Monday, September 15, 2008

Gimmie

(from June, 2008)

Everyone wants something for nothing. At least that is the way in Hollywood. It's unbelievable the crap people expect of others, especially strangers. In some cases it makes sense. You are making a short film that is costing you $3,000 that you don't have. You are stretching every possible resource you can possibly think of. If you paid for additional help, it would cost for more money, of which, you still don't have; so it makes sense to ask for people to help you out for free. Of course, people who work for free are not the most qualified, but they are eager for experience. They get the on set working education they are seeking and if they are lucky, some food and a credit on IMDB.

But this goes beyond indy film productions. It escalates to labor, creative problem solving, and professional work. Just check out Craigslist (especially in LA) and click FILM/TV jobs or just anywhere in the GIGS section. People want so much for nothing, it's ridiculous.

None of this is really surprising to me by now. I squandered for 6 months working random jobs before landing my current position, which still pays me below my cost of living so I am still forced to find random gigs (oh, I am no longer working at TeleFund, FYI), so I am well aware of the jobs out there to work and lose money on at the same time.

One post I responded to was very promising. At least, it was at first:

TOP REALITY SHOW SEEKS ORIGINAL ARTWORK
We area reality/competition show for the high-end interior decorators, currently going into our second season. Last season we averaged over one million viewers per episode. This season we are going to offer our designers access to a collection of artwork from a variety of local artists to use in the rooms they decorate. Most artwork will be returned at the end of the season (May). Please email us your work.

I replied giving a link to my paintings. Surprisingly, I received an email back. This rarely happens on craigslist; any somewhat interesting post will generate hundreds of emails, there is a minute chance yours will ever be opened. Landing a response is amazing and an interview is a rarity. "I'm writing to let you know we are interested in featuring your art on our show, Top Design. Please read the attached letter for all the details, and feel free to call me with any questions."

The letter was interesting, but bared little or no terms of me lending (or selling) my artwork. It was for the most part a short informative letter describing the show. I'll sum up the basics:
  1. Season 2 of a Bravo show called Top Design - a reality show for professional interior decorators.
  2. Submitted art will be in a collection the professional decorators choose from for their decorating (no guarantee your art will be chosen or featured on the show).
  3. The majority of artwork will be returned at the completion of filming. A few pieces, however, will not be returned at all.
  4. We believe this is an exciting opportunity for local artists.
  5. Please feel free to call me with any questions.
Wow. This was interesting. No information on pay, let alone insurance or the handling of artwork, or even what it meant by "a few pieces will not be returned at all." What was this? I called Jenn, the producer, 4 times throughout the next day. She was not in and I decided to leave her a voice mail knowing how Hollywood communication works. I asked what the terms where for using my artwork on the show. She called me back a few hours later and luckily, I was away from my phone. She left me a voice mail and let me know that there was no payments for artwork and everything on the show is donated. And, should my work be selected, it would be prominently featured on the show and acknowledged in the credits. The lucky paintings that make it all the way through to the end would not be returned.

Well that's just fine and dandy. It makes sense that a million dollar corporation donates their $30 drapes for a show. They have thousands of them, they can afford it and it's certainly cheaper and more effective than advertising; but a local artist? Each of my paintings have over $100 worth of paint on them alone - not to mention the cost of the canvas and the time I spent putting it all together - plus all the time I would be spending to donate them on this show. Are they serious? Artists actively pursuing their profession have enough problems trying to afford food - at what point would giving away hundreds of dollars and hours of work be an interest let alone an option? Especially to a media giant such as NBC Universal? (Yes, every media outlet is owned by only a few companies).

And you know whomever will be keeping the lucky few paintings that won't be returned will be a few well-off white people. It will hang high in a professionally decorated beautiful room, filled with a bunch of other free shit. And let's not forget to congratulate Bravo for eliminating production costs by not having to hire union writers, union actors, or pay for items on the show. Maybe if they let me donate my artwork they will let me be a PA on their show for free. I can only hope

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