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February 10, 2009 at 2:53 AM #42985
Working “on spec” is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be an excellent way to fill empty production calendars, gain lucrative exposure and new renewable business clients. The business is out there and you won’t get screwed as often as you’d think. Let the gambler in you enjoy odds that are considerably higher than Vegas.
See the new blog post at http://www.eccomeecgo.blogspot.com
February 10, 2009 at 5:06 AM #180046CoreeceParticipant
“EC come EC go”…..lol…I like it. 🙂
One of my favorite movies of all time was completed on spec…It’s called “Narc,” filmed here in Detroit and Toronto. If you want, they talk about it in the dvd special features….very inspirational. They finished filming the movie in only 26 days! Some of the actors including Ray Liota even putin some of their own moneyjust so they couldfinish the film….Their passion for the film eventually paid off.
However, OTOH….I hate it when producer’s take advantage of passionate people and exploit their generosity.
February 10, 2009 at 2:35 PM #180047
A friend of mine who is active on another board responded to my post. He is a long-time event video producer and in support of the salient points of my blog Bob Anderson noted that he has ALWAYS worked his events “on spec” ranging from a few thousand to several thousand dollars per event, and says that very rarely has he had a bad experience/return.
Bob specializes in instant reproduction of select acts, numbers, performances during events that can sometimes be day-long, or even over a long weekend. He also offers full performance productions, and has often parlayed his direct sales, no costs to the organization spec approach into huge profits/returns.
For many of us working “on spec” can be a way, as I said, to boost business and company/brand exposure. For Bob it is a way of life and ongoing business success.
February 10, 2009 at 6:41 PM #180048
Working on ‘Spec’ is not necessarily a bad thing. It does have the benefits of keeping one’s skills sharp during production lulls and as you mentioned, filmmakers get the opportunity to evaluate and forge potential contacts.
Initially, as freelancer and in the early years of my company a significant number of projects I did were either on spec or straight pro bono. Doing those jobs helped get my outfit up and running in addition to building a solid work reputation. However, working on spec costs the filmmaker money up front with no guarantee of payment despite what any oral or written agreement (if any) may state. Now when I do spec projects, they are exclusively in-house projects so that funds put forth can be specifically written off in the likely event that the project doesn’t pay off. Also, during said projects a more concerted effort to compensate parties working on the project is made. Though we may not be offering ‘pay’ for a specific project, we provide lodging, catered meals, copies of the completed work and samples of merchandise generated to promote the film. On our last project, we had an old hollywood hand onboard and he commented that, ‘in all the years he’d worked in the biz he had never been so well taken care of. All he had to do was show up to shoot!’ We did that for everyone from the producers to the pa’s.
More often than not though, you run into spec jobs that are shall I say ‘raggedy’ to put it nicely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed on spec projects because of producer’s attitudes ‘well you’re working for free so we can get you to do anything….’or their obvious lack of organization and sometimes ‘criminal’ mindset (we never had any intention of paying anyone anyway.) You are correct, it is one helluva gamble. I don’t disapprove of spec work, but I do suggest the same amount (or more)of research one would put forth in investigating a potential paying gig. Once you accept the facts that you’re probably not going to get paid, you probably will have to cough up some money in order to participate (directly or indirectly) and you will have to ‘spend’ an amount of your time that could be used in the pursuit of paying gigs you should be able to pursue the project with enough passion to see it through.
I’m glad your friend and collegue can make a living on spec gigs. I strongly believe that’s a regional thing too. If you live in the areas where there is ‘high production traffic’ like california, new york, miami the amount of spec gigs are astronomical compared to lower traffic regions. Outside the high traffic areas, spec work gets sporatic and the resources needed to participate get more expensive making spec work far less a viable option for filmmakers living those areas.
With today’s economics however, I do believe spec work is going to increase exponentially. Investor dollars have evaporated significantly and it was hard enough to get money before.
February 12, 2009 at 12:45 AM #180049
Entertainment industry, high-end corporate, documentary for theatrical release, or productions requiring above/below the line producers, major crews and a$$holes with attitudes, maybe so.
Specifically, the blog article is focusing on independents shooting events for a work once, sell many marketing approach to martial arts studios, dance studios, school productions, youth sports, etc. – not so much the higher end arena that is broadly populated by people who would sell their child on the black market 🙂
March 6, 2009 at 8:28 AM #180050AnonymousInactive
Okay, I’m confused. Can you clarify what, “On Spec” means.
March 6, 2009 at 8:02 PM #180051
Sorry, “on spec” generally means you are willing to work for no guaranteed pay arrangement, “speculating” that your production quality and professional look/decorum, and prices for the resulting DVD you hope to sell MANY copies of, will bring in enough orders to make the gamble worth your time and effort, and maybe result in renewable business.
On Spec and gambling are probably, for the most part, interchangable in this respect, but the point of my blog regarding doing so is that the odds of gaining something valuable from working “on spec” are much better than most gambling odds.
I failed to define “on spec” here, while coming closer to doing so in the blog article – my bad.
March 7, 2009 at 9:05 PM #180052
Bad Earl! Bad!
“On Spec and gambling are probably, for the most part, interchangable”
Amen to that brother.
March 7, 2009 at 9:43 PM #180053
Taken pretty much out of context sir. Of course, thankfully, most readers will have read the complete section, picking up on the better odds in spec work.
March 8, 2009 at 1:32 PM #180054NewBirthProductionsParticipant
I strongly advise agenst doing Spec work for anyone on craigs list. The first red flag is them wanting you to just show up and shoot without telling you want it is your shooting. they’ll use some lines like “I can’t tell you what the project is until you sign on” or “I have so many people i’m working with i don’t have time to explain it to you, just show up then i’ll tell everyone” Just run from these guys, I would say 98% so far of the contacts on craigs list have been scams, data mining, or down right cheap “talent thiefs” people.
March 8, 2009 at 5:46 PM #180055
Absolutely, NB, but again, anyone reading the article will see that a bit more direct logic and knowledge of the prospective client/gig is to be applied. Working on spec works best when you control the marketing direction/delivery, not when you are scrubbing through junk mail, junk e-mail, or junk job lists.
Again, working “on spec” as it is intended in the article, focuses on local service area GROUPS and their events that have multiple participants and pose a possibility to “work once, sell many” and represent the potential for “renewable” business.
An applied portion of common sense helps.
March 9, 2009 at 2:44 PM #180056AnonymousInactive
In the same direction…
Has anyone ever worked with any public schools? By that I mean, filming school plays, choral concerts, etc.
With regards to copyrights and stuff… If the Middle or High school is doing a play that is a popular work, would this fall into Copyright and redistrobution problems for me? Thanks
March 9, 2009 at 3:52 PM #180057
It could if the schools have not acquired proper clearance for doing so, and if they have they should have proof of it. If they have the release, they will know, so if they look perplexed, dumb, silly or even like they are outright lying, they don’t have the clearance.
Some schools are really NOT savvy, but many of them can be “educated” while others will argue one way or the other. Yet many, MANY schools DO “get it” and are very comfortable bringing your company in to provide video production assistance.
Schools also are often allowed to produce a copy for educational purposes, not for resale, using it in the classroom for specifically THAT purpose. I know, and it is generally a known fact, that these are quite often loaned to individual students who in turn take them home and make copies for themselves, friends and others. Seems ya just cannot win…sometimes. But, that being the case, I have been known to charge an allowable fee for producing that “educational” copy and making the effort equal compensation I am willing to accept for doing so without making or selling copies.
March 9, 2009 at 6:39 PM #180058
I’m sorry you feel I took your comment out of contex.
March 9, 2009 at 7:02 PM #180059
“On Spec and gambling are probably, for the most part, interchangable in this respect, but the point of my blog regarding doing so is that the odds of gaining something valuable from working “on spec” are much better than most gambling odds.” Original complete sentence.
Not a problem, but it wasn’t something I “felt.” There is a critical difference between the portion of sentence used in making your point, and the sentence taken in its entirety, pointing out that “odds” for working on spec (in the situations in which my article suggested) are “much better than most gambling odds.”
March 10, 2009 at 5:38 PM #180060
Point taken. I absolutely agreed with you on the potential risks of doing spec work without going into depth.
One thing I would like to add about working with schools; in the case of public schools most of the time you’ll have to set yourself or firm up as a contractor and submit a bid. Contracting with City, County or State Government involves detailed paperwork and processes far beyond what content producers just starting out or working as freelance are prepared for. Funny thing is, the production side of such contracts is the easy part. Staying within contract compliance and negotiating with government entities is where all the work will be. However, contracting with schools is worth doing. But just like with doing spec work, you have to know what your getting yourself into and have realistic expectations on what you’ll get out of doing it.
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