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You're an artist, therefore, you work for free, right? That is obviously not true, but that is what the common belief is and that is why you are not getting paid what you DESERVE. Why does this happen? Why do so many companies/people think they can ask artists to volunteer time on their projects, while they reap all the benefits? You'll get a copy of the finished project (if you're lucky) and credit, and maybe, just maybe you'll be on their mind when a paid project comes along.
Let me explain why this happens. Say for example there is a job available for $100/day. A person who is trained, skilled, over qualified, and fully capable declines the job because the rate is incredibly too low for the amount of work you will be asked to do. Break it down by the hour, the job ends up being $8/hour because we all know a day on set can easily be 12 hours, sometimes more. The rate is a bit of a joke when you calculate the years you have invested perfecting your skill. You can make more money in less amount of time waiting tables on a Friday night.
Then, Joe Schmo comes along and accepts the job because he is desperate for work. Now, the company thinks it's an "OK" thing to think that $100 is an acceptable pay rate, therefore they will never pay you for what you deserve because someone else will do it for less.
Well, way to go Joe Schmo. You have officially lowered the standards for an entire industry. This happens everyday in all areas of entertainment in front and behind the camera. But, how much can you blame Joe Schmo? He wanted to make some money working in his industry that isn't opening any doors for him. And hey, $100 is better than no pay right? What a catch 22. And if you're new and still building up your resume, this is a great opportunity for you. How else are you supposed to grow and network?
On the flip side, super talented Tim McGee, who has invested THOUSANDS of dollars, loads of sweat equity, and time spent away from his family, has to settle for either no work, or stoop down to $8/hr. This is not ok and guess what actors, if the crew isn't making money, there is absolutely no way you're going to get paid. Unfortunately, as important as you are, you are at the bottom of the totem pole and if you chose not to work for these rates, someone else is lined up right outside ready to take your spot. Ouch.
How can we fix this? Can we all stick together and demand more? Know your worth. I'm not saying that you should be getting rich off student projects, but some of the bigger productions may be able to offer some compensation if we (you, me, her, him, all of us) demand it. All I'm trying to say is, I like my current job, but I love my art. Power of the people, yo.
Have a good suggestion? Let me know and I'll write about it.