Working For Free… Again

Can you make a film with VFX and no-budget at all? Apparently so:

Project London writer/director Ian Hubert reveals how a team of online volunteers using free software created an indie sci-fi flick with as many VFX shots as Poseidon.

It would be great if projects like these are just for fun but if this goes on to make Mr. Hubert some money the artists who “volunteered” will probably be left high and dry. It’s bizarre how often people want to work for free.

As a reminder I suggest the crew of Project London read this chart to help determine whether they should work for free. If the answer is yes, I have a car that needs to be washed by a few good “volunteers” after they are done with that film.

Soldier On.

13 Responses to Working For Free… Again

  1. I’m one of the volunteer artists that worked on Project London.

    I feel conflicted about your post here, because as I agree about avoiding working for free. And I would never suggest that any artist should work for free.

    And yet…

    I can’t speak for the other artists that worked on Project London, but in my case I am friends with Ian Hubert, and I worked on the project in my spare time for fun, and as something to occupy my time while I was between (already secured, simply waiting to start) jobs. Ian was always very clear that there was no obligation to deliver or meet deadlines, since I was working for free. It felt more like getting together with buddies to make something for fun.

    And I had a blast, personally. I really enjoyed the experience. I probably enjoyed it more than any of the paid work I’ve done. Frankly, I felt far less exploited working on Project London than I did working in a paid position in the games industry. Go figure.

    But still… I do agree. Hrm.

    Darned cognitive dissonance.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I would love to work on projects for friends for fun and all. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the whole idea here for Ian is to make some money on this? To get a distributor? My problem is if this thing ends up making some money, he is under no obligation to pay you for your work. Sure he is your friend and make sure you get your fair share. I hope.

      • blah says:

        This whole post if a bit of a non topic.

        If you sign on you do the work for free, regardless of whether he makes money off it or not. No-one forced anyone to sign up or knowingly deceived.

        Where are you going with this soldier?

      • I’ll check with Ian and Phil. Maybe they can shed some light on this. The papers I signed may have had a clause about reimbursement in the event of profit. But I don’t recall (wasn’t important to me).

        In any case, I never viewed this as a money-making venture on my part. Can’t speak for the other volunteers, of course.

        But certainly, if the project ends up being highly profitable, I would take a very poor view of the volunteers not being reimbursed with a fair share of the profits. And if that happens, then your criticism is absolutely justified.

  2. Tom says:

    I think at some point; in school, after school, or even before coming into this industry. People have done some work for free to get experience.

    Since most companies say you need 3+ years experience to even apply.

    That said, it is nearly impossible for people to gain the experience they need to work on a feature film. Unless they catch a break.

    To anyone who works on projects like these. I would always ask about “NDA’s” and even contracts for dispursment of payment if the project is to gain revenue. Even say “I worked 400 hours and I want $30 per hour if the project shall obtain any money or generate new projects that in time make money”

    These types of questions / contracts should be asked and talked about during the process of making your projects. If you have a contract, its much much harder for a company to refuse pay. I learned the hard way many years ago before the dot com bust that you ALWAYS have contracts even if you are working with friends.

    Even if it means people are working for free. Its better to be safe than wishing you had asked for a contract after the project goes viral.

    • Shootsy says:

      And then reality bites my friend…for 1 person that will ask for a contract you’ll have 10 or 20 that won’t even ask for a bottle of water and still do the work.

      Same old song…lalalala

  3. VFX Soldier says:

    @blah the fact that one of the artists expressed cognitive dissonance about the issue implies there is going to be workers remorse when he realizes he might have worked for free on a project that will generate money.

    it’s just naive.

    • blah says:

      Annndd??? People’s stupidity is nothing to write home about. There’s nothing malicious here…

      Just my opinion but this whole post, is a non post.

    • Workers remorse? No. My cognitive dissonance isn’t regarding myself. I went into it as a fully-informed choice. Even if the project ends up being wildly profitable and I don’t see a dime, I won’t be bothered. I knew what I was getting into. I have zero dependence on any income this project might generate; it’s not like some intern being fooled into working for free “for experience”.

      The cognitive dissonance I mentioned is more a matter of trying to reconcile my (totally voluntary, informed) choice, with what I would recommend other people do. I’m imagining, for example, people who are not friends with the people involved, who are under illusions of some kind, etc. I think the issue is that a lot of people go into these things without fully thinking it through, or being fully aware of what they’re doing and the implications thereof. I can imagine that may be the case with other volunteers.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        So if Ian hypothetically goes on to make millions off of this. You won’t be bothered if he doesn’t give you one red cent?

      • Depends on what you mean by “bothered”. I would probably be annoyed, but it wouldn’t ruin my day. I already make a good living, and I don’t have aims to get rich or to stop working.

        I’d be more peeved about the people who didn’t have their eyes wide open getting treated similarly.

  4. VFX Soldier says:

    @Nathan

    I’m reminded of Jack Kirby who I met a long time ago. I wrote about it here:

    https://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/why-the-comic-con-matters/

    The moral of the Jack Kirby story for me is that the work he did lived beyond him. His children almost 15 years after his death are still fighting to get residuals.

    I write a bit about this because I feel artists are undervalued in the VFX industry. Maybe Jack Kirby was annoyed at the time he didn’t get residuals. His children certainly carried the burden.

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