Saturday, 2 August 2014

Should animation artists work for free?

Scofield Entertainment
Should artists work for free? This is a knotty problem and a subject on which people tend to have strong feelings. Students and graduates do of course often work for free, taking work experience, unpaid jobs or internships which do not pay actual money, but which offer training in the industry and real-world experience of what the world of work is like.

The trouble is, there are many people out there looking for a free lunch. The trick with working for free is to ask yourself what the benefit will be to you, and whether or not it's likely to be worth it in the end. In this very funny 2009 video by Scofield Entertainment, some film-makers have cooked up a very entertaining satire on on the "Work For Free" culture of much digital media today.

The video essentially poses the question: what if the folks asking for free stuff from digital artists were trying to get hold of real world items like food, haircuts and DVDs? How far would it get them?

On a personal note, I have worked for free on many occasions, and I still do. The questions I always ask myself are: do I have the time to do? Is it a good cause? And, if so, is it worth it?

I have done many charity jobs over the years,  some of which have been very rewarding in non-financial ways (I'm doing one now, a design for a invitation for a charity auction). Charity work can be fun, and you tend to meet a lot of great people.

A design for a deckchair for London's Parks
When I was teaching myself story boarding, I did several storyboard jobs for free. Not charity work this time; just practicing my skills on a live project. So it's really about doing a cost/benefit analysis. Do you want and/or need to do it? Do you have a better offer? Can you afford to do it? In the end it comes down to a personal choice.

A charity gig in 2012 for "The Big Egg Hunt" in London. Like the cows - but with eggs
But if a total stranger asks you on the web to do free stuff for their amazing new project which is going to be The Next Big Thing, the answer should generally be "no". In the end, you need to be able to trust the people you are doing favours for, and know that they aren't just taking advantage of your good will.

For more information on finding work in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business.

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