No doubt, if you work in this industry, you should be spending a certain percentage of your time working for free. I don’t think accountants or business exec’s experience this, but us artists like to starve. For good reason too:
1. Attaching yourself to a great product is sometimes worth more than money.
2. People with great ideas do not necessarily have great bank accounts.
3. Knowledge and experience in a new position.
By no means should we be working pro-bono the majority of the time. Money allows us to pay the bills and paying the bills allows us to do what we love. But I do believe it is healthy to take on a fair amount of less profitable work if we believe in the project or the people we are helping.
Now this is normal. What isn’t normal is where things stand at the moment. During May and June of this year I will have shot four commercials, two pilots and the majority of a feature all on spec. I do not have a completely vital role in all of these projects, but I will be spending a significant part of my time on them. Why break the rules? Because everyone else is doing it. We’re feeling the cold, dark pull of a slowing economy and we simply can’t just relax and watch television all day.
I know plenty of well seasoned veterans doing the same. If there’s no work coming your way your first reaction is to create some of your own. The next year of the entertainment business should be exciting, because the studio system has in effect laid off many of its most creative and innovative players. Imagine laying off Thomas Eddison. Can you imagine him settling for paper boy?
The system is breaking (film, television, commercial, corporate) and we are going to see all these unemployed people turning into the major players of the new era. While studio and business execs rearrange the deck furniture on the proverbial titanic, we are hopefully designing a new form of distribution.
I’m playing along because even if I’m not working on the next big thing, I am still working in its wake. And when the time comes for regime change I’d like to know a few of the players. Help out a few friends this summer. You’ll get lunch for free and maybe even enjoy the experience.