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June 5, 2018 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Work for Free? Yeah Right

You study, learn, do an internship perhaps – then you graduate. Want a paid gig? Nah man, but perhaps you can help me on a project and I’ll introduce you to a few guys… Fuck that!

Exterior, Melling Station, mid-afternoon
I run into the train with a puffy black jacket, which makes me look like a short stubby Michelin man. As the clouds form and start to piss down on everything, I suddenly realise that I have to shit out an opinion piece, ready for print. I phone a good friend, Alisha, from my tertiary study days and we ponder the topic: How many free gigs must a grad do before hitting that sweet paid work?
Exterior, Burger King on Manners, moments later
I’m about to be soaked like all the other incredibly wet people that pass on by. My phone buzzes enthusiastically. It’s the only text I’ve seen for a while. Bestie, Fred, was in town for a concert, and Hutt resident bestie, Greg, was catching up with him. Since they are both practicing filmmakers, I crack out the recorder and ask them for their thoughts.
Fred clocked 1000 internship hours last year. He’s a smart guy, he knew that he was being exploited for his work. One example included a working for a charity where they gave him a koha of $500 for 147 hours of videography and editing, which worked out to roughly $3.40 an hour. When he objected, the charity came back crying wolf, saying that he needed the internship hours and that there was no obligation to pay him at all. He pressed on and got the job done.


Greg’s journey is different. He, unlike Fred, graduated with a degree. He wants to become a sound op & mixer. It’s been 5 months since moving up from down south. The objective, rather than getting paid work out of the gate, is to build contacts by hitting up film community facebook groups, getting his name out there, and working for little or nothing, depending what the budget of a production is like. He knows that it’s difficult to break into the local scene, when you know absolutely no one. Thus contacts are the most essential takeaway.

Interior, home, evening
I’m fucking drenched. Stupid fucking rain. Time for a final opinion I suppose… Look. In the grand scope of it all, it should really only take one opportunity to gain contacts, two at the absolute most. Three or more? How the fuck are you living? You’re gaining experience that you already have after completing your studies to do a job that people would normally be paid to do, for free? That’s bullshit.
I agree with my mates and would hope that, to employers reading this article, things should change within our small film industry and arts sector as a whole. If you’re gonna bring a freshly graduated student onto your set or production and have them contribute something of value to it, think about them covering the costs of living in their derelict housing and the grains and seeds they have to save till the end of the week. Think about paying them. For the love of god, please do it.
*names and details changed


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