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Thread: Working for Nothing... A guide for producers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Blog Entries

    Default Working for Nothing... A guide for producers

    Recently there have been a number of requests for videomakers to help out on projects. A lot of these requests are based on the belief that videographers sit at home, twiddling their thumbs, too dim to think of their own projects. As a result, we jump for joy at the chance to work for nothing.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    "Challenging" someone to make a video isn't the way to do it. If I feel the need to make a music video for free I'm not going to put weeks of effort into a project for someone who doesn't appreciate my skills and thinks that I have nothing better to do.

    Let's have a reality check. I have never booked a crew member based on a youtube video, nor have any of the music companies done that (despite their publicity, geared to give them "street cred" with the punters). So, in other words, a youtube video isn't going to start anyone's career and as soon as the band gets enough money to make a decent video, they're going to employ professionals, not some bloke who did a youtube freebie. Likewise, a freebie music video on a CV is a waste of time when it comes to working in "the industry" (God, how I hate that term), it comes in the "hobbies" category and, although it shows that you have an interest in videomaking, it will not help your career in any way.

    In the same way, there are dozens of "producers" who come up with ideas for a youtube series, internet tv or suchlike. These are often people who don't want to risk maxing out their credit cards, getting a bank loan or borrowing off their friends. However they are quite happy to get videographers to risk time and money on a project which, statistics show, won't make money. At the moment less than one percent of internet start-ups make enough money to enable one person to live from their earnings. Even less make enough to pay anyone else. (This is based on the hours invested compared with working flipping burgers, you"ll earn more per hour at McBurger than running a website).
    Even more interesting, according to my union, whereas the percentage of producers making a profit from their initial project is running at about 10%, the number of crew earning from such projects is less than one percent.

    This is a bitch of an industry.

    In other words, a camera/sound/editor working on a "potential" money-maker has a one in a hundred chance of getting any money from the producer. I'm not saying that novice producers are bastards, on the contrary, I suspect that most of them honestly believe that their project will make money. Unfortunately, that isn't the case and even if some cash does arrive, we all know that the producer will pay off his debts before sharing the rest.

    Having ideas is easy. I have at least one money-making idea a week. It's putting the ideas into practice which is the hard part especially as the world doesn't tend to act the way you think when it comes to paying for internet content.

    So, if you come on this forum looking for people to work for you, for nothing. Seduce us. Give us a clue about your project. Tell us your track record. Have you learnt from mistakes you've made or is this your first project? Show us your website. If you're serious you will have some sort of internet presence to show potential investors. If you can't be bothered to bung up some sort of homepage to show your crew, why should we invest time and money in someone who can't even get that together?

    Oh, and don't give the "I can't tell you in case someone nicks my idea" bullshit. Sorry, nice try, doesn't wash.

    In the same way, be honest and upfront. If you are an amateur, with no experience who is looking for people to work on an idea which might work, then say that. You will find that most of the regulars here understand what it's like starting out and will gladly offer help and advice. If you pretend to be a "producer" without the skills to back up your claim, the regulars will suss you out and rip you to shreds.

    So, to sum up. We're not against working for nothing per-se but we are against being exploited and treated as mugs.

  2. #2

    Default This is so true

    I have just got into producing recently after many years of technical and creative work. I thought that I am experienced to 'produce' and 'sell' the projects that I believe in. Yet the reality is tough. It's so hard to get commissioned and even if you do, there isn't enough money to commission the crew of the right standard to achieve the effect that you envisaged. From the financial point of view, it's much worse than working as an editor 9 to 5.

    Bespoke and Affordable Video Productions in London -

    | Corporate Video | Commercial | PR Events | Live Recording | Motion Graphics | Music Video | TV Productions

  3. #3


    How do you go about selling the projects that you produce?

  4. Default

    It's no different for composers.
    How producers can think I spent over 25 years learning my craft, just
    to give it away for free, is beyond me.

  5. Default

    Another thing that bugs me is that people use the excuse that I'll get "exposure" from the project. Yeah right...I have over 500,000 views on YouTube, and 45,000 on Vimeo. I've only gotten 4 leads out of all those views, and only 1 solid job.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Rotterdam Area, The Netherlands


    Quote Originally Posted by jeremiahjw View Post
    Another thing that bugs me is that people use the excuse that I'll get "exposure" from the project. Yeah right...I have over 500,000 views on YouTube, and 45,000 on Vimeo. I've only gotten 4 leads out of all those views, and only 1 solid job.
    We need more statistics like this!
    A lot of starting companies (I'm talking about retail, not filmbusiness) think they can get free videos by promising 'exposure'. The only problem is that nobody knows them and they need you to create that exposure, from which they will benefit....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Queen's Park NW6


    So, so true and the thing is that everyone who wants you to work for free will say 'you will be used when paid work comes in'. Absolute rubbish, you will just be known as the person to call when something need's to be done for free.

    Video Production Services Company UK London

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2009


    I do agree but I'm gonna try chuck in another argument. If I hadn't done a few free gigs when I started out I certainly wouldn't have been given a lot of the opportunities I've been given since. It's hard to get a showreel together and I was genuinely grateful for anything I could get my hands on. I wouldn't ever do a corporate video for free, nor have I ever, but I don't see anything wrong with working on something like short film, something that will actually benefit everyone involved, and unfortunately there is rarely any money involved in these projects and it is just a group of people pitching in to get something made. A little while ago a friend of mine wrote a script and me and my partner decided to try and shoot it. We didn't have any money for this so we just decided to try and get a crew of people together who wanted to shoot a film. Is this wrong? Well some fella called Andre decided it was and took the time to email me declaring his dislike for me trying to get people to work for free. I politely explained to him that no one had to come and work on this film, I was just looking for like minded people who want to get involved and shoot a film! I'd like to know peoples opinion on this.

  9. #9


    IMO, there's absolutely no problem with working for free, particularly where everyone's payment is the pleasure of being involved in the project. However, the flip side of this is those that "dump" on others, i.e. they expect people to work for them for free )either because they're not prepared to pay the going rate or they want to maximise their profit). And the extreme is those that expect professional work at no cost.

    The bottom line is that anyone wanting to gain experience should chose their projects carefully. Possibly the best experience would be on an amateur film production, or working as an assistant. The worst possible experience would be working for someone expecting something for nothing. There's a big difference.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Queen's Park NW6


    @ martchap, I absolutely agree; I was being somewhat glib and flippant in my earlier post, indeed when one is starting out, there is nothing wrong doing stuff for free as, like you said, it's hard getting together a showreel.

    But I guess the skill is knowing when enough is enough, I have a friend who has been a camera assistant for some time now and people are still trying to dump free stuff on him, even though he's worked on many films and has done good work. He keeps doing these free jobs, because they've got great directors/producers/dops or whatever working on them and they ALWAYS come with a promise of paid work down the line. Yet when the paid work come's along, he finds out about it afterwards, so in other words he has become the person they call when the budget is tight and they want something done for nothing.

    I still do the odd free job, but it will be something like a friend's short film, anything else I want to and expect to get paid and that is an attitude that I wish was throughout the industry, because then it would ONLY be student films and similar vanity projects that people would ask to be done for free and not commercial work.

    Video Production Services Company UK London

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