I know, I know. This is a REAL hot potato.
But I'm going to stick my head above the parapet and ruffle a few feathers by proclaiming that not only am I prepared to work for free, but I'm a fan of working for free.
Why on EARTH would I work for free?
Okay, let's clarify this.
I won't work for free for companies who are taking the Michael by not paying me a decent professional fee when they have lots of income at their disposal.
I won't work for free for filmmakers who are badly-organised, have no strong sense of vision, have no concept of professionalism and treat actors as if they are prostitutes
instead of artists.
I won't work for free if I simply can't afford it at a certain point in time. There's a limit to the amount of time that can be given to collaborations and that usually arrives
the end of the month.
There's a myth to be busted right here: on a good collaboration you are NEVER working for free. You may not be recompensed in hard cash, but if it's a worthwhile project you should be growing as an artist, learning more about your craft, meeting fellow creatives and forming working relationships, developing new skills and creating magic with other people. And opening up the possibility to further, exciting collaborations.
So here are some of the reasons I work for free (on worthwhile projects):
- I need to work. I need to create. I'd rather be creating something amazing for free than not creating. I get hungry. That's just how I'm wired.
- I take pride in working with as much passion on collabs as on paid work. Often with more passion, because they can be a physical and emotional slog and they're held together by love and
dedication. I need passion in my life and this is one place in which I'll find it. Whilst I have an agent and I love my paid work, I am not defined as a professional by my earnings. I am defined
by my heart for my work and by the work I produce.
- I honour the commitment and drive of filmmakers who put their heart and soul into creating fabulous stories. I understand what it is to want to tell a story and have no resources. I want to help make things happen.
- People have worked on collabs for me. I am indebted to them, so I pass it on. I have formed lasting working relationships with people. I have known team spirit and generosity beyond what I could have hoped for. It's a beautiful and special experience and I want to be part of that process, always.
- If I collaborate I get the chance to work with people FAR more talented and knowledgeable than me, in a filmmaking culture that is much more accessible than paid work. I get to be the least experienced person in the room and that forces me to raise my game. So I get better. Then I go out and raise my game again.
- When I see other creatives working with passion and commitment and striving for excellence on an unpaid project I know that they'd be AWESOME to work with on a paid project. So I remember their name and I file them away for a future opportunity.
Collaborating with Edward Ashley, Otto Baxter and Bobby Lockwood
I don't hold the opinion that working on collabs undermines my value as a professional. Discernment is the key. Some argue aggressively for the "fact" that working for expenses-only projects forces everyone's professional value down and those of us who indulge in unpaid work are somehow responsible for perpetuating a sort of black market in slave-labour filmmaking. Really? I recently had a casting breakdown through for a global company, seen in every supermarket, looking to pay a couple of hundred pounds to a professional actor to appear in one of their commercials. Who's the biggest crook?
Professionalism is not simply about being paid. It's about who you are on every set, in every situation.
I have professional and creative choice. And I exercise that right to choice by selectively taking opportunities to grow and create and connect with other like-minded creatives.
Inbetween my paid work. Because at the end of the day, I still have to eat.
PS Yes, you have to cover my expenses. And I like to be "fed and watered". Just don't call it that.