I grew up in Springfield, MO. More specifically I grew up in the farm land just north of Springfield. Every summer was spent bucking hay for the neighbors and for our own land. The heat was unbearable at times and my allergy to alfalfa hay meant I had to wear a long sleeve shirt buttoned up to the neck with a bandana around my face and gloves on my hands. I was paid based on the bales of hay to be tossed onto the trailer and shoved into the barn.
It wasn’t a glamorous job and it certainly didn’t provide enough money to put away for college. It did pay though.
Some farmers were so stingy with their money that they would set their machines to compact the most amount of hay into each bale so as to pay less per bale bucked. Even in these circumstances the workers were still paid.
I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. From a retail clerk in a tobacco shop to a pastor in a church to selling radio advertisements I’ve always been paid. Sometimes that pay came based upon performance and other times it was a salary that expected a certain level of achievement. All said, as diverse as the jobs and work, I was always paid for my work.
When we started Pancake’s House, a creative collective, one key point was always in the forefront of our minds. We will pay people for their work. Even if that meant we weren’t getting paid ourselves.
If I have one gripe with the entertainment world it is that so many creative and talented people are sold on a bill of goods that working on a project for free will somehow still be great for them as they will have that work available for their respective reels. I must admit this gets under my skin fast and stays long like a splinter commanding to picked at while it festers and irritates.
When an actor works on set they are giving their emotion and focus to a scene. They struggle to find the dialogue written and vision of the director to produce the emotion that will play for a camera and other actors while also attempting to transcend the two dimensional medium for empathy from the proposed viewers in the future.
When a grip sets up the dolly for camera department to capture the action or set designer adjusts the curtains they are working to create a mood or environment for the audience to be immersed into a world that doesn’t exist.
A craft service company works to keep the crew and cast nourished during long days or nights of work. A make up artist pays close attention to actors needing to scratch an itch or tussle their hair and adjusts on the fly to insure that each shot carries the consistency of the last. In other words a great deal of work is going on.
These are of course only a few of the many jobs being done on a shoot and to list them all, though inclusive in desire of this post, would be too great a list to provide.
Pancake’s House moves slowly in their developments. We work to get all the necessary funding and budgets to make sure that when work is being done that work is being paid for in an honest and honorable way. This begins with our storyboard artist, as none of us are talented with a pencil and paper and ends with our preferred post production house to bring all the work to an end the entire team can be proud of.
About a month ago we had a commercial shoot in Nashville. It was a modest budget for a local company in town. In our negotiations for the project we made sure we had the appropriate money paid down so we could pay our cast and crew upon completion of their work. This of course did mean that our own profits were to be left hanging in the wind but it was important for us to be able treat others the way we would like to be treated.
All of this said, I totally understand the need to create works on a small budget or even without a budget. When people enter into an agreement like this due to a desire to create something as a community I applaud that. It’s a true creative collective where all involved are giving of their time, energy, talent and expertise. I do however question if that is the only way to get these things done. When someone is asked to do work for their reel I feel like it is similar to a car sales person telling me they will throw in the gas tank if I buy the car. The assumption is that the gas tank was already part of the deal. Likewise, if an actor works on their craft and gives their performance to a project, unless otherwise stated, that actor should be able to use a section of the performance as an example of their work.
All too often I have had conversations specifically with actors that in these circumstances it was difficult if not impossible to actually get the digital transfer of the work to share for their reel.
This should not happen. We must reclaim the integrity of the work of art. In an age where crowd funding and crowd sourcing are available to all walks of life to build and create the next big thing we should be pooling our resources together in smaller ventures to attain a common goal.
Pancake’s House just entered such a venture with Seed & Spark and Project Green Light Digital. We asked people who may believe in the documentary project we’re working on to provide financial support toward our endeavor to tell a story. We are using that money to pay a post production team and the musicians allowing us the use of their music for the film. Pancake’s House isn’t getting one penny of that money.
Why? Because we are investing our time and energy into an endeavor that we believe will provide us with future work, perhaps a small amount of money and most importantly a chance to tell the story of this documentary to an audience. If a person wants to give their sweat and tears to a personal work I applaud that but if they are expecting others to do so for their creative goals I struggle to find how that can be the most beneficial for all involved. Especially when mortgages and electric bills don’t care much for a person’s reel or resume when expecting payment.