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free work

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Rob Grauert
free work
on May 6, 2009 at 11:28:48 pm

I'm soon out of college and it seems lately everywhere I turn, people want free work. Anyone else notice that? Just curious....but was it like this when all you seasoned pros ventured out into the real world?

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: free work
on May 6, 2009 at 11:45:00 pm

"Free work???"

Wow, if ever there was an oxymoron, this is it. Even "pro bono" work, which we think of as non-paying, really comes from latin meaning, "for the public good." There's no good for the public in this scenario, and no good for you either Rob, I guess there only people that benefit are those offering the free work. Doesn't sound terribly enticing to me.

Heck I want a free Lamborghini. Anybody jumping at the chance to fork one over for the public good?

David

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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Mike Cohen
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 1:01:34 am

When I graduated college, this was before the internet, there were a few ads in the Boston Globe, looking for people to do deferred payment work on films. Deferred payment means never getting paid.

The best advice for young people starting out is, "if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Also, there is no free lunch. Also, watch your back because nobody is watching it for you."

Internships are free work which can help you get a paying job. But unless you have income, or the free work is a labor of love, just say no.

Mike Cohen


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cowcowcowcowcow
Bruce Bennett
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 3:49:52 am

Hi Rob,

When I graduated from college in 1990, I wanted to be an ad campaign designer. I had unsuccessful interviews for about a year trying to get a job as a media account manager/sales rep (I had absolutely no advertising experience when I graduated). After interviewing for, and not getting, a sales position for a production company, I became interested in video.

I approached an acquaintance who owned his own post house about an internship. He was kind enough to offer me a 6-month, 20-hour per week, non-paid internship doing consumer photo and film transfers to VHS tape, duplication and simple editing. In return, he was willing to invest his time and equipment in helping me produce a project of my choice for my portfolio. I ended up being hired as his first full-time employee and worked there for 8 years. BTW: I also worked a 40-hour per week full time job during that 6-month internship so I could make a living (on my own and not living with parents).

I get kind of miffed when I hear young college grads complain that the only work they can find is “work for free” gigs or non-paying internships. I feel it stigmatizes their generation in a bad way. During my 6-month internship, I gained more knowledge and hands-on experience than I could ever have asked for. It was priceless. To this very day, I consider myself very lucky to have been “chosen” from the hundreds of other non-experienced grads who also wanted my “work for free” internship.

Good Luck!
Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Rob Grauert
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 11:03:38 am

Bruce,

Don't get me wrong. I've done my fair share of free work. And I don't just bust my ass in school, I bust my ass outside of school as well. I have no social life. But I have no complaint, and my initial post wasn't a complaint. It just seems that everywhere I turn, someone is looking for a a free editor with their own edit bay who will work for free, or someone is looking for a videographer who has gear that costs thousands of dollars who will work for free. In my initial post I was simply asking if all the professionals who visit the Cow experienced this when they were getting out of college too.

And I definitely understand the value of an internship. Technically, if you are there learning, you are not working for free. In my opinion, at that point knowledge is more valuable than money.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.


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Rob Jackson
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 2:25:00 pm

This is why I pretty much ignore most Craigslist ads. Internships are not the same as these ads looking for "students/people who want to build their portfolio with a successful national company", but yet refuse to name their company in the ad itself. Too many people looking for editing know they can get hobbyists and eager students with NLE's to do a project for nothing or the promise of "more work down the road" as the NLE's and cameras are so much more affordable than they were in the past.

When they realize the free work they get done isn't up to par, they'll pay someone to do it or just not do it at all.


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Bruce Bennett
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 2:31:22 pm

Hi Rob,

Sounds and looks to me like you have what it takes for a promising career: a very good work ethic and good sample reels (I checked out your MySpace page). I think you just have to keep playing the game of networking (including meeting people on the free gigs) until it pays off. It may take some time, but you should do fine.

Keep on truckin’
Bruce

P.S. I’m jealous. I wish I could afford to license AC/DC’s music for my projects :)

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Rob Grauert
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 3:15:57 pm

lol, that's funny you brought up the music, bruce. My teacher said I should take it down. Since then I have re-edited the piece, I just haven't taken it down yet since I'm making my own custom website. I should get on that.

Thanks for the compliment about my work though.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.


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cowcowcowcowcow
Matt Townley
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 2:42:10 pm

Bruce,

I think there is an important distinction that needs to be made between an Internship and "working for free."

An Internship is a scenario where someone works for little/no pay in return for the company investing into that individual with their knowledge and experiences. The Intern in this scenario should not be the most experienced person and who be interning somewhere they will be taught new skills and gain experience to help them in their respective field.

On the other hand, "free work," as I think Rob is referring to, is what more and more companies (especially on places like craigslist) want to hire people for. As he said, they often want people already quite skilled and with significant prior experience, demo reels and professional references. The trend I often see is companies wanting "interns" for positions where I highly doubt there is anyone in the company who would know more or have more experience than the "intern" they want to hire. How then is the intern going to learn anything new from this experience?

I completely agree that internships are incredibly valuable and should not be looked lightly at; however, this is VERY different than working for free and being taken advantage of and getting nothing in return.


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Terence Curren
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 2:43:33 pm

When I started, there was nowhere near the playing field that there is now. Building an online edit room cost nearly a million dollars and offline rooms were hundreds of thousands. This meant that every Tom, Dick and Harry didn't own an edit system. To get on one, you had to get into a company that existed, and work your way up to the chance to hammer on a system.

So no, there weren't a lot of folks asking for free work. But there also weren't hundreds of channels, tons of internet sites, iPhones, etc. to fill with content.

Since the market place is SO diluted now, there isn't a whole lot of money to dedicate to any one part of it. This spawns what you are seeing.

FWIW, if you find a good place to do a qualified internship, which either means they are paying you minimum wage or you are getting college credit, then you should jump at the chance. And when you are there, LEARN, NETWORK, LEARN, NETWORK, LEARN, NETWORK.... Get my point?



Terence Curren
http://www.alphadogs.tv
http://www.digitalservicestation.com
Burbank,Ca


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grinner hester
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 3:11:04 pm

Tey offer opportunity. Never do free work, man. Investing in opportunity should not be looked at as doing free work. I work all the time for no money but man, it sure aint for nothin'. I can't afford that. I also can't afford to just keep pushing buttons for others. That would have me doing the same ten years from now and I'm just not willing to do that. I create labors of love and submit them. One day I'll make a great freakin' living creating my own shows. My time is a great investment in this.
Back in the day when I worked for no money for others, it was so I could get jobs from those people after I proved myself. Again, that's a wise investment. Suck it up. Get to work.
or get a real job.



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Craig Seeman
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 5:17:33 pm

Generally don't do "free work" but here's some simple guidelines about what's free and what's a worthwhile investment of your time to further your career.

Do:

Internship - with very experienced people willing to train you.

PSA work - pick a favorite local not for profit or community service organization that can't afford professional services and offer to do something for them. You'll get something for your reel and do a good deed. If they're willing to promote (attach your name) to the work some of their donors viewing the work might even become paying clients. You show your skills and show interest in a like minded issue or subject.

Self produce - getting trusted creative friends (fellow students you know you work well with) to jointly work on a project they can all use on their reel. You're developing a reliable crew with a self created product that could lead to paying work for all of you . . . as a team. That's creating a network.

Do Not:

Work for a for profit business - that doesn't offer a legit internship mentored by more experienced professionals. You see this a lot on craigslist

Work for a "grand scheme" production - with a bunch of strangers in which someone else's skill issue could leave you with nothing for your reel. This also is common on craigslist.

Work for free with promises of paid work later or to "try you out" first. If they can "promise" paid work later then they should have the confidence to pay you now or contract you. If they want to try you out they can have a paid probationary period or simply not hire you for the next job. Another craigslist game.



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Shane Ross
Re: free work
on May 7, 2009 at 11:32:51 pm

Well, when you are just starting out, this is one way to build your reel. I for one when I left college only had a few college projects, and only one that I was really proud of. I needed more on my reel than that one thing. Also I was still relatively inexperienced. So when people come along asking for free labor...free editors or shooters...this is your opportunity to practice. You only get better by doing, so you need to "do" a lot. Musicians can play their instruments, but as editors you can't just edit. YOu need footage. What better way to get practice than to edit someones film?

YOu get from this three things actually: Practice...experience in dealing with clients and editors (the edit bay politic)...something for your reel to show off what you can do.

This is a very standard practice, even here in Hollyweird. Crew people making their first indy film, asking others on the crew to help by donating their time and expertise. When they do this people don't get paid, unless there is some money, but there usually isn't. That is set aside for things like food for the crew, tape stock, equipment rental, costumes, finishing fees. This way EVERYONE gets practice. An Assistant camera guy now gets to run the camera...the assistant editor gets to edit, the AD might be the director.

I do this myself...STILL. And I am established. Especially if they are projects that look good and are something I believe in. And it always looks good to have more on the reel...I can't stress that enough.

OH...one time I was asked to provide race result graphics for a small indy film. They cut to a TV and I needed to make something that looked like horse racing results. It took me a day or two, but I made something very convincing, and the producers and director liked it (Again, free production, crew donating time). Not long after that one of the producers on that was working on a David Mamet film, SPARTAN. There is a news cast in the show that is pivotal...in fact, it ends the movie. Well, they needed it to be edited and look like a 24 hour news program. Since the producers knew my work on the last show, they asked me to work on this. And THIS time I was paid...full rate.

SO that was an example of NETWORKING. Working with people and showing off your ability. So when they land a paying gig and a certain production need is, well, needed, they ask people "who knows a good (fill in the blank). If you did that, and the people there worked with you and liked you, they will chime in. "Hey, we worked with a guy named Shane who did a great job on our last project."

"Great. Call him up."

While it is free, there is value to this. But you have to gauge if the project is something worth your time. That is something that takes time to figure out. I have worked on many projects that led to nothing. It happens.

Shane



GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Rafael Amador
Re: free work
on May 17, 2009 at 4:12:57 am

Hi Rob,
A bit late, but this is a very interesting subject.
I'm living in a country were 1/3 of the income comes from external aid.
They ask me constantly for free work or special price.
After few years I arrive to a point where I do things for free (when I think I have to do it) but I don't work for lower prices.
In my experience when you give somebody an special price they try to scrub you more than any full price customer.
Don't mix charity with business. Full price or 100% free.
Best,
rafael



http://www.nagavideo.com


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: free work
on May 17, 2009 at 3:26:33 pm

[Rafael Amador] "...when you give somebody an special price they try to scrub you more than any full price customer."

Boy, is that ever The Truth, Rafael. ;o)

I have always found that the person that grinds you for a low-ball price is also the one who can never be satisfied, not matter how good a job you give them. They also have no loyalty and will often try to destroy your reputation when they don't get a Lord of the Rings epic production for their salted peanuts budget.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom


P.S.: One of the best ways I have learned to deal with people like this is to quickly turn the tables on them by asking them, "So, what business are you in? Tell me a bit about yourself." When they do, I then ask them can I get it in writing from them that when I need to get X product or X service that they provide, that I can get it for 90% off -- oh, and have that in writing, please? They never want to go there and it quickly ends the conversation and usually ends any kind of negotiation -- which is quite fine with me.





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Terence Curren
Re: free work
on May 17, 2009 at 3:40:13 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "I have always found that the person that grinds you for a low-ball price is also the one who can never be satisfied, not matter how good a job you give them. They also have no loyalty and will often try to destroy your reputation "



Ron is 100 percent correct. Fortunately I learned this relatively early and have avoided those clients ever since.

Here is my theory on why their work is always harder. Since they are scrimping throughout the process, they are getting the lowest common denominator quality throughout the process. That means when we get it in post, every part of the project is bad. Bad sound, bad picture... etc. This means the job of post becomes excruciating.



Terence Curren
http://www.alphadogs.tv
http://www.digitalservicestation.com
Burbank,Ca


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David Roth Weiss
Re: free work
on May 17, 2009 at 4:12:20 pm

[Terence Curren] "Since they are scrimping throughout the process, they are getting the lowest common denominator quality throughout the process. That means when we get it in post, every part of the project is bad. Bad sound, bad picture... etc. This means the job of post becomes excruciating. "

My theory is similar, but slightly different.

First, since these people typically never plan, typically can't visualize, and typically only know what they don't want, so they need to see every possible permutation so they can simply select the one they think is best, because they lack the imagination necessary to do otherwise.

Second, when they finally stumble upon someone who actually knows what they're doing, they become so concerned about covering their own inadequacies they are no longer able select from among all the possible permutations we've created for them, and the whole process then repeats itself.


David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: free work
on May 19, 2009 at 6:08:22 am

[Terence Curren] "Here is my theory on why their work is always harder. Since they are scrimping throughout the process, they are getting the lowest common denominator quality throughout the process. That means when we get it in post, every part of the project is bad. Bad sound, bad picture... etc. This means the job of post becomes excruciating."

Here you go Terence, this just about says it all. It focuses on a copywriter and is by a copywriter, but nonetheless germane to the topic we've been discussing.




David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: free work
on May 19, 2009 at 8:05:14 pm

Wow, David. The creative director at that agency really reminds me of someone. I know it will come to me, but for the life of me, I just can't seem to recall the guy even though his face and voice are very familiar. Even the mustache rings a bell. But, oh well...

:o)

Remind me to never work with that agency.

Ron Lindeboom


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Rafael Amador
Re: free work
on May 18, 2009 at 9:32:53 am

Ron,
My experience just confirm what you wrote in your article "Clients or Grinders".
Your article is scientific because is product of the observation and the experience and these lessons can be applied to other areas of business and human relations.
Really is the kind of article that should be posted now and them so the people that comes new to the COW don't miss it. Pure "Knowledge Base" to survive in the jungle.
rafael



http://www.nagavideo.com


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