FORUMS: list search recent posts

Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants

COW Forums : DSLR Video

<< PREVIOUS   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
Steve Crow
Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 6, 2010 at 7:49:25 pm

I wanted to gather some opinions on the ethics of working with unpaid production assistants. In my case, I normally shoot as a one man band but I find that it is far too easy to overlook simple things (like turning ON the Zoom H4N to record mode prior to EVERY take!) when you are concentrating on doing everything.

Unfortunately my micro-budget productions can't support paid staff yet having some assistance would be ideal. What I can "pay" is providing real on-set experience, meals and expenses.

On one hand I know this is quite common in the industry, on the other hand I don't want to feel like I am taking advantage of someone - everyone's time and contribution should be appropriately valued.

I guess what I am reacting to is mostly my own annoyance at seeing ads on Craigslist where people are wanting full production services for free in exchange for gas and "credit" - that angers me but, frankly, I am now talking about doing the same thing or do you see a difference?

Of course, a production assistant is typically only responsible for a limited aspects of the production and the time they invest is up to them - whereas someone wanting a full video production for free is asking for something much greater.

What's your take on this?


Return to posts index

Norman Pogson
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 6, 2010 at 8:02:30 pm

If you can give some level of training and work experience, then offering this to a film student or someone looking to gain "real" experience I think is fair.

My Website


Return to posts index

Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 6, 2010 at 8:49:10 pm

I think that if you make it clear up front that this is a type of internship or apprenticeship, you will end up with the assistant you want at the price you need.

Bear in mind that sometimes the people who are willing to work for nothing are worth just that. I wouldn't expect anyone with over a year or two's experience working on shoots to not be insulted by such a request.

The other side of the coin, however, is that you might provide a clip of the production to the person so that they could say they gripped on "such and such a shoot" to better the odds that they'll be paid on the next shoot. That opens up the possibility, though, that they'll take that clip and say they were the producer or the shooter - you never know. Good luck!

Joe Bourke
Creative Director / Multimedia Specialist
B&S Exhibits and Multimedia
bs-exhibits.com


Return to posts index


Peter Burger
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 12:02:33 am

I just want to thank you for caring about the ethics! Sadly enough, that's not a common thing.

In my beginnings - just like most of us guys, who work in the creative field - I had some good experience with unpayed work on "other peoples projects" and some... well, not so good experience.

What I learned, is not take it for granted, if someone cares about you and not just treats you like a workhorse.

Like Joe wrote, if you make your point clear upfront and give your assistant(s) the opportunity to learn something, both sides will be happy!

So, thanks again and good luck!


Return to posts index

Michael Sacci
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 12:36:27 am

The problem I see so many times is people want expects in the field to work for free, or for the "experience."

My favorite - "Need editor/cameramen/colorist/fill-in-the-blank, to help me on this unbelievably cool project of mine. There is no pay but the experience to work with me is more than enough. Please send resume, demo reel and references to..."

But Steve, if you are offering real training to the person this is exactly what an intern program is for. But as others have said, they will often slow you down but if you find a good one you can both profit from the relationship. As long as you are truly giving something to other person it is very ethical. Best way to do this is to work with them (train them) while not on the set. That way they have a little experience to go on.


Return to posts index

Steve Crow
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 12:46:44 am

Yeah, I was thinking that too, since I would probably use them mostly on monitoring sound and making sure all the batteries are kept charged, that I would spend a day with them before the actual shoot date showing how to use the sound equipment and answering any of their questions about DSLR filmmaking or my workflow.

I totally agree with all the examples you give but one difference I see is that editing, color grading etc takes a lot more time and effort plus it requires an expertise - my situation would be best for someone with minimal experience but who is reliable and see it as a fair trade (and someone who won't walk off with any of my gear at the end of the shoot too! :-) )


Return to posts index


Peter Rummel
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 1:31:52 am

I'd like to just throw out a couple of thoughts here...

Does your state have a minimum wage law? Can you explain to an official why your this law does not apply to your assistant? Really?

Are you fully insured for an accident or injury on the job, and can explain to the injured/curious official/press/grieving widow why there is no worker's comp insurance?

Now, I understand that a lot of people want to get "interns" to do their work for free. And it seems that it's VERY common in our industry, because our work is so damn glamorous. But I think it's taking advantage of people. You don't claim to have an actual urge to teach - you have work that needs doing but don't want to pay them. Is minimum wage really too much? I understand people wanting to get experience, and others wanting to call them "interns" and have them work for free, but if you're getting value from them - and you wouldn't want them on your shoot otherwise - they should be paid.

Real legal internships are offered by accredited schools, are regulated to prevent abuses, and, believe it or not, some are actually paid.



Return to posts index

Michael Sacci
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 1:44:31 am

Peter, if you don't want to call it an internship, call it an apprenticeship, which as a very long history in the arts. What Steve is talking about is well within the normal run of things. If you read what he is saying he is will to offer some training (even if it is for self interest, it also benefits the "kid").

Within reason this can be a win-win for both sides.


Return to posts index

Michael Sacci
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 1:36:57 am

Steve I was contrasting your attitude (as the right side of things) with what you normally see out there.


Return to posts index


Steve Crow
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 1:43:26 am

Oh yeah I understood that Michael, no worries! :-)


Return to posts index

Lance Bachelder
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 1:44:46 am

Our industry has been built on the free intern who gains experience. I did it - everyone I know has done it. But here in CA. it is illegal to use free interns - even if you offer college credit and have an agreement with a local film school or whomever.

The only way they can legally be there for free is that they are simply observing. The moment they do anything to benefit the business they have to be paid at least min. wage. So if you ask an intern to get you coffee or carry a camera bag or render some shots they must be paid! If you show them how to render some shots and let them practice on some old footage you're not going to use that is ok - they are learning etc.

That said, it's never gonna change - sadly producers will always create budgets based on free help here and there - even if it's a high budget show. And these same producers will drive their Porsche's back to Malibu every night after spending the day telling you how tight things are and how they wish they could pay and how if you do a good job they can probably pay you on the next show...

Is your budget so tight you can't even offer a little cash for gas and buy their meals? Anything helps - they're obviously not gonna make a living wage but at least they'll feel better about the whole process and really try hard for you.

Lance Bachelder
Southern California



Return to posts index

Noah Kadner
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 3:03:26 am

Problem I find is half the time an unpaid PA disappears about 2 hours or less into the first day because they realize- a. that PA works sucks and b. Not getting paid to do sucky work sucks even harder.

Not to say you can't find any folks who feel otherwise and actually are good- i.e. have a future in the biz. But for me divining who is truly any good for free is not really worth betting a whole shoot day on.

Also Lance- in my experience in the U.S./Hollywood there's really nothing you're obligated to do for folks who are interning. They are volunteers- simple as that. Makes zero difference whether they're just watching or lifting boxes. You don't have to pay volunteers. And also they don't have to work if they suddenly decide not to, works both ways.

I myself once did some days as an intern on a Roger Corman film and they were expecting me to prepare daily budget reports, babysit actors and even sit in on script rewrites. And I still 'quit' after 3 days because as intriguing as it was, it was still tons of work for zero pay and I learned what I found useful and also got a huge head of steam to go do my own movie stuff.

Noah


Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


Return to posts index


Lance Bachelder
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 3:55:21 am

You are correct Noah - anyone answering a craigslist ad to crew a show for just meals and a copy know what there getting into - but they're not really interns but as you said "volunteers".

Regardless of pay - if you ask someone to be somewhere at a certain time to performs certain duties that would be considered work - they are technically your employee and there could be tax/legal obligations if someone wanted to enforce it. They are not independent contractors as many in Hollywood assume...

Lance Bachelder
Southern California



Return to posts index

Noah Kadner
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 5:01:24 pm

True enough but reality is- whether it is legal or not no one pays interns/unpaid assistants/volunteers- interchangeable semantics to a movie crew- if they don't feel like it.

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


Return to posts index

Lance Bachelder
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Nov 7, 2010 at 5:05:11 pm

I'm not arguing with you here at all - the practice of not paying interns and scumbag Producer's crewing their movies with unpaid workers will continue in Hollywood forever.

As far as the intern Law - check with EP.

Lance Bachelder
Southern California



Return to posts index


Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
Re: Ethics of "Hiring" Unpaid Production Assistants
on Dec 12, 2010 at 4:46:19 am

A kid can work damn hard at film school... and then have to pay $10K! Say what? Why is that? Then I wonder what the relationship would have to be and what the "student" might receive in return if tuition was $0. I'd call that relationship an internship.

But then what do I know? I've never hired an intern. They are just too much work for me to teach, guide, nurture and keep busy. So I have the greatest respect for those who do take on interns.

Rob Brandreth-Gibbs
Bravo Zulu Productions
Vancouver, Canada


Return to posts index

<< PREVIOUS   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
© 2017 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]