Monday, 1 October 2007

Working for Peanuts?

Well, I am under the Chinese year of the Monkey, after all.

There's a growing and increasingly angry debate on Shooting People at the moment regarding 'Non Pay' and 'Low Pay' work for writers. Most of the people posting seem to be really against the situation where a piece of work, whatever that may be, leaves the writer with no pay, the promise of deferred pay (which usually means nothing), or a pay that amounts to an insult.

One recently advertised 'job' offered a writer £5 per 60 second piece of work - something which has caused a back-lash from SP subscribers.

I know that any work that is done where a writer accepts no money may mean that that attitude is adopted by more and more 'producers', and that the WGGB deems it a cardinal sin, but sometimes what choice does a starting writer have left open to them?

Like hundreds of other unproduced writers I'm in that position now. The normal way of the world is that 'one' has to show an employer that 'one' can do the job for which the wage is being offered. With scripts that normally means getting your work 'out there' and seen by as many people as possible. That means entering as many competitions as you can or initially working for nothing and hoping that you can earn a reputation and get that all precious commission.

I've entered competitions - I'm a third round qualifier in this years BSSC and have two entries in the Red Planet comp. And I'm collaborating with a young Director on a Short for his film school slate. As per the previous Post, my re-draft of his original has been passed on to a possible Producer of the Short, who liked what I had done with it. Fantastic! What chance would I have had to get something in front of this guy without 'working for nothing'? Nada, that's what. But because I've acknowledged the fact that I may have to work for nothing (financially, that is) I've got something in front of a Producer, who has seen my work in a positive light.

Yes, we all want to be taken seriously, and some perceive this as being paid well, but some of us realise that to get taken seriously we have to actually get work 'out there' in the first place.

There, rant over.


Lucy said...

Everything I am now - script reading AND scriptwriting - is because I worked for free and I don't regret it one bit.

However, it is important to remember there are people out there who WILL take advantage of a writer's eagerness to get their work "out there".

If a director is paying you nothing or a very small fee because that's really all they can afford in the budget, then that's fine. But if they're paying you nothing or a very small fee because they are getting what they can out of you, then that's taking the piss. You have to choose wisely. As the WGGB guy said on the bulletin - make sure it's a level playing field.

Andy Goodman said...


But we all have to start somewhere and I don't think I'm going to get that million £ script deal with a catalogue of work behind me.

As to choosing wisely - I would be very happy to be in the position to where I have the option to choose! What, with all the Shooters out there who I can ask opinions of a particular Director/Producer?