When I was doing this short film all those years ago, I had no such thought of holding the director or the production accountable to ‘repaying the favour’. I’d be nothing more than a bloated buffoon on-set and plain bitter afterwards if I went around with this attitude of entitlement on special projects.
Everything must be balanced however. Crew can smell when they’re being treated unfairly and it makes everything stink. Even if it’s a personal project, the payment must be fair.
This point speaks more to those financing their own feature films, I would expect a serious personal investment of their own money into the project rather than relying too much on good-will. A poor film-school graduate can rely more on good will but certainly not a successful TVC producer or director. That is decency and respect.
For an industry to flourish, it needs the willingness of its workers to compromise at the appropriate times, and then most others times, enjoy the fruits of jobs with normal budgets that pay standard rates.
If we see the whole system we can’t get upset. It’s only when we think we are being taken advantage of that our experience becomes negative. Hence:
- Do due diligence on the job in question: What is their funding, does it seem reasonable what they are offering given all the variables? If you doubt their integrity or sense you’re about to be used and abused, then move on.
- Don’t expect the producer/director to be able to repay any favour: That may come at a later date from a source you least expect. Bare in mind that compensation comes in many forms, not just financially.
What I have discussed here is not in any way implying we lower our rates for standard jobs. It is referring specifically to special jobs that fall loosely under the term ‘start up’.
When we adjust our attitude and embrace the special circumstances of the job, that’s where producer and crew can work together. The crew member chooses just a few special jobs each year, negotiates enough rate or other benefits to satisfy their bottom line – and gains positive feelings. The producer gets to realise their vision within budget with a professional crew that are happy and not upset at being taken advantage of.
Written by Ande Schurr
Ande has been location sound recording for a decade. He is passionate about growth and writes articles for freelancers.