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Bill DiPietra

Low/No Pay projects

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As I am now looking for some freelance work, I just had to start this thread. I know indie filmmakers don't have Michael Bay-size budgets, but I find the amount of requirements people have for potential crew members simply outrageous, especially when they don't even plan on paying them. I'm not even talking about DP work. I completely understand that in order to have a day rate, you at least need to have a reel out there (which is what I'm trying to put together.) But, regardless of the discipline, you can't just expect people to work for free.

 

Sorry, but this stuff frustrates me. People need to eat, man!

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Two things to consider. Some really cheap productions know to its important to do solid crafts services and meals and will go out of their way to tell you. What would be interesting to do would be to look back on "free projects" from the past few years and see if anything became of those projects.

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I love when I get into arguments with said producers about how there's nothing wrong with what they are doing and they can magically skirt labor laws by applying the magical term intern or volunteer to their ads.

Sadly, it's a pervasive problem, which i don't think will ever really go away. All you can do is play it by ear as once in awhile a free project may well be worthwhile to you-- though that's always a personal choice.

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I too am looking for freelance gigs and it's just impossible to find good ones. There are so many top people out of work due to the industry downsizing over the last 6 years, it's hard to compete. You either get stuck working on horrible "Zombie killer bunnies from hell IV" and get paid $1000 bux for 16 days or you sit in an office working 12hr days contemplating running your car off a bridge as you sit in 2hrs of traffic going to and from work. Talented people don't have a chance to succeed without investing money in themselves and it's hard to do that when your working freelance. You've almost gotta have a full time job, shoot every weekend and pray whatever you make, turns people on.

 

:sigh:

 

I'm currently prepping my first directorial feature right now, literally as I type this. I'm budgeting to have enough money so everyone gets paid. I can't imagine doing a feature film, being on set with a reliable crew and not paying them. Good pay? Probably not… depends on what you bring to the table ya know? I'd rather have 6 exceptional well-trusted people on the ground then 12 people running around with there heads cut off, like most low-budget/no-budget shows I've worked on. All I need is 6 people… (gaffer, grip, camera support, camera assistant, AD and Sound operator) We can all "double-up" roles and make shooting that much quicker.

 

Anyway, yea I hear your rant about no-pay… just check out the editing jobs that are no pay, it's crazy!

 

Ohh and Adrian, we'll be talking soon! If I do this film, I could use your help for sure. ;)

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Bill, couldn't agree more. Tough to pay the bills when you're working on a "Passion Project". Same mindset seems to be displayed by the screenwriters/filmmakers over on Stage 32.

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And; not to double post too much; I think it does eventually work out. Yes, a lot of projects are crap pay, no pay, but you keep at it, and you work, and work, and somehow, you wind up paying bills, if you can live smartly. I don't bring much special to the table aside from my knowledge and particular taste-- which i suppose some people like?-- but somehow, maybe luck, maybe just straight up tenacity, or talent, I've been slowly making more money each year since the relocation to LA.

 

What's even more interesting is that statistically (as i keep track of this) 72.22% of work this yr has come from my "network" of people I know, -v- 2.78% from CL, 5.56% from stage 32 (both paid as well) and 2.78% from staffmeup (which is basically all reality shooters, which would be interesting to shoot i suppose) and a solid 5.56% from facebook groups.

 

Next thing i need to start tracking on my balance sheet type thing is busy times (may one day even plan a vacation in the slow times)

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Truth is, those no-budget projects are probably no-budget because the project isn't worth paying for, which means it's probably not worth doing for free, because you probably won't want it on your reel, because it's probably going to suck.

 

That said, it's really hard to move past that kind of stuff to "real" jobs, and, unfortunately, usually takes more than having a good reel. People want to think they're working with people that other people think are important people. In other words, you gotta have done something "cool." Like shot a Taylor Swift music vid, or a feature that was a smash break out hit from Sundance. Then you'll start getting real work. Before you get there, you just have to shoot as much as humanly possible and hope something lands. The real trick is to be bold, and stand out. I'm watching a DP friend of mine moving into "real" work, and it only took him twelve years of crew jobs, and shooting personal projects. But, they say if you're not willing to dedicate ten years of your life trying to establish a specific career, then you don't really want that to be your career.

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You've almost gotta have a full time job, shoot every weekend and pray whatever you make, turns people on.

 

Since I have a decent paycheck coming in every two weeks from my city job, that's pretty much what I'm trying to do. Extra money from freelancing won't hurt, but I'd really like to get involved with interesting projects. Dare I ask, where are the Kubricks and Bergmans of our generation?...

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I agree Adrian, I find MOST of my work comes from my network. I put feelers out there and friends hook me up. I posted a little blurb about needing work on Facebook and honestly, even that helped considerably since a lot of my friends didn't even know I wasn't working full time. However, I haven't been able to take much film related work, been doing more IT stuff, post production consulting. I spent a month re-building the render farm at a local post house, because I know how to do it and needed the work. I'd be screwed right now if I didn't have other expertise.

 

Justin kinda hit the nail on the head, you've gotta dedicate and be passionate about it. Heck, I went all out and bought a bunch of camera and post production equipment so I'd have no excuse. It's been a great enabler and pushed me to learn new things like Avid and how to shoot with modern digital cinema cameras.

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I think I've posted on here before about a producer friend who famously shot an entire feature film using a cast & crew that he paid $00.00 to! He had no shortage of people willing to work for free, he was turning them away. The camera crew flew in from Germany at their own expense and even brought their own gear and "donated" it.

 

Now what is it about film that compels people to behave like this?

 

Good luck finding someone who will paint a fence, mow a lawn, or pull weeds....for free.

 

R,

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.....Dare I ask, where are the Kubricks and Bergmans of our generation?...

Meaning creative people with that intellect or creative potential?

If they are early in their career and unfamous you may get to meet one of them. Trick is, dare I say it, would you recognize them? How? What would their ideas sound like, what would their work look like?

 

The best place to look is maybe among artist who want to make films, rather than among film makers who may wish they were artists.

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Ironically I just got booted from a facebook group for answering, with the appropriate references, if they could get in trouble with the labor board / reported to for not paying volunteers.

As for finding a Kubrick etc; you probably won't-- especially not if you're looking for one. Best bet is meet with people, feel them out, see what they want to say, and if you can work with them, work with them.

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The best place to look is maybe among artist who want to make films, rather than among film makers who may wish they were artists.

Sounds just like me (filmmakers that want to be artists, that is...)

 

If I'm totally honest, yes, I wish I was an artist, but you're right, "artist" is such a strong word, I would not apply it to a filmmaker like me. In fact, I really don't like it when the term "artist" is thrown around. I'm not an artist... maybe a craftsman... or maybe just an interested observer... not sure.

 

But, I'm the first to admit, I'm no artist. Good point.

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Hey, I don't want to be the guy that makes people think that they are or are not artists. There are, I'm sure, plenty of film makers who are artists by nature. I think it's a person's inate potential that defines what they are.

 

Otherwise, if we are just what we are today or the obvious thing that we can be tomorrow....ah, I just can't believe it.

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Anyone who works for me gets paid at least something, no matter what. I very occasionally allow myself an exception to this rule when a favour is being repaid from a close friend or long-term collaborator, but even then I'm careful to examine the situation from all angles. Otherwise, everyone gets something. Always.

 

And all that does is make me less competitive against people who can spend the extra money on production design.

 

I'm an idiot.

 

P

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the sad truth is, if a person is not already a working professional or a film student who really have guts and passion to advance in the industry and has already done many paid film jobs successfully, it is VERY unlike you will get ANY kind of film work through them on a 10-20 year time scale.

I know lots of passionate indie guys in Finland and none of them have any possibility to advance to the professional world unless they have been in film school already and done quite a lot of professional gigs.

And if they don't do professional jobs, know the right people and have possibilities to get funding from commercial sources they will never gonna have money to pay decently to anybody working for them.

 

For example one of them always thinks that the no-budget indie feature he is doing at the time will gonna be the next Blair Witch kind of success. He is very good to talk people into his projects but honestly I don't think he is EVER gonna wind up in pro world because he really just wants to write, direct and produce his own movies without compromises. I suggested he to do some very good screenplays and offer them to real production companies who have possibility to get real funding and distribution for the films but he is maybe scared of that they won't let him direct his scripts or does not like the idea that the production company gets its own share of the revenue.

No experienced producers = no funding = no pay = no resume. ever <_<

and as said, if he would REALLY like to advance towards pro world via training (film school, internships etc) or other kind of paid work which helps you to get to the industry (commercials, docs, certain types of TV work, etc.) it would take at least 10-20 years for him to get to a position where he could direct his own movies AND get everyone paid decently. this also means he don't have resume or contacts to recommend anyone for a job.

 

You really should check the backgrounds of the people involved in indie projects and if there is at least couple of them who really work a lot in paid film jobs and have possibility to recommend you for real jobs it might be worth it to work couple of days for free to get new contacts which could end up getting more paid work after a while.

If they are nobodies working on a passion project they will never gonna wind up in a position where they could recommend you for a job and without decent budget the film is extremely likely gonna be bad resume so it's definitely not worth it at all. (unless you like to do indie films as a hobby. quite irritating hobby which can even get you killed or destroy you professional career by ruining your resume if you choose carelessly or just have bad luck :ph34r: )

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it is very important to distinguish people who do low to no budget stuff exclusively and people who do them occasionally but also work a lot in professional films and can thus really end up in a position where they can later get you hired in a decent production with real pay

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This is very true.

 

In Los Angeles (where I am currently, incidentally) it seems to be just barely possible to make a modest living on very small productions of the type Aapo mentions - the sort of thing that's often self-funded by the director or by a group of friends.

 

I have been involved with productions like that at all levels and there's nothing wrong with them, but it's a mistake to believe that they can ever lead to higher-end work.

 

Outside the US, that sort of thing is invariably unpaid, too, so it isn't even a living.

 

Perhaps the exception is if self-funded projects are used to create a reel to get onto the very lowest end of real production, but even that's a very shaky proposition.

 

Unfortunately, as Aapo says, sometimes the answer to the "how do I get started" question is: you don't. You can't. Outside the USA it is as likely as winning the lottery.

 

P

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"

Unfortunately, as Aapo says, sometimes the answer to the "how do I get started" question is: you don't. You can't. Outside the USA it is as likely as winning the lottery.

Yep, so that begs the question, what is the formula for success?

 

I felt pretty honored to have a standing ovation at the premiere of my last film. The BBC calling it a "must see for anyone who loves cinema". I mean, it's not a great movie, I could do a lot better if we had three pennies instead of two. However, it's toured the world; Germany, France, UK, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Canada and the United States. Tens of thousands have seen it, we've even had it play at some pretty big theaters like the Arclight in Hollywood, yet I haven't made a single penny off it OR received work from it. You hobnob after the screenings with Hollywood elite, they ask for your card, you wine and dine, but nothing comes of it. After a few days, it's all forgotten and you've moved onto your next project.

 

So if that three year experience hasn't helped at all, what does it take to be successful?

 

Well, I've posed that question to so many filmmakers and I've hit so many road blocks. I have so many friends who are on the verge of success, yet haven't cracked that nut. When I ask them why, they don't really have an answer because they don't understand either. Heck, one of them was on "Breaking Bad" and hasn't worked a day since. You'd think being a camera operator on BB would be good for yee'ol resume, but it wasn't because it's "TV" and feature guys want "feature" operators and nobody wants a 35mm operator. I mean seriously? I've been pigeonholed the same way for years, doesn't matter how good your reel is.

 

One thing I did was stop giving people my reel. I simply made a few short films and send people the links. They can see my directing, shooting, editing and coloring skills in 3 minutes with a complete story. So far, anyone who has watched my shorts, has hired me. However, getting them to sit down and watch, it's kind of difficult. Demo reels can be seriously inflated as well and honestly, I could produce a highly inflated "editing" reel as I've worked on shows for Disney and Fox. However, I don't do that and I think people appreciate getting a picture of what your capable of doing, IF it's good work. If your short film is some experimental piece or a slasher/horror genre, good luck. I also stepped my website up a lot, including my producers on the list, so there names will show up in google attached to my company.

 

I think the big step is really simple and straight forward. I'm tired of pussy footing around, making shorts that go nowhere and having people come to my house to see them in decent quality because the internet looks like poop. The only solution is features, make something good and cheap (it is possible), and self distribute. Get it up on the big screen, get people to review it, show people your capable of doing the work and have passion for cinema. Go to the screenings, meet people, hand out business cards, promote the living poop out of your work and most importantly, sell it when your done promoting. If you can prove success, even if it's super limited, doors will start to open. Telling someone "my last film is on Netflix" really helps.

 

Finally… keeping your ambition low is so important. Writing a film that could be rated PG, that has a good message, no violence, no special effects, no car chases, sticking to a great script that's shootable for under $50k, that's the ticket. It's the most important thing people forget and it's why so many low budget films just flat-out suck, they try to be overly creative and in the process, fall flat on their face. Sun is cheap/free, shoot outdoors! Desert is cheap/free, shoot in the desert! Friends are cheap/free, not much dialog! get it? Now all ya gotta do is be creative with those elements. :)

 

Dang… did I give too much away? HA!

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It is quite possible to make it without going to school or just straight out of school.

 

We have very recent examples such as Piers McGrail (Cinematographer) who went to IADT and never had a "proper" career in the business, according to IMDB but I could be wrong, he consolidated himself as a cinematographer and he has done beautiful work since, he is a member of the forum so maybe he could step up and bring some light.

 

Yaron Orbach (Cinematographer) shot millions of short - films straight after going to a very modest school in NY, he is "Orange Is The New Black" cinematographer (among others) and finished "Sing Street" this year (I had a lot of fun working on that movie :D)

 

Then we have Jose David Montero (Cinematographer), he never went to a "film school" but he knew that he wanted to become a cinematographer so he shot a lot of short - films in Spain, mostly unpaid, until one of the directors he worked with in one of those short - films hired him to shoot "Nomadas", and that started his career, prior to that I think he shot kinda 30 or 40 short - films.

He is in Hollywood now.

 

Or even Mikhail Krichman (Cinematographer), he was an editor beforehand and he started shooting things with his friends in Russia.. and that lent him to lens "The Return", from there to get the Best Cinematography Award in Cameraimage 2014.

 

On the Directing side, in Ireland we have Gerard Barrett, who directed "Pilgrim Hill" under €5000 and was critically acclaimed worldwide, he directed "Glassland" (lensed by Piers) afterwards and he is directing "Brain On Fire" with Charlize Theron now, according to IMDB.

 

The thing that they have in common is that they started shooting things which were very affordable and shot "a lot" of projects, some of them were good, some of them were bad but it was their playground and they learnt a lot by doing so.

I don't know the financial backgrounds of any of them but I'm pretty sure that none of them come from rich families, at least Jose and Yaron don't.

 

I suppose that being patient is the key point of success, that and not giving up plus the last paragraphs that Tyler wrote! :)

 

It also helps that Ireland is so small that if you make a "good enough" movie, you already have 60% of the success in your hand because the Irish Film Board and such are very good at distributing / helping people put out their features.

 

For example, in Spain, a very indie movie like "Frank" (which is marvelous) wouldn't have done anything at all, probably it wouldn't have been released in cinemas, in Ireland it had a lot of success and also worldwide!

 

On the other hand, if I were a director, I wouldn't care about shooting features at all!

 

Commercials are short and sweet, bring a lot of money to the table and will give you the financial security to afford shooting a feature whenever you want to beside helping you polish your narrative techniques and the ability to know every single toy in the industry.

 

Also, if I were a director interested in features, I would shoot things for Netflix or would try to sell them to Netflix / Amazon. The TV box is the new cinema!

 

Again, you all have to take into consideration that there are millions of very talented people out there who never had the chance to direct / photograph / edit, etc because they didn't have the tools and when the Redones came out, they bought one and that started getting them work and a way for them to improve their skills.

 

So, what's what makes you different from people owning gear? That's the point that you have to find out or you will get people from Germany flying over :D as Mr. Boddington said (I do want to see that project, so if you have a link to the trailer I would be more than happy to watch it!) :)

 

There is a very interesting interview in The Wandering DP Podcast to a cinematographer whose work I like a lot, Max Goldman, and he says that he started shooting things thanks to the purchase of a Red One and being able to make deals with the production companies when the crisis started, as of now, he owns a lot of material and he keeps shooting and shooting.

 

Interview

http://wanderingdp.com/podcast/episode2/

 

Under my point of view what matters the most is having an eye for aesthetics, composition, being bold, being different and the ability to bring something extra to the table, something that other cinematographers / directors don't have.

 

If you have to work in an office while improving those and have to wait until the paid jobs come up, why not? I did it! and I will do it again if I need to, it gives you a financial security that you won't have if you don't do too many paid jobs and you will get to be more selective with the projects you choose.

 

It will take more time for you to be "known" or "successful" but if you keep doing good things you will get picked eventually.

 

It also helps if in short - films you charge for your time and expertise, they will see you as a professional and they will know that you will deliver, because they are paying for you to do so, for example, as of now, I don't work for free anymore (unless a friend calls me), when I meet with the director / producer I explain that and they understand it.

 

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but when it works, it is perfect because they know that you are 150% in the project.

 

A fantastic cinematographer I worked with, 2 times oscar award winner told me once: "Don't be in a hurry"

 

Or you can be super ambitious and shoot every single thing in your country, paid or unpaid, because you think that that will give you more work, which might be true but it is also very risky because they will keep calling you for cheap things until you get "the call", or you can be a very driven student who works for free for 4 years building up a reel and then goes out to the freelance work with solid material.

 

:)

Have a good day.

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As I am now looking for some freelance work, I just had to start this thread. I know indie filmmakers don't have Michael Bay-size budgets, but I find the amount of requirements people have for potential crew members simply outrageous, especially when they don't even plan on paying them.

 

THIS!

 

I can't agree with this enough. I actually have no problem with people making no budget hobbby movies and other kind of amateur work and looking for people to work on these projects for free because this is the nature of this kind of thing, like am-dram etc. What I do find outrageous is the expectaton to get people on board who are working already at a very high level and expect to give them nothing. Often these people have little experience themselves but have massive expectations about who they will dein to consider working with. I cant even put this stuff into words.

 

...and that whole thing that they think they are doing you a favour for letting you work with them for free too.

 

Ack!

 

Freya

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My understanding is there is minimum wage legislation, so unless it's an amateur production (in the best meaning of that word and many indie productions are these in practice, but just giving themselves an air) they should be paying a minimum wage if commercial exploitation is planned as part of a film's future

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_in_the_United_States

 

UK also has a minimum wage,

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If I were a 20 some years old filmmaking student living off my parents, I would work on every single free thing that I could to get both, experience and contacts.

 

That would allow me to grow as a director / editor / cinematographer / etc and in 4 years I would have done, let's say 50 short - films? And nobody could tell me: Eh! It looks like poop! Because I'm a student and they knew beforehand.

 

And that's how you make it, shooting and shooting and shooting.

 

I only know one cinematographer who made it while in school and he always says that he got lucky that day

 

Regarding the minimum wage, a lot of those small productions are offering now a kickstarter / indiegogo campaign as part of the payment.

 

I am really looking forward to the next 10 years and see where everybody is!

 

Have a good day!

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indie filmmakers usually also promise the crew members a share of the profits IF the film ever gets any revenue. Of course this does not usually be in the contracts so IF it's gonna be the next Blair Witch kind of success they DEFINITELY won't give anything to the crew members because they don't have to :/ and if they get money from the previous project they will definitely hire higher end crew for the next one and most likely won't include most of the crew members from the previous projects. the imdb credits may surely be nice thing if the movie is a success but that's still for a shoestring budget non-commercial work and not for a production which is made for wide cinema release FROM THE START, not just for festivals and Vimeo...

 

Of course you can do a huge pile of low budget indie films and maybe eventually end up in pro productions. But it takes really long time to do so, and you still have to know very successful producers to back you up and get you funding and distribution. You also have to work in professional sets some time to get to the routine and find important contacts. Nobody wants to hire a person they don't know, no matter how experienced or educated.

 

------------

 

The main problem with passion projects is usually that nobody wants to fund them because they most likely won't get enough audience to be commercial successes. it is usually too risky to back up a project which the filmmakers truly make for themselves and not for the audience to watch :blink:

 

------------

 

I'm quite happy I don't have time anymore to shoot any indie features, saves me thousands of euros per year, have more time to do real paid work and don't have to risk my own health because of those shoestring films (pros usually care about safety quite a bit more than indie guys, nobody wants to for example shoot towards the camera and operator with real gun and bullets "because blanks are expensive", they use proper safety harnesses and not something made out of leftover ropes and cargo straps... they don't do pyrotechnics with a can of gas without insurance and permissions. heck, they even have sandbags for the light stands so they don't fall over you! :lol: )

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