Friday, July 10, 2015

Work for free

Here's possible work for a writer, that is if you want to work for free.

"Looking for writer interested in collaborating on micro-budget romance movie with some comedy. You will have creative input on all areas from the script breakdown to the final rewrite. We are looking to have the script finalized by end of summer and begin production in the fall. We're interested in creating something awesome. You will receive a writer credit both in the film and IMDb. How ever there is now pay."

You tell me, does this look like a good deal? They apparently can't spell either, look at IMDb, you'd think they can spell it correctly? And the last sentence, should that be "no" pay?

So why am I getting all mad from that. Because if someone who wants to get you to write for free, they could at least spell the words right.

The above ad was on mandy.c0m, which is one of the free places to look for screenwriting jobs or any kind of film job for that matter. And there's a lot of these kinds of ads, where the writer works for free.

Most of these ads offering a writer to work for free come mostly from film school graduates or drop-outs. And if they can't write a screenplay themselves, then you're not going to learn much except frustration. And no money. And nothing that will give you a little bit of exposure.

And a reputation for working for free.

Okay, maybe some of those ads are heartfelt, and they really don't have money. But that's still no excuse.

Some of the most spoken words to writers of any age and any stage in Hollywood are these:

"We can't pay you."
"Can you do this for free?"
"We'll pay you when we get money."
"It's just writing."

And these words have been asked of me and every real working screenwriter and film graduate hears them. 

Some years ago two producers approached me to write a screenplay and met me at a production house where a very unscrupulous exec producer worked. We talked about the story and the deal was to be made.

The exec producer left the room to take a call and I decided to get some coffee in their coffee room. As I poured coffee I heard the producer saying these words, "And we have this Canadian guy who'll do it for free."

Something hit me, a Canadian guy who'll do it for free? It didn't take much to realize I was that "Canadian guy." So after we left the producer and were in the parking lot I told the two producers I wasn't going to write it for free. They went into shock of course, but then I said if they paid me an option, I might write it.

They agreed and I went home and wrote about 10 pages. All the time I never signed the contracts they sent me. We met the horrible exec producer and he said he couldn't make it for now. 

Then I said that I would be happy to give it to them, just as long as they paid me. They thought I signed the contract which said I would write for free. They already had a buyer and if they wanted the story, they had to pay me my deal. 

And they did. Reluctantly.

For all you emerging writers out there, I really caution you about working for free. Remember this, nobody can do anything without a screenplay and if they can afford to buy you a coffee, they can (and should) buy you lunch. And if they don't buy you anything, then they're unlikely going to pay you anything.

Stay away from those kinds of people.

Remember this: Once you hand over the screenplay, they can do anything with it. That's why you really need to get something, even if it's a hundred bucks. Right now I'm preparing a Kickstarter project for a travel book I'm finishing. I wanted some pencil sketches and found a great artist and I told her that she gets first money, even before me.

That's because I feel that I should give her first money, she's going to do work and she should get paid for it. 

Another way to get at least some money is this; If it's a friend or some kids wanting you to write or anybody who wants you to write for them, be it a page or a dozen pages or a screenplay, tell them that you want some money to cover your "house nut" which includes rent and living costs like food. 

In other words you will write but they have to cover that time with some money as their job will take away from your personal work.

Because, once you hand the script over, it is gone, gone.

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