How many times have we seen something like the following?:
MB Productions is looking for a composer to score a feature length narrative film that was shot in nine different countries by an experienced director. If interested, please have a sample of your work available as used in a previous film.
Job location is Hollywood
Compensation: Copy and Credit
There seems to be a growing and almost universal assumption that composers, even experienced ones, should be willing and eager to work for free. How has this happened? Why have we ALLOWED this to happen?
In the example above, the "experienced director" apparently had enough of a budget to shoot this film in nine countries. Were the sets, equipment, air transportation, food, lodging, etc. provided to the crew and cast for "copies and credits"?
Many years ago, I worked for Frank Zappa for a period of time, and I remember him often observing that composers (primarily in America) were treated like crap. I guess things haven't exactly gotten better since then. I left Los Angeles almost 20 years ago, and when I see solicitations like the one above, I'm reminded why.
My advice: Unless you are just starting out in the business and can't get a job any other way, do not agree to work for free. It only encourages these hucksters to continue to expect everything for nothing.
OT: I just read your page about your time with Zappa and it makes good reading. It must have been an exciting time. I did try to listen to some of your music but the communal laptop I'm typing on has a faulty headphone socket.
Unless you are just starting out in the business and can't get a job any other way, do not agree to work for free.
Yes, well that's the thing isn't it. I am starting out and I might do it for free, just for the experience. I have to make that decision as to whether it's worth my time for a copy and a credit. By the same token, the filmmaker knows he will not get a bankable name with this deal, but apparently he's OK with that. If he lucks out and gets someone hungry enough to do it that's actually talented that person should hopefully go on to bigger and better things and isn't going to keep doing the freebie gigs. Look, in a free market things work themselves out. Danny Elfman isn't going to take this gig and forever destroy paying jobs for composers as we know it.
Well, if you want to slave for free Fred that's cool. I think it boils down to artistic integrity and abilty. If you don't rate yourself much then go prostitute yourself. If you think your time and ability is worth paying for then there are better ways of earning until some money is on the table. The fact that people willingly slave for free is beyond my comprehension. And its a bit sad.
Take a pillL dude!! I don't slave for free. I might take a calculated risk though. Like I said, for someone in my position this could be viewed as a valuable experience. I'm not saying that it would, but I'd consider it. In other musical venues where I'm established, trust me, I have no need or desire to work for free. But, as a film composer I could see doing it if the project seemed decent enough if just to have a demo reel. You guys need to get some perspective. There are still tons of pro paying gigs out there.
I have done a project like this. It was an animated film. He stated no one was getting paid. But he lied, and he knew that I was slightly younger (just turned 18), and was very cheap seeing the quality of work and time I put into it. If they have money, they can at least afford to buy you a piece of software .
I tend to side with Fred. I am just entering film music, but I have proven myself in performing and writing/arranging in the jazz idiom and so I get paid there. For film I have to start somewhere, and someone has to have a reason to give me a chance, without experience how are you going to move on to other things? Why would anyone want to give me a "decent" paying gig without knowing what I can do. I don't think it is fair for a director to not pay the composer, BUT the reason I want to do it is for the love of the art not for the money. If I have to do a couple free/cheap gigs to make a name for myself, so be it. I have a day job now to pay the bills because I don't expect to wake up tommmorow and be Peter Jackson's "go to guy"
Believe me, I certainly understand why it may be necessary to work for free when you are just starting out and trying to build a name for yourself. But most of these film makers are NOT asking for beginners. They are asking for the next John Williams!