Who Works for Free?

I’ve read a couple of posts this week from, I guess, industry people ranting about producers that are looking for free labor. “Demand minimum wage” one of the writers insisted.  While another just said, ‘people looking for free labor are scams.’

If I blindly agree I would be doing everyone trying to get into the world of film making an injustice. Do I agree?   Yes.  But there are exceptions to every rule.  How do you create a resume?  I’m listed on a few of those Movie Job sites including Stage-32 and Mandy and apply to most directing and writing gigs offered.  I’ve got to admit, this person who posted didn’t have a clue what a director does.  I had one nameless person who said I could direct and my pay would be ten percent of what I brought to the project.  I’m serious.  Yes, I passed.  It seems that most of these posts are from people that have never made a film or understand the commitment it takes to make a film.  Yet they have an idea and want you to take their idea and turn it into a film.  Their dream, not necessarily yours.

However, sometimes when you haven’t worked on a film in a few years it’s time to lower your standards.  Is this a script you believe in?  Is this a film that can showcase your talents to perhaps put you in a better position for another job?  Film is art and there are many artists out there wanting to put their vision to the test.  Some actually might have credits.  Look ’em up!  IMDB is there for you to search who is starting out versus who is looking to make a new vision come to life.

Did you know that in the state of Florida it’s legal to NOT pay Interns?  That’s right, provided the interns in question are learning and not taking the place of another person who was getting paid.  Did you also know that if you are a student right out of film school you really don’t have any experience?  Over the years, I’ve interviewed several students for features I was producing.  Their resumes consisted of several student projects and not much else.  I even asked a young student, “where he’d like to work on my film?”, his answer was, ‘to be the director.’  Seriously, that’s what he said at the interview.  I told him, “that position was filled. Was there something else to maybe help him reach the goal of director.”  Deer in the headlight look.  You feel we should pay these people?  I believe we should help train these people because perhaps the film schools are missing a valuable part of reality and that’s the interview process.

You want to work for minimum wage?  Get a job at Burger King.  The hours are much shorter.  However, unless you’re going to another fast food chain for work, that tidbit on your resume isn’t going to move you along in life.  When I was in LA I had to work at McDonald’s on the overnight shift to pay my bills. Yes, just over minimum wage (hey, I was a night shift manager).  I got offered a job on a movie set for four hundred dollars cash and four hundred dollars deferred.  I took it and learned that in the film business sixteen hour days is the norm and I made more at McDonald’s, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do in LA.

What I am trying to explain is, research before you jump into a film project.  Will this film have a chance in getting seen?  Am I losing money or am I learning something that can be applied to future film jobs?  Are there filmmakers out there that need someone to tell them where to point the camera? Absolutely, but there are others that just might make a difference in the business and when they do don’t you want to be on their “First Call” list?

Until next time.

Bob Cook
Director.