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Do Me a Favor

Hollywood is built on favors, but some people don’t seem to realize that.

I’m making a short film. Just about the only way to make a decent short, without going broke, is to borrow equipment and get your friends to work for free.  In exchange, you offer them free food, their name in the credits, a copy of the movie, and the expectation that you will return the favor some day.

In quick succession, two of my friends violated this very simple barter system, much to my chagrin.

Tuesday, we needed a camera for about six hours at the beach.  A DP friend of mine owned the right kind of camera, but refused to let us borrow it; he insisted on charging us $150.  For six hours.

He said it was because he was afraid we’d get sand in it (we shot at the beach).  Now, first of all, I used to be an AC.  I ACed for this guy.  He knows I take care of cameras.  Plus, paying him money upfront doesn’t protect his camera.  Insurance (which our production has) does.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that I ACed for him as a favor.  He simply refused to do me a favor back.

Now, here’s the nutty part.  The producer found the same camera for $120.  So, we went back to my friend, and he still wouldn’t bring his price down.  The producer (who was also friends with this DP) called the next day, to ask if he rented is camera to anyone else.  He hadn’t.

Can you imagine that I would ever work with this DP again?

Two weeks earlier, the production was shorthanded.  I called around, and a buddy said he would grip for us, if I paid him a $50 kit fee.

Grips don’t have kits, by and large.  They have gloves and a diddy bag, maybe.  We were renting our gear from Castex.  So, basically, the guy wanted to get paid when no one else on the crew was.

What he didn’t seem to realize was, once I give him money, he’s no longer a friend doing me a favor; he’s an employee doing a job.  He knew we desperately needed people, and he exploited that fact.

Both of these guys used the excuse that they’re out of work, and they needed money.  The thing is, everyone is out of work.  Everyone needs money.  But if you can’t get money, you should at least get a favor in return.

These two have totally burned bridges.  They’ll need help in the future, and they won’t get it, from anyone involved in this production.  How do they not know this?

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9 Responses

  1. I understand your frustration.

    I return to this blog entry becasue it left a footprint on my mind.

    Allthough I understand your frustration, I also believe that favors are nothing you should take for granted, but something to be grateful of.

  2. Oh man, I can relate to this blog heavily. People don’t understand the concept of favors at all. People just see the $ signs.

    For me, I take a project as it is. If it’s being done by someone for no money; people should give their time for free. If the project has some funding, then you expect a little back.

    The way people try to get money out of you in the way that DP did is disgusting, and I always find that kind of thing really disappointing.

    But, y’know – this is a good thing. It makes you realise who the people you trust are. This way, you’ll find people you’ll collaborate with for the rest of your life; because you know they helped you back when you had no money; just passion and a dream.

    Great blog dude.

  3. hey there, thanks and some great info
    i was looking for it, also in my blog yoore i want to put some stuff on it
    thanks anyway

  4. Actually, I should have been clear; these guys are both around my age. The DP is actually a little bit younger. He gets to call himself a DP mainly because mommy and daddy bought him a camera, and people hire him and the camera concurrently.

  5. You have to be selective. That’s what I’ve learned with the freebies. You do them for the favors, or the credits (if you’re starting).

    If you’re starting, you shouldn’t ask for money, since you don’t have the experience and this is where you’ll learn.

    If you’re already experience, you can do it for free for a couple of favors that you can use alter on, if you are sure that those guys will honor them. Or you can ask for a smaller amount of money, to pay for a Real kit.

    I’m a sound guy, most of the time at least, I generally boom op but the mixers rent their equipment, and when they do freebies, they or give it free or very low amount of money (just enough to pay for batteries sometime) and get the rest with favors and new connections.

    You have to be realistic and can’t expect to always get money for everything.

  6. They probably thought they’re already doing a favor by working for so little money? Still not wise though.

    Student films have an extra layer to them: sometimes you might have to work on a film you don’t completely believe in, or think won’t even be finished. I just had an experience, where I preferred to drop out of the project (from a major role) before asking my friends for any more favors – which was what the project would have needed to get back up on its feet. Burned some bridges there, but at least not the ones that really matter to me. And they did find a replacement.

    I guess my point was, you also want to use the favors you are “owed” wisely. And that sometimes burning some bridges might be necessary to save more important ones.

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