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Why Should I Work for Free in Filmmaking?

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Layne McDonald, Ph.D.

Working for free in the film-making business will not be because you don't need or want to get paid. It will be because you are trying to gain experience and be able to find work in the filmmaking industry. For one thing, you need experience to be hired in the filmmaking business and gain experience, and you need to have worked in the filmmaking business. It is a vicious cycle, and most of the time, the only way to break it is to intern or volunteer to work for free on a project. 

This can lead to paying job on the filmmaker's next project if he likes your work. This is an excellent way for a filmmaker who is on a tight budget to work with a production crew. And whether the film is a success or a flop, the knowledge needed to find gainful employment will be yours when the shoot is done. You will be able to add this experience to your resume to show that now, you have the expertise needed to be a paid worker on the crew. If you worked hard as an intern on one production, but the filmmaker did not hire you for his next project, you should not worry too much. You will be able to show the experience you have gained and have at least a fighting chance to get a paid position. 

If you enroll in a filmmaking school or University, you will see that an internship with a filmmaker is part of a four-year course of study. It certainly isn't inexpensive to take four years at a school. Deciding to work on a filmmaking crew as an intern will be one of the best choices for you if you have no experience in the filmmaking industry and want to rub elbows and contact people who know the business inside and out. They may be able to point you in the right direction. You will even find that some production companies will pay their interns minimum wage. 

Investing your talent and know-how in an internship will build your resume and network so that down the road, you will be hired for the position you desire. You may want to intern more than once to add to your resume's experience. This is not a free ride for you. You must show the filmmaker that you are serious about working on the film and are up for the position. Do network with the crew to aid you in finding a paying job after your internship is through.

If you find the work too grueling, the hours too long, and you just aren't getting in the swing of things as you should be, maybe it is good that you learned this early. Above all, no matter how new you are to the film-making business, always act professionally, and you will find you will be on your way to a great career.

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