What's fair when trading work?

(Meg Carroway) #1

So I shot a short film last year with all volunteers because my network is all new grads, but everyone was fine with it because they loved the project and because we have all worked on each others’ sets before. The person who did my lighting and sound is now making a web series and asked me to help produce but here’s the thing… it’s not very good?

And I don’t mean, like, it’s a cliche concept or it’s a weird idea, I mean it’s not good writing, the people they cast are not actors, and the person who created it is writing, directing, and acting despite not being super great at any of those roles from previous experience.

Producing is a lot of work and it kind of makes the statement that you believe in/love the project, so my question is… can I say no? This person has done a lot of free work for me in the past on stuff I’m not great at, and though I’ve helped them previously for free, it’s been a while since they’ve had their own project so they kind of consider it “their turn.” Do I have any legs to stand on, or do I just need to suck it up, finish this series, and then never promote it? That feels even worse.

*OH. And this person isn’t open to editing/criticism because the story is based (loosely) on their life and they’ve had the script locked for months now. So… offering critique isn’t an option, sadly.

(Bri Castellini) #2

Oof. That’s a rough one. Is there a way you can offer to do a less time-consuming job like PAing or helping with a particular part of producing? Something that isn’t as much of a statement as producing?

Calling in @HackettKate though I know she’s deep in prepro right now, as well as @OSTSG @ghettonerdgirl @kmd @SnobbyRobot @SecretLivesPS @Anthony_Ferraro

(Meg Carroway) #3

They’ve planned it to be a supes small set so they’re sharing PA responsibilities amongst the key crew (also from our friend group)- lighting, sound, director, actors. Basically the only job left is the person to organize (I should have said- they’d want me as an on-set producer as well, so basically producer/AD)

(Bri Castellini) #4

Oof x2. I’m not sure the right answer here. Can you beg out because of being busy?

(Meg Carroway) #5

That’s plan B definitely, but if I can be a little involved, it’ll implicate me less hahaha. Which sounds kind of mean, but it’s SUCH a bad script.

(Bri Castellini) #6

I get it. I’ll see what others have to say and jump back in with any new thoughts that occur to me. Fingers crossed!

(Katie Adele Nazim Hunter) #7

I preface this by saying I am biased, and here is why:

My cinematographer worked for years for no pay on multiple projects with a very skilled director/gaffer. My cinematographer never had projects of his own, so he just worked on this director’s projects pro bono. Flash forward about four years, and my cinematographer finally has a project he’s working on with me, and we need a gaffer. Our project is very low budget, short on crew, short on time, and my first time directing a short. This director/gaffer steps in literally 12 hours before call time, brings a ton of gear plus some craft services, and elevated our project enormously. He saved our butts, and took our work to the next level. My cinematographer and I are so grateful, and we’re going to help this director/gaffer in the future because we feel very indebted to him.

TL;DR: Someone we’d work with for free paid us back big time, in time and skill. In return, we’re willing to help him big time in the future.

Trading work is based on a lot of trust. Would we hate this director if he had told us no? Probably not, but we wouldn’t be willing to help him for free again. I think unless you’re willing to risk losing the relationship (you probably won’t get this individual to work for you for free again), you should help them at least a little. Be really honest about your time (“I can only devote X hours to this each week/in total”) and then stick to your own boundaries.

Then again, maybe this person wasn’t vital to your sets in the past, and you’re okay with losing the relationship! No shame in that.

Sorry for the long answer, hope it helps!

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #8

Eek. How can it be collaborative when you can’t provide input? My series is based on my life too but I still accept feedback on my script and beyond. Otherwise you can’t grow. I’d try to negotiate that based on the fact they want you to take on a giant role.

(Jaime Lancaster) #9

As a producer who’s been kind of in that position before… don’t do it. If you know you don’t want to promote the finished product, absolutely do NOT agree to be a producer. A helper, maybe without a credit? You could offer to do one portion of the producer’s roles (maybe JUST helping with scheduling/call sheets, or JUST coordinating props and wardrobe purchases) and then say you don’t need to be credited. Seriously, it’s so stressful and you’ll end up resenting everyone and your impulse to help is totally correct but pleeeease don’t do this to yourself!

(Jaime Lancaster) #10

Yes! Boundaries! Soooo important and I used to be really bad at them and it was really rough for me so definitely definitely set boundaries, especially on things you don’t like.

(Meg Carroway) #11

Thanks for your thoughts! I would work with this person again as a crew member or on any other project, but this one is so bad and self-indulgent and I don’t feel comfortable positioning myself so highly on the team if I don’t believe in the project. I want to keep the relationship absolutely and just try to quietly not be involved in THIS one

(Meg Carroway) #12

The thing is, if I push for creative control, they’ll absolutely push back and that’ll probably end the relationship quicker than not producing. They’re very talented but very… sensitive. They don’t want it to be collaborative, they want help making this thing. And I’m happy to help… just not as a producer if that makes sense!

(Meg Carroway) #13

Fair enough. That’s kinda what Bri said too and I think you guys are right… what they need help with most is just keeping everything organized- what has and hasn’t been bought, what has and hasn’t been shot, etc. And I can definitely do that but be clear that I can only work maybe two hours a week. It’s not like I’m NOT busy. Ok. Cool. Good. This is good. Thank you, all!!

(Bri Castellini) #14

I think more of us (myself included) need to learn to start saying “no.” There’s no (hah) shame in prioritizing your schedule and firmly declining offers of work, free OR paid. Sometimes, you have too much else on your place. Sometimes, you need more “me” time. Either way, saying “no” isn’t inherently rude, and we all have to stop thinking that if we aren’t 100% accommodating, we’re bad people.

(Kate Hackett) #15

It’s also okay to say “this isn’t the right project for me”. There’s no need to lie; you can be honest and simply say: this one isn’t a good fit for me, but please keep checking in.

(Meg Carroway) #16

Even when it’s a friend, though :confused: I hear what you and Bri are saying… and I could definitely use “no” more often, but with friends it gets complicated. Especially insecure ones.

(Melissa Malone) #17

My advice has mostly been covered but I say 100% don’t produce a project you don’t believe in/don’t want to work on, no matter what. I understand the dilemma of exchanging free work and this being a friend. That being said, put yourself in their shoes. Would you want your friend to produce your series voluntarily if they didn’t want to? I know I wouldn’t. In low budget (particularly no budget) filmmaking heart is half the battle!

I would just be honest. If you aren’t comfortable being 100% honest then tell them you don’t have the time the time to it that it deserves as a producer. Let them know you would still love to help in some smaller capacity. If they don’t understand, as hard as it is to say it’s on them.

(Gabriel Crutchfield) #18

I’d go ahead and do it. But for me it would be a matter of repaying a debt. Yeah, I don’t like this particular project, but you really helped me out before and made something I’ve done in the past happen. I may need your help again sometime and I would want to keep that relationship going if it was worth it.

But I do see your point about how producing could be an issue if you’re not really into it.

(Melissa Malone) #19

I get that also. I think if it’s worth it and you have the time, go for it. But if you’re going to be distracted doing the project and not into it, etc then it’s better for everyone that someone else produce. I think honestly it just depends on each person. :slight_smile:

(Kate Hackett) #20


100% even when it’s a friend.

100000% even when it’s a friend.