Yes. I know I've been bitching a lot lately. And I promise to stop just as soon as I prevail over all of the small and large things that annoy the living crap out of me.
Happy now? On with the bitchfest.
One of the great things about the internet is that it's full of specialized sites designed just for your
area of interest. There are a fair amount of sites dedicated to getting employers and employees in various fields together. There are a number of such sites related to working in film and TV.
I'll admit that most job listings you'll see on them are for low-budget (or no-budget) productions, so if you're someone who's been a professional for a while, you're not likely to see many listings that interest you. That's fine. I think it's great that people just getting started have somewhere to hook up with people willing to make allowances for lack of experience.
Every once in a while, however, you do
see listings that are clearly looking for people who do
have experience. Now, there are a lot of potential jobs available on any particular production, so, once again, you may look at a lot
of listings before you see one that might apply to you. No problem there either. I'm not a Director of Photography or a Make-up Artist or a Prop Master or a Key Grip or...a whole lot of other things those jobs might be looking for. The one thing every listing has in common -- regardless of what position they're looking to fill -- is that someone
is looking for an experienced person and they want to pay
that person so they can benefit from that experience.
Everybody wins! People with jobs to offer finding qualified people to hire. What could be better?
But here's the thing that's been pissing me off. I keep seeing posts from Producers who want to hook up directly with a Location for their shoot*. Without hiring a Location Scout or a Location Manager.
The posts say things like, "Producer needs cabin on a lake for a 2-day shoot", or "Filmmaker will pay you for one-day shoot in your Executive Office".
They want to cut out the middle man -- and that middle man is me
! And it annoys the living crap out of me because these websites tout
themselves as being beneficial to both
employers and employees. I've responded to a couple of this type of listing (just for the hell of it), and offered my services as a scout or manager (uh...for pay, of course). In the one
instance where the producer responded, it was to tell me that they were just looking for the Location...not someone to find
I don't see any other listings looking for the product
of someone's experience without the bother of paying that someone to work
and I feel betrayed every time I see one of those posts. Am I wrong?
* It's totally different if we're talking about a private message board for Location Managers and Scouts. I'm on a couple of those and there isn't anything wrong with a bunch of professionals helping each other out with leads. It's a two-way street -- Today I may give someone else ideas for his show; tomorrow I may be the one who's stumped.
Edited to add:
chimes in with the first comment, a comment that is worthy of comment (possibly from the Department of Redundant Redundancy). He says:
"...What I keep hearing from filmmaking friends is that a pretty sizeable proportion of people making no-budget movies are looking for experienced people but don't want to pay for it. And I don't mean "want but can't," I mean that there are some people out there who don't see why one of my best friends shouldn't be willing to DP for free or why another one shouldn't do a script rewrite out of human kindness (and this weekend I encountered friends of theirs who'd had similar experiences in their respective areas of expertise).
Not sure that's really on point with the rest of your post, but thought I'd float that anyway."
In fact, it's a different, but related subject. Doing some
cheapo jobs or even freebies is an accepted part of the business in most quarters and it's not really a problem until/unless it becomes abusive
. The requests to work for free or cheap come in a variety of types.
1. You get a call from out of nowhere, from someone you've never heard of (and who doesn't know you or anyone that you
know), asking you to come work on their project. It's a "labor of love", so there's not really any money, but you'll get lunch and ...blah, blah, blah. The kiss of death is if they finish their sales job with a cheery, "Hey! It' gonna be tons
of fun"! This sounds like the kind of calls Eric's friends are getting. I have no idea why they think you'll go running for a chance to get in on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but, OTOH, they aren't really risking anything by asking. You're always free to say, "Thanks for thinking of me, but...no." Two things to bear in mind: 1.) They invariably do
find people willing to work under those conditions -- otherwise this scenario wouldn't be such a commonly known tradition. And 2.) Even if it's a bunch of people you've never heard of, they might
be making the next Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along
! (Produced with $200,000 of Joss Whedon's own money, this certainly would have qualified as a low/no budget production.)
2. You get a call about a project and you have
heard of the people involved --- oh, for example, maybe it's Joss Whedon
? If you've never worked with Whedon (or even any of the people involved), you'll consider that one, because one or more of the following situations may ensue: It may, in fact
, be "tons of fun" to do; it may be a really cool project to have on your resume; it may get you on Joss Whedon's radar for future work. If you're not busy, you'll certainly consider doing the job.
3. Someone you've known for years (maybe a Grip or an Office P.A.) has written a script and he's producing a short (or a trailer) to use to try to raise money to make a full-length feature. You'll probably strongly consider doing the guy a favor in spite of the fact that these projects happen hundreds of times and they almost never translate into the movie being made, or you getting any future work as a direct result. This one is mostly just for good Karma --- or maybe, at most to build up some good will.
4.) If you work in commercials, odds are that you plan on working a few days every year for free or cheap. Ad Agencies produce Public Service Announcements for diddly budgets. Production Companies want to get in good with the Ad Agencies, so they're happy to do some PSA's for diddly money. (The same agency that needs a commercial to educate the public about the scourge of teen "sexting", also needs commercials for Budweiser or McDonald's or Apple i-Everythings.) The Production Company calls a bunch of people who work for them a lot and they're
happy to do the job because they're doing a favor for a regular employer...or the Company calls somebody they never
call and that person is happy to get a foot in the door.
So, Eric's question really applies to one of these situations (and I'm sure there are a couple more that aren't occurring to me at the moment). All of them have varying possibilities for a future upside and all of them also leave you with the option of turning them down. (Turning them down can take the form of the above-mentioned "Thanks for thinking of me, but no", or "Sorry, I'll be out of town that day/week/month", or "I wish I could, but I'm booked those days".
Or, last but not least, there's the situation A.J. mentioned in the link above -- the guy you do a freebie for, and then he loses your phone number when he has a paying gig, and then, miraculously finds your number again for the next freebie. In that case, the recommended response is, "Holy Crap, you're a scumbag of unbelievable proportions. You don't mind if I use your name when I blog about this do you? And, of course, I'll start a FaceBook fanpage for you too. That's O.K...right?"