Why work for nothing?

  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    Why is it that just about three out of every four ads for work are either unpaid, low paid or deferred payment/no paid!??

    I have done some unpaid work that has compounded into a reasonable showreel. But why do directors/ producers spend a FORTUNE on equipment and crew and then expect us to do the most important part (i.e. make their film script and film work) with no reward?

    I know actors who will jump at any opportunity to get in front of a lens. It doesn't matter that they are crap actors or that they can't remember their lines. But to do it for nothing, often having to pay most of their own expenses puzzles me beyond belief!

    What are your views?

    • 4th Nov 2006
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    Personally I'm really only considering student films as no/low paid screen work as I think it can be a valuable experience and can add to your show reel. You know you're not being ripped off etc as they're students, and they're the directors of the future.

    Unpaid films from the ether I'll approach with caution, due as well to the fact that I cannot financially afford to do them. And yes, they form part of the ever increasing I'll do anything for no money culture. I'm fairly naive about the whole thing but I think eventually things will come full circle as quality of final products deteriorate. Just look at the quality of that certain ice-cream commercial mdentioning no names.

    I imagine short films that are being used to pitch for further, featured work and screened at festivals etc. might be a consideration - they are in effect a showcase for everyone involved.

    Just my penny's worth. I'm very tired so have probably made no sense.

    • 18th Sep 2006
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    I'd rather be doing unpaid acting work than sitting around feeling sorry for myself or truck driving. OK, I'd much prefer to be doing "paid" acting work but Mr. Spielburg (or anyone else with a decent chequebook for that matter) isn't beating a path to my agents door at the moment.

    Having done 28 LB/Student Films in the past 2 years I have learned a great deal from them, the quality of my acting has improved dramatically, I worked with some really good people who remain friends to this day and loads of valuable contacts have been made along the way.

    Providing the script is relatively decent, I get some good scenes to get my teeth into and production company doesn't take the pi$$ which, strangely enough, they rarely do once they meet me face to face I'm happy to help out fellow filmmakers...you never know where they'll be in a few years.

    Keep smiling guys...

    ForbesKB

    • 18th Sep 2006
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    True, true. Unfortunately I can't really afford to actually do unpaid acting work (except for Fringe plays where I can work during the day) at the moment, but I take on board what you're saying Forbes. I suppose it all depends on what you're building for and stuff like that. If there was a good script, the company seemed kosher and I could afford it then maybe. But hey, I'm just at the start of things, so my views may well change further down the line.

    • 18th Sep 2006
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  • Auday Putrus

    Actor

    ok guys

    having spoken to equity a couple of weeks back this is the rule on unpaid work.

    the rule is there should not be any!!!

    every actor should be paid and had the right to demand the minimum wage of wait for it.....

    5.35 gbp per hour yes thats right this is what everyone including student films sghould be paying, apparently most ppl know this as in companies but still try to get away with it because they know ppl will do it for free.

    what it needs is for ppl to actually demand it or when they get a unpaid job is inform equity of the company and they can request it for you.

    • 18th Sep 2006
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  • Kris Haddow

    Actor

    All comments are fair play - it's great to constantly be busy and gaining experience rather than being stuck doing nothing and feeling sorry for ourselves, but at the end of the day we're all striving to build a career, and careers need cash flow otherwise they are just hobbies. I didn't realise that Equity had set rules on student films etc attracting the minimum wage - and after all, if we don't ask, we don't get!

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    I don't think acting in an unpaid project is prosituting yourself - in fact surely it works more the other way. How many actors have done rubbish stuff just for the money?

    I agree totally if other people are receiving a wage that actors should be paid too, but sometimes creative and talented people do not have the funds to pay anyone and all the budget goes into the project.

    It is absolutly ridiculous to compare actors to plumbers as we all know anyone can jump up and claim to be an actor (and make money at it too).

    Art is a personal thing. Some of us have a strong love of this particular art and as a painter paints (not always for money) an actor acts.

    I have been involved in projects where they would have loved to pay the actors (and everyone else) but just could not afford it. I did the work, not in the hope they would strike it big, but because they were a group of exceptionally artistic people with a great vision. I was proud to have been a part of that and it stretched me beyond belief.

    I am not saying we should not be paid but remember not every job that is paid meets the creative need.

    That's me finished!!!!

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    "but at the end of the day we're all striving to build a career, and careers need cash flow otherwise they are just hobbies"

    I am sure Vincent van Gogh really enjoyed his "hobby"....

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    Ha Ha...I don't blame you actually!

    Thanks for cheering me up!

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    Ha Ha.....don't blame you actually!

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    To quote 2 of the previous contributors 1. "the most important element of the film" 2. "us to do the most important part"...

    This is the attitude that gets us a bad rep with crews...

    We might be the ones who get the screen time but everyone on set is equally important to the overall success of a film guys!!!

    The editor, the director, the scriptwriter, the DOP, the lighting guy, even the guy who organises the logistics and food can make or break a film.

    The sooner us actors realise that we are but another link in the chain that holds a film together the sooner we will get treated with a little bit more respect by the crews. After all we all need each other to make it work.

    It's a team effort...forget that point at your peril.

    ForbesKB

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Rebecca Probyn

    Actor

    Totally agree with Forbes, you need every "link in the chain" otherwise it won;t work. However, I must agree with...... I've forgotten the name now...... That if all the other links are getting paid then why aren;t we?! However if the others aren;t then fair enough :0)

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    Mate, you've obviously had a bad experience somewhere along the line to be so bitter.

    Noone was getting paid on any of the LB/Student films I have worked on as the producers only had enough funding to cover the expenses...and even these were being covered on credit cards.

    On one film I worked on, the producer spent his whole student load making it happen and funded his degree by working in Starbucks...he wasn't even film student he was studying law. Film turned out great. Everyone had fun doing it, and I've gained

    numerous lifelong friends in the process.

    LB/Student Films are a showcase for all the talent involved...funny how the phrase "Prima Donna" refers solely to actors and not crew.

    It's not always about the money guys...A lot of the time there simply isn't the funding available. If we all demanded payment for every film we made, a lot of good films wouldn't never get made and our showreels would be pretty short.

    ForbesKB

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Forbes KB

    Actor

    If indeed those people are getting paid at all...If they are then we are quite right to cry foul.

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • User Deleted

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    Well if they can get an actor to work for free why not! Unpaid work will continue when people are willing to do it, and there is an abundance of actors who will.

    I think most actors at some point have done profit share, Lo Pay or Zilch work etc for experience, but there is a difference when you look at someones CV which is littered in unpaid/LB/student stuff to professional paid work which may not be as many credits but in my opinion has more clout to it.

    If I didn't have a day job then I would probably be doing more unpaid as I wouldn't be losing out financially, (we all gotta live!)and it would filling in my time doing something I love rather than sitting in an office. But after a few years from graduating, I decided I had paid my dues and come to the brink of financial ruin with one expenses / profit share production (which in the end no money was doled out to us actors) that I would only take paid work, I, as many of us, have worked hard to put myself through theatre school (which we all know isn't cheap) and therefore should get paid for our skill like every other profession.

    It's great to get experience and everything, but there comes a point where you say, ok, no more. I deserved to get paid, even if it is minimum wage, it's still your time, where you could be earning some money elsewhere.

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    I think it's all well and good saying that we won't work for free but it's just not realistic. If we demand minimum wage for everything where will the money suddenly appear from to fund it. I'm about to do some new writing at The Union Theatre this means i'll be working at a great venue, with a great writer and and great director. This is how we network. Who knows what any of those people will be doing next. Maybe paid work and maybe they'll think of using me again.

    My policy is i'll do shit if it's paid and good stuff for free. Everyone's aim is good stuff paid but there's not much of it around so all we can do is pick our unpaid jobs wisely.

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Toni Brooks

    Actor

    I don't mind doing unpaid work for students and sometimes for people who genuinely don't have a budget but a really good script and are committedd but I draw the line at large companies who expect actors to work for nothing or a pittance for something that will bring them megabucks.

    And talking of normal - after the last two weeks I've had I've come to the conclusion that no one is 'normal' and I don't even know what normal is anymore.

    • 19th Sep 2006
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    I just mean when it's a young company with little or no money the funds have to go into production value or there's no point being in it. you should never do something when everyone is being paid but the actors.

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • User Deleted

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    Originally quoted by Alan at the beginning of this thread "Why is it that just about three out of every four ads for work are either unpaid, low paid or deferred payment/no paid!??"

    I defy anyone to disagree with this observation recently. I have graduated for a little over three years (so a mere baby in the industry) and I am getting deflated every time one of these postings comes up. I believe that if you are working you should get paid for it. It is all very well doing no paid "work" for experience, do what we love, gain contacts, enhance a showreel, distract from that nagging feeling that you haven't acted in a while and no paid is better than no acting. Whatever way you sugar it up, we are ALL being dealt a crap hand right now. I expect that if some of the casting calls of late were to be sent to agent's offices, they would be filed under "B"! Of course we are doing the unpaid stuff, because that's predominantly all there is out there right now. It's a bonus if it's a good production!

    Quote by sjwolverson "I think it's all well and good saying that we won't work for free but it's just not realistic" - This is exactly what I mean!!

    I'm sorry everyone if this is turning into a rant and I'm really not getting at anyone by posting this. I'm merely venting my feelings the same as everyone else and hopefully adding to discussion. This kind of practice really gets me wound up now and I don't know what can be done about it, which is frustrating.

    The sentiment and message, I guess, in Richard's post was SOLIDARITY within the profession. This kind of credo will carry on if we let it. I do not by any means include students in this observation. I understand that they also have to start somewhere with little or no money to get a foot into the industry (the same as us). What will happen when you've exhausted yourself of doing unpaid projects, whatever they may be? Do you suddenly realise that actually no one out there now wants, or indeed needs, to pay you!!

    Take care everyone.

    XX Shannon

    • 19th Sep 2006
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  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    Interesting point from Shannon that 'no-one wants or needs to pay you'.

    Student films should be encouraged to pay minimum wage, as Equity states. Surely this is for Equity to approach? They could easily point out that the minimum wage is Law.

    What do YOU think?

    • 19th Sep 2006
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