11:34 PM

Just for fun you should see if these idiots will in return sign a contract that says if the show doesn't go feature or they don't hire you for it that you get paid the total amount you would have made. The w :lol: orld's first grip pay or play contract.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 12:13 AM

Just for fun you should see if these idiots will in return sign a contract that says if the show doesn't go feature or they don't hire you for it that you get paid the total amount you would have made. The w :lol: orld's first grip pay or play contract.


That's what I would have done.

You can take or leave the few days "work." You definitely should not sign that contract thing, though.
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#13 Andrew Koch

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:35 AM

They have a contract that requires YOU to pay THEM, but do they even have a deal memo that states what they need to do for you? Does the contract have anything in it about guaranteed meals? Are they willing to sign a document guaranteeing you paid work on the possible future feature? Do they have workman's comp insurance or do they expect you to pay for your own possible injuries on their shoot that you are working on for free.

I used to work on a lot of crappy shoots, always hoping that they would lead to something better. I have done plenty of free shoots that hooked me by telling me that although there was no pay, the script was fantastic, there were some amazing people, and it would be a great experience. Some of these turned out to be great connections, BUT I also worked plenty of freebies that got me by saying that this show would lead to something better, or that they would return the favor by hiring me on another show that paid really well. None of the latter ever delivered on their promises. Lousy productions love to take advantage of the eagerness of people willing to work.

Why should someone have to put in 4 free days of backbreaking work just to reserve a spot on a future feature that is going to be very low pay. Could you imagine tolerating this from any other industry. Imagine having to work at Starbucks for 4 days, 14 hours a day, for free, in order to reserve a spot for possible later employment 5 months later.

Avoid this shoot like the plague. And what if it does lead to a feature (which I doubt)? Would you really want to continue to work with these people?
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#14 Bob Hayes

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:08 AM

Giving it away for free is it a great gift for someone. Give it to the right person. If you are going to do it why not work for a Spielberg instead of a moron like this.

I have worked for free many times and it has worked out great. Met terrific people and learned a lot. The one power that working for free gives you is that you can walk away and it doesn?t cost you a dime.

The arrogance of people that would try to turn crewing on a film into indentured slavery is appalling. Also sleaze balls are always saying ?You?ll work on our next big picture?, ?We?ll give you real money on the next job?, ?We are building a family?, and ?We?re planning on making many films?. They are all bullshit. These guys are conmen pure and simple.

I was producing a film and I told the key grip if it went well he would probably get a job on our next film. With out loosing a beat he said. ?What the **(obscenity removed)** makes you think I?ll want to work on your next film?. I couldn?t stop laughing.
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#15 Anton Delfino

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:53 AM

They have a contract that requires YOU to pay THEM, but do they even have a deal memo that states what they need to do for you? Does the contract have anything in it about guaranteed meals? Are they willing to sign a document guaranteeing you paid work on the possible future feature? Do they have workman's comp insurance or do they expect you to pay for your own possible injuries on their shoot that you are working on for free.

I used to work on a lot of crappy shoots, always hoping that they would lead to something better. I have done plenty of free shoots that hooked me by telling me that although there was no pay, the script was fantastic, there were some amazing people, and it would be a great experience. Some of these turned out to be great connections, BUT I also worked plenty of freebies that got me by saying that this show would lead to something better, or that they would return the favor by hiring me on another show that paid really well. None of the latter ever delivered on their promises. Lousy productions love to take advantage of the eagerness of people willing to work.

Why should someone have to put in 4 free days of backbreaking work just to reserve a spot on a future feature that is going to be very low pay. Could you imagine tolerating this from any other industry. Imagine having to work at Starbucks for 4 days, 14 hours a day, for free, in order to reserve a spot for possible later employment 5 months later.

Avoid this shoot like the plague. And what if it does lead to a feature (which I doubt)? Would you really want to continue to work with these people?


I have a contract stating the production company will provide room and board and transportation throughout the 4 days of shooting. They did state a low rate for when the feature starts shooting, but they said that may still be negotiable depending on the budget - blah, blah.

The other glaring issue I failed to mention earlier (that you reminded me of) is insurance. There was yet another waiver that declared I would be responsible for any injury or harm that may occur during the shoot. I'll admit I've taken insurance for granted in the past. I always just assume that it's a given. I guess not. And after their description of one of the shots - a dolly shot that requires track being laid on scaffolding while the subjects are on top of a parked bus. To be honest, that sounds pretty damn cool...BUT not insuring the utmost safety for the people working for FREE is not only irresponsible and unprofessional, but disrespectful. It was explained to me that the reason they did not pay for insurance was because it would eat up a quarter of the budget.

Andrew, you're absolutely right. If I feel like I'm not being taken care of now, what makes me think they'll do it later?
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#16 Anton Delfino

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:56 AM

I was producing a film and I told the key grip if it went well he would probably get a job on our next film. With out loosing a beat he said. ?What the fu** makes you think I?ll want to work on your next film?. I couldn?t stop laughing.


That's the awesomest thing I've heard in a long time.
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#17 Pete Von Tews

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 04:22 PM

If they are shooting with the RED, they can probably afford to pay you. Also it should not matter what they shoot on, if they mention specifically that they will shoot on RED, they are probably looking for attention.
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#18 Daniel Wallens

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 11:03 PM

Anton, I'm keying a job with the RED right now. Give me a call. I'll get you on set. You know my number ;)

If they are shooting with the RED, they can probably afford to pay you.

Not necessarily (see above). Depending on the town, many people have made many friends, and friends do favors, including rental companies. It is not unheard of that a rental house will give a fantastic rate on some equipment to a guy they've known for 20 years. Yes, even things shot on film claim to not be able to afford to pay -- and this may be true. It's all where the producer's/financier's priorities lay. They may settle for a less experienced crew if it means shooting 35 (no, don't try to rationalize it). It may even be more of a technical experiment or that a DP and a producer who are old friends what to do. Some crew people will do it for the experience, some will do it for a friend, some will do it to check out new stuff... whatever the reason, it will or will not get done, and the quality of the outcome will depend on the crew that's involved.

There was yet another waiver that declared I would be responsible for any injury or harm that may occur during the shoot.

Yet another red flag. This is the exact opposite of what it's supposed to be. In NYC, in order to shoot, the company must be insured a minimum of $1 million (to file for a filming permit). Why? It's so that the production can pay for any damages that occur. True, the key grip on set is responsible for safety. But that person can't be everywhere at once, and no (legitimate) production company, producer, or UPM is going to blame you or hold you responsible if a PA driving a cube truck hits an old lady 20 miles away from set while picking up 9 volt batteries (if this is what that waiver implied).



Otherwise, I think everything else that was said was right on target. Clearly, not a wise move. If they're shooting on the RED, fine, they can say that, and some people might find that as a reason to sign up. That is entirely up to them. After all, 4 days ain't a lot, even if you're working with a bunch of idiots (I got lucky). But the moment they start making promises and (especially) sign unimaginable documents, it's a pretty obvious choice.

-DW

Edited by Daniel Wallens, 14 March 2008 - 11:06 PM.

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#19 Wilkin Chau

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 11:23 PM

I am considering jumping on a 4-day freebie but felt some apprehension after meeting with the director and producer. I am full aware this is a decision I will have to make myself, but I'd like to get your thoughts about the situation.

The production company is shooting some opening scenes for a feature to raise money. The deal is I work for free on the 4-day shoot and in exchange, I would be reserved a spot on the crew (with a very low day rate) when the feature goes into production later in the fall. My first question is: is this arrangement a common occurrence in our line of work? And if so, how realistic are the chances of 1) the film actually getting funding and 2) getting called back?

Secondly, I was also given a document to sign which states that should i flake (for any reason INCLUDING medical), I would be responsible for paying a certain fee. It was presented to me as a way to "cover" themselves since someone who had signed on previously had bailed for a commercial gig. I guess what irks me here is that they're already asking for a HUGE favor and still expect you to drop everything. As most of you are experiencing, things are really starting to pick up here in NY. 4 days over a weekend in April can mean a good chunk of change, maybe a couple of months rent if you're really lucky. Don't get me wrong...it's not always about money. But after a slow winter, you kind of want to get as many days as possible.

They told me they were shooting with the Red. I haven't seen one in action yet, so that might be cool to experience. I'll be meeting some new folks which is always a benefit in this business. And I get to be on location in CT (yaaaay! :P ) I haven't read the script yet, which may ultimately be the deal-maker (or breaker).

What other factors weigh into your decision to work pro bono?

ps - Any chance that someone on the forums is working this job too? I'm pretty sure it will put my mind at ease.



That is utter crap. Freebie shows have to understand people need to leave for some reasons (medical, paying gig etc.)

I've had some freebie shows try and get me to sign a deal memo stating that if I get hurt on the show, they wouldn't have to cover for any expenses and aren't held liable. I refuse to sign those.

i'm so sick of freebie features and low budget crap like that. "Doing it for the love of film" "You'll be so on the next one" I need to pay rent and make a living. I once had some people call me up during October of last year when it was filthy busy with the unions. They asked if I could work for free. I said no, since there's paying work to be had. They call again offering $50 a day, and then again for $100.
They said, "well you'd be doing us a favour". Well it sure isn't doing me any favours. Even some of the lower end union work was pretty guaranteed $200 take home (and usually much much more), less work and better food.

So to answer your question, run away from the production. Not one penny from your pocket should go to them. Especially since you are providing a service for no money. There are plenty of other freebie shows out there that don't try and push a stupid contract like that on you.
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#20 Daniel Wallens

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 11:41 PM

What other factors weigh into your decision to work pro bono?

Several things:
-Who's involved. This can mean both friends, and celebrities. If a bunch of my buddies are doing it, I know it will be fun. Likewise, if Deakins or Kuras is shooting it, I'd do it too. Hell, if it has enough stars in it that I admire, that may weigh in as well.
-Length. Generally, I find it hard to do free work for too long. Both because it may interfere with paid work, and also because, eventually, say, after 6 weeks on a feature (if I were to do that) I'd feel like I'd actually deserve some real compensation for my hard work. Shorter jobs are generally easier to take (mentally) than longer ones.
-Gear. Yes, I must admit it. For me, a guy who likes new toys, this does in fact play a part (albeit not a huge part). But if the shoot will be using a bunch of new camera systems, bunches of cool doggicam rigs, specialty gear, etc., then I will be more inclined to have the chance to work with them.
-Workload. Obviously, you aren't going to take a free job when you just got off two features, and have 4 days until you have 2 commercials followed by another feature. You will want your rest.
-General feeling you get beforehand from the people involved. If you talk on the phone, or meet, with the DP, producer, PM, or whoever else, and they seem nice, agreeable, courteous, genuine, and honest, this is by far the most important thing. If the first thing someone says to you over the phone is "We're working at least 12 or 14 hour days, no OT, no meal penalties, no grace" and there is no mention of any crafty on set, then you can pretty much get an idea of how the set will be run. If they don't seem flexible or enjoyable, and they start up by pushing paperwork in your face, then you might want to get out of it. The general vibe is what I go off of the most. Many above-the-line people have the thought that, since you are doing it for free, you should feel lucky to have the chance to work for them and get experience. They often forget that it is actually you who is doing them the favor.
-Nature of the shoot. Some kinds of jobs, when described to you, just aren't made for the low budget world. For instance, when a pro bono job tells you they can't afford to pay you, but then they say that they are doing a shoot in Iceland, and it will be all exteriors, you may want to think about what else they can't afford: heaters? Tents? The same might go for an overly ambitious job (of which there are many in the low-budget world), such as a micro-budget short that includes car chases, things blowing up, stunts, aerials, etc.


-DW
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