Should you work for free? I say hell no!
However, it surprises me how often I run into VFX artists who argue you should. Many argue that you need to “pay your dues” or that the project is so cool that the free beer and pizza is worth it.
Reminds me of a funny story. I was talking to a senior artist who was a former Animation Guild member. I began to ask him why he left the union facility and he explained while he was a talented FX artist, he wanted to work in look development which he didn’t have on his reel or resume but was talented enough to do.
He said the reason why he couldnt work in look development was because the union prevented him from doing so.
Confused, I explained to him that TAG didn’t have categories that artists were locked into. He clarified how the union prevented him from changing departments:
They wouldn’t let me work for free.
Wow! This senior artist was under the impression that the only way he could change departments was if he was willing to work for free. I guess having a union preventing that is a good thing but in the VFX industry we are eager to prove something and sometimes many of us are inclined to “pay our dues” and do it for free.
So when should you work for free? Well luckily there is a website that has been created to help aid anyone with payable talent or knowledge who is thinking about working for free: shouldiworkforfree.com
The website provides a very useful and simple diagram that VFX artists can use when making crucial decisions regarding free or paid work. The diagram is easy to read with some general questions. Each question can only be answered with either Yes or No. It’s also color-coded for easy reference. I really like how the No answers are in blue and the Yes answers are in green. Best of all, you can recreate the diagram in different languages!
Perhaps a copy of this can be stapled to contract offers and vfx school diplomas?