I’m sure that I’m not alone in this when I say “I no longer work for free.” Many of the problems in today’s job market is that people aren’t willing to pay for the services that they are in need of. For the past four years I’ve seen job listings like the one below (which is a complete satirical mock up of what one sees, but not so different from the actual truth).
|We’re searching for creatives in the fields of graphic arts, redaction, PR, marketing, and social media, production, etc. for our [event, project, etc]|
|Associates, Bachelors degree or equivalent experience in the aforementioned fields;
in order to be considered for the position please provide:
proof of work;
and other DNA sample
|You’ll get to have a once in a lifetime experience by being a part of our event (film, indie art project, etc). You’ll have the opportunity to meet people in your same field, possibly ‘get hired’ by producers who will attend the event – we’re joking those people will most likely ignore you because you’ll be too busy with the workload we’ll give you so they won’t even see you really. You’ll also be blessed by bringing the bosses tons of coffee, donuts, sandwiches, dry cleaning, etc. If you perform well, we’ll provide you with a recommendation letter which will be subject to how effective you were at bringing us our food, hot beverages or our verbal abuse. You’ll also have the benefit of working a ridiculous amount of hours for our project (event, etc) without any sort of monetary compensation or the security that you’ll be chosen as part of our team in a future event because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity event! so apply now, because this won’t ever happen again – until next year.|
**THIS IS A NON-PAID POSITION**
That’s right – you will not be paid, and will not have a guarantee of being selected as part of the next event/project that has secured a countless amount of private donors and sponsors.
I know that being in the film industry is tricky. I know that I chose to be a part of a field that you either paddle for your life or you sink like a rock. But, I’ve realized that one can only paddle so far without help. And while I have no troubles with providing free or low cost work to those fellow struggling filmmakers, who have incredibly special projects that they’re trying to get off the ground with no financial backing whatsoever – I do have a problem when others try to sell mediocre or horrible opportunities as “once in a lifetime” opportunities.
To me it’s very much like handing a person a broken oar that will make them go in circles in the water and telling them “hey – you’ll get places with what I gave you – that’s a great opportunity you’ve just been handed there sweetie.“ No. IT’S NOT.
Knowing the quality of your work is something incredibly valuable – knowing your value as a professional is priceless. Not giving it away for free to just anyone is very important.
Why am I making a fuss about this? Why am I not jumping at every opportunity that’s presented to me? Because if I continue working for free, for everyone that wants me to be a part of their team I will never be valued for my abilities. Also, I’m not sure as to why this is, but many people are surprised to know that I’ve accomplished quite a few things in my career. After seven years as a journalist/photojournalist for some awesome media outlets, and now as a filmmaker, I’ve begun making progress and starting conversations with my work. I’m determined to keep on making strides, keep on starting conversations, and determined to no longer work for free for those people who just want to take advantage of those, like me, who are starting out.
Unless I think the project or event is really special and the organizers are doing everything they can to make an impact with the little they have. Those people, I will help with everything I can. I will support the people that are struggling to make ends meet while chasing their dreams, for them I will work for free without a problem. I won’t however, provide those who have tons of sponsors or private donors with my services for a non-paid internship, or volunteer position because they think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s completely unacceptable.
Leading by example
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a struggling up and coming filmmaker. I never, not once expect anyone to work without compensation of some kind. Everyone I approach I say “I cannot provide you with monetary payment for this, but I will provide you with [gas money/transportation, free lunch, etc]” as a way to keep them part of my team for future projects that I hope are financed by either myself or producers or both.
Right now I’m working on saving up money for a private screening event in February 2017. It’s difficult because as a person who has not yet found a (paid) job in Puerto Rico, and hasn’t found financeers for her projects – there is only a limited source of income that doesn’t provide me with much. However, not only am I expecting to pay for the venue, but I’m hoping that with the money I save I can give some sort of monetary compensation to the two people I’m asking for help with the organizing of the event – because that, to me, is the best way to cultivate professional relationships.
Furthermore, since I’m extremely organized and have most of the event planned out they are to do very minimal on that day – still, I do not expect them to do it for free. Nor would I ask them to, out of respect for their time, efforts and dedication to me, the event, and my film.
So, I say again “I will no longer work for free” because if I don’t put value in my work, my abilities, my accomplishments – who will?