Why I Am Reluctant To Work For Free on A Movie Project

Working tonight on informing the Online world of my skills and assets as an Actor by filling in the blanks in my work history throughout the Social and Network Media outlets, I came across my contribution to Filmaker Alli Parker’s Blog With A Little Help From Our Friends’ sub-titled ”Call To Arms’ (http://www.alliparker.com/2011/08/call-to-arms.html).

Alli was casting for a film she was making at the time.  She was very enthusiastic about her project and sent out a rallying cry for actors.  I am pretty sure she had plenty of people turn up for the audtions and castings. Given my past experience of working for free on film, I decide to give her my take on things as below:-

Hi Alli,

It is difficult to get actors interested if they are not being paid. This is normally due to what has transpired over the years. Some directors are not on point when it comes to making a low/no budget film. For me, enthusiasm does come into it. I am already enthusiastic and have been about film for the past thirty-five years, before becoming an actor. If someone expects me to work for nothing, they have to sell their idea, their enthusiasm to me, not the other way around. I am already passionate about film and have worked on enough no budget, low budget and major British and Hollywood films anyway.

The problem I have experienced in the past, is when one is not being paid for their time, experience and skills as an actor, directors (be it film or theatre,) seem to think less of you and treat you as such. Previous film projects I have worked on, have made it onto IMDB without crediting anyone, other than the lead actor. I have had to enter my own credits so if someone I work for cannot be bothered to market their work properly (as has happened to me countless times,) then I have to reconsider whether I want to give my time, experience and skills for free. Yes, there are people out there doing great projects and actually being proactive and professional. I have met some of those film makers and producers recently. Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure to work with them.

These are some the problems you will be facing in getting good people onboard because of the past bad experiences actors have had with the no/low budget world of film maker. As for getting a copy of the finished product, lets not go there.

Like I said before, it is not a case of actors being enthusiastic, for they already are – at least the ones I know anyway. It is a little misguided to expect us to jump at the opportunity and be grateful. I am always grateful for any work that comes my way but if I am not being paid for my time, skills and experience then you need to sell me the idea. Why would I want to be in your film, when you are not able to pay me? I seem to upset directors when I ask these questions and I am at a loss why. I am a professional actor, not a wannabee. I charge for my services like any other professional. It is not automatic that I should want to work for nothing as I have bills and commitments like everyone else. However, if you have a project that is second to none, you are enthusiastic at getting it made, you want me onboard, then if you can convince me, then maybe, just maybe I will do the part for free, as long as I get a copy if the finished film and the details of the film and my role are entered onto IMDB by yourself, rather than me. If you can do that and take onboard what I have detailed above, then who knows?”

Unlike other so-called film makers who I have written to in the past, her response was rather surprising.  Pleasant but surprising as detailed below:-

“@Daniel Jude Gennis

FANTASTIC points. Thank you so much for sharing, Daniel. For me, it low budget filmmaking is based so much on respect. That’s what really makes everything more bareable when you’ve got no money and you’re running three hours late.

You’re definitely right, as a filmmaker it is about getting your actors and crew excited about the project. If you can’t give them money for their time, at least make their time worthwhile. And regarding the IMDB credits and copies of the film – that really does just come down to decency, really.

For me, I love casting and I love actors. I didn’t mean that actors SHOULD be grateful for any free work that gets offered to them (because I know there are a LOT of actors out there who could be doing theatre, paid work or having picnics in the park instead of working with me), I meant that the ones that ARE enthusiastic and excited are generally a better quality of actor than others because you know that they are actually going to try. I know there are many out there – I daresay that you would be included in that bracket because of the passion behind your words – and I’m friends with a lot of them.

Absolutely brilliant points. I may even rustle up another blog post inspired by your comments!

Good luck!


I really hope she got her film made and has a very successful career as a result.  If I have to work for free, that is the kind of attitude and mutua respect I would expect.  Alli is a notable exception to the norm, which is why I stopped given my time and services for free.  Alli’s attitude was extremely rare.


One response to “Why I Am Reluctant To Work For Free on A Movie Project

  1. Pingback: A low-budget film « Who Ate My Shorts·

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