Saturday, 24 April 2010

Free, That's the Magic Number

In both areas of my work I’ve encountered the notion of the freebie. That is, the offer of someone to work for no financial reward. Often dressed up with words such as “deferred” or “back-end”, they amount to the same thing. No pay.

There seems to be two schools of thought in both film and comics for this type of work. It will either help to build a reputation, or destroy the industry and make it tough for paid work to materialise. You are only worth the value you put upon yourself.

When I was mixing and trying to establish that I knew what I was doing, I was offered, and indeed worked on several free projects. One of which went particularly badly for them, one for me. The badly for them – I learned an important lesson at their cost (which was nothing to me, so I didn’t feel too bad). For me – I learned something important and walked away.

The important lesson was that even a free gig needs to be approached professionally by everyone, otherwise nothing is gained by anyone.

In film, I had a rule of thumb that my boom op and I set up fairly early. Three rules. 1. Shot on film. 2. Working with friends. 3. Payment for, or supply of equipment by them. Any two of the three worked for us.

It’s a rich world, in lieu of a recognised training system in place. You work as a trainee on set for small pay, and then go off on freebies to learn more/establish skills etc. Time can be abundant in the world of the freelancer.

In comics the world of the freebie can be a little skewed. Most often it seems to be writer can’t draw, writer can’t pay, can artist work for free?

It’s not pretty, and for artists that have made the jump to paid work, or to actually doing that drawing stuff for a living, it can be a painful pill to swallow. Even payment of some kind can be a bad thing if it brings the overall value of the form down.

However, I can also see how for some people, it seem to be the only option.

One the one hand, if only someone could see how great this story is – on the other, print-on-demand means that the cost of producing a book is low enough to enable some kind of payment going the artist’s way (NB: artists could mean penciller, inker, letterer).

However, for submissions, building a relationship or from out of a shared interest, there is no real problem with working for free. As long as the submission is treated professionally, the relationship is real and the shared interest is genuinely shared.

Professionalism is the key. If you’re approaching an artist cold to work on your amazing project for no pay, don’t write in broken English or text speak or casually or in slang. Treat it as a submission, and instil some confidence in the artist that you are putting as much time in as they will be putting in.

If you are hiring an artist, but not paying, then the relationship is skewed automatically, from the off. Try to remember that when you ask for revisions. Try to remember this when you think about mentioning deadlines. Try to remember this when the art isn’t actually produced. You can get what you pay for.

Sometimes, though, you get more than you bargained for.

For me, the key is shared interest. A group or collective all pulling together to produce something works best. Even for free.


明宏 said...


ParisH said...