Working For Free: Bay Area?

A reader emails me with some information about a company in the Bay area called The Base Studio.

The guy on the phone said that in order to classify their staff according to their skill level, they’ve been asking candidates to come in for a kind of test period. Artists come in and work for free for three days, and the studio looks at how much they’d cranked out, and classifies them accordingly.  So, even if they don’t hire you, they could feasibly get as much as three days worth of labor for free.

I’m surprised how often artists and TDs come on my blog to defend the practice of working for free so I was delighted that someone took the time to email me about a practice they object to. I don’t condone the practice of working for free and find it shameful. It’s important that artists know about such companies so they can avoid these kinds of practices.

Once again, if you are conflicted, please refer to this “Should I Work For Free” chart.

Soldier On.


10 Responses to Working For Free: Bay Area?

  1. Vfxartist says:

    Another one for the vfx soldier wall of shame:

    An email is circulating to some artist for an australian vfx shop.

    They are looking “experienced and talented artist”. All diciplines.

    They cite their credits as “Lord of the Rings” “Superman Returns”, “Harry Potter”.

    They say they are a “Specialist vfx shop”…

    They say its for a stereo show with CG jungle environments, digital doubles and monsters.


    What they offer is:

    “Flights, 2 wks accom only, wages are not on the high side sorry! Projects are good for the portfolio. ”

    Any other career soliciting high end, cutting edge, high tech artist from the US to work abroad would offer:

    1) Housing, most likely a hotel, for the duration.
    2) Competative wages.
    3) monthly flights to go back home to visit family
    4) leased transportation.

    This is most likely an american film, to be consumed here in the US for the initial profit pool. The studio takes advantage of overseas subsidies. Fine. But now, they want to offset the cost from relocated the desired labor pool … onto the labor pool itself! So now, the labor pool is expected to shoulder the financial burden of working abroad. No acknowledgement that you have a home, mortgage, family… Just the hard sell that the show will have cool monsters in it like I’m a 5 year old.

  2. Shootsy says:

    From their site…among others…

    “Roto/Paint Lead Michelle has been working in the Visual Effects Industry since early 2006. Although she is known among her peers for being the nicest lady in visual effects, don’t let her kindness and smile deceive you. If an artist isn’t pulling their weight on a roto/paint shot, Michelle will seek and destroy… Well, not literally. However, Michelle makes sure all work which passes her supervision is up to snuff and of the highest quality. There is no room for slackers in her department!”

    Ok does a prospective client need to know that?

    • Marcus says:

      LOL! Thanks for pointing that out. They don’t seem to be too fond of Roto-guys (looking at how they describe one of their other staffers’ first job as being “a mere roto-grunt”). Yet roto work seems to be their bread and butter judging from their reel. Pathetic.

      • Shootsy says:

        (looking at how they describe one of their other staffers’ first job as being “a mere roto-grunt”)

        Yes exactly I noticed that too! How condescending…and after looking at their reel they should really look for a rock to hide under!

  3. Dave says:

    wow, just wow! Work for free?!?! That’s the kinda of crap people were trying to pull back in early vfx days. By not just hire someone for 3 days then negotiate a more appropriate rate, IF that practice is necessary. Any company that did that would be a immediate no for me. I think “tests” are ok but delivering non sellable results, like watermarked or elements over a gradient or something.

    • NateCow says:

      Actually as it turns out, the “training shots” are shots that have already been delivered, so we don’t get any free work out of the deal. Artists newer to VFX get the benefit of a few days of free professional training really. In the end, if you’re not hired, that means your work was not useable. If it is, then you have the job and there’s nothing to complain about.

  4. NateCow says:

    Wow, I’m supposed to be heading out to work for them as a lead roto artist in a couple of weeks. This is good to know.

    • Shootsy says:

      When you see how the roto is coming back from India people should really stop being condescendant and consider that there are no dumb demeaning jobs but only the quality you put into it. And again posting that kind of description on a professional website is shady, if not a warning to prospective workers.

      Reading this and looking at their reel is a red flag in my book.

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