Saturday, March 20, 2010

I will not write your fucking script for free!

I don't know how actors stand it in this town. Pretty much every casting call I see on a proliferation of social media sites is for unpaid acting roles. Apparently, if you get the role you get the roll ... chicken & salad that is - lovingly made by the director's mother ... oh, and something to add to your show reel. Bonus!

There are professional casting agencies in Perth who supplement work in TVC's with paid acting roles in productions such as Cloud Street, Lockie Leonard and low budget features. But the number of unpaid gigs outside of this is quite staggering. Unfortunately, there will always be someone who takes the role for free but when is enough enough? How much "free catering" can one bear when you've undoubtedly spent time, energy and money honing your craft? What about those actors who actually value their talent and lose roles to lesser actors because they dare think they deserve to be remunerated properly? How does the local film industry elevate itself from the cottage variety to a serious ongoing concern when this activity constantly undercuts that ambition?

It's the same in the world of screenwriting.

I went to a screening of short films last year where I was introduced to a "producer". This person pitched me a feature film project where there would be a committee of writers, "US style", who would rewrite each others work. Supposedly this script would be for 4 actors from a well known HBO series who would come to Australia for the shoot (to be directed by a local with no feature film experience). With their New York accents and style of speech.

Putting aside the sheer implausibility of this actually happening, when I inquired as to the fee for my participation I was told there was no money. When I mentioned the potential problem of Australians writing authentic dialogue for New York actors, I was reassured there was none. When I asked about how this committee of writers would work and the thorny notion of credits etc this wasn't even a consideration.

He then had the gall to ask me for a writing sample! Now, I'm generally a pretty level-headed guy and, for reasons past understanding, gave him my business card and wandered off saying I'd think about it (I subsequently emailed him the next day to pass). What I should have said is, "are you fucking insane?"

I used to get a lot of requests from actors asking for scenes/monologues or directors looking for short film scripts. Some people are now starting to offer money for these services and if I like the person, have the time, and/or respond to the suggested project I will get involved. The fact that they offer to pay for my skills, even if it may not be at a proper commercial rate, is appreciated and respected. They treat me like a professional not just some schmuck they can get a script for free from so they can cast a whole lot of free actors, not pay a crew and call on mum's catering skills.

But when I now mention this whole 'being paid thing' it's amazing how many people you never hear from again. I mean, seriously, do you think I will stop working on my feature projects so that I can do something for you for nothing? People also seem to think a good script is dashed off in a couple of hours. Time is an absolute invaluable resource for a writer. I have even turned down these sorts of paid gigs because either I don't have the time to do it justice or I don't think my style suits the brief.

So please do take offence when I say I won't write your fucking script for free. This isn't a hobby, it's not some sheltered workshop. Films cost money to make and part of that is paying actors and writers and treating them as professionals. If you want to make something for YouTube then knock yourself out with your mates. If you want to make a film then come at me with more than fantasy casting or "this director will get to see your work" or appeals to my altruistic nature. In this matter I have none!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't have put it any better! Well said!

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