To Work for Free? Or not to Work for Free?
by Chloe Partridge, posted 24 November 2015
Working for nothing can be frustrating and it’s important to remember that just because you love your job doesn’t mean you should treat it like a hobby. Acting is the best job in the world, FACT. But you still have to eat (albeit healthily and seldom in fancy restaurants). There can be some huge advantages to taking on low/no paid work however, so here are some pointers to help you to decide when to waive the fee and when to say ‘no thank you’.
Do you rate the director? Have a look online for some of their previous work or ask about previous productions. There’s really no point acting your socks off if the final product isn’t going to be something you are proud of. If the director is talented they may well move onto bigger and better things and who better to cast for their lead than someone they have already worked well with?
If you are already working for nothing, there’s no need to become a sponsor of the production. Many low budget productions will cover long distance travel and even half decent hotel costs. Make sure you clarify whats covered with the producer first - or prepare to find yourself on a long train home from Aberdeen with a pocket full of nothing. You should also expect to be fed and fed well. Nothing too fancy, simple and healthy will do. If there’s a budget for foie gras, you should be getting paid...
If you don’t have a showreel, work for free until you do. If you don’t get a casting, you won’t be getting the part and casting directors really want to see you in action before they call you in to audition. They rent those rooms by the hour you know...
Don’t sign away six months of your life to be in a play or a film about a suicidal garden gnome who’s being chased by assassins, it won’t be good, you won’t want it on your showreel and your time would probably be spent doing something else... like instagramming pictures of your lunch.
Friends and Contacts.
You can make life long friends working on low budget films and plays. The camaraderie on set is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of the job. Creativity is infectious, do your best to catch it!
In this industry, unpaid work doesn’t always go unrewarded, you never know who you may meet. It’s an invaluable way to get experience on set, build up your showreel and meet like minded ambitious people whether behind or in front of the camera. Give your all to every job you take on, learn what you can, soak up the experience and know when to say “I don’t work for nothing anymore.”