Monday, February 04, 2013

Stop Working for Free!!

This weekend, Amid at Cartoon Brew featured TAG member and renowned artist Stephen Silver's video plea to industry artists. In the video entitled "Protect Your Art Career" (embedded above), Stephen talks about the prevalence of requests by employers of all caliber to do work for free, and the equal prevalence of artists who are willing to accept that work. Ultimately, Stephen tells anyone watching that this practice hurts the artists and the industry:

If you don't get paid, you'll not get any respect [from the employer, and the chances are they'll] never use your work

Steve Hulett regularly tells of artists working uncompensated overtime at signatory studios. When approached to discuss, those who admit to doing it usually say they're attempting to put in extra time to impress the studio and ensure their longevity.

Recently, I received an email from an artist in the industry who had questions regarding unions and TAG. In his letter he wrote:

Right now I'm working as an unpaid intern at [studio name] in [local beach-adjacent community].

As Stephen points out, this practice is prevalent because the community stands for it. Numerous times, I've engaged both members of the Guild and the animation community regarding "free work". Personally, I don't believe there is ever a time where exercising skills in this or any craft for someone else's financial benefit without proper compensation is acceptable.

Plenty of scenarios have been raised to me in rebuttal, some Stephen even mentioned. I am of the mindset that any artist who is passionate about their craft will be exercising their skills outside of the workplace. Animation artists doodle for fun, writer pen scripts for exercise or personal exploration, storyboards artists board for practice. Those would be perfect for charitable or other altruistic donations.

However, the "you need to put your time in the trenches like the rest of us" argument is complete horse-excrement. Devious employers have come up with countless ways to attempt to cut costs and get artwork for free. Artists allow this to happen because the art form stems from the heart, and not the head. They ultimately feel the need to devalue themselves for the sake of their passion by donating their skills and time. Employers capitalize on this by pointing out how much of a "good worker" said artist is to the rest of the group, thus establishing the pattern.

Again, from Stephen:
(edited for content)
You just don't do it for nothing. Trust me, these [employers] are lining their pockets [from your work] and taking advantage of you. And when they take advantage of you, they disrespect the art form and every [other artist out there]. So, don't give away your talent for free. You deserve better.

Stephen opened his video by stating that the time had come to spread this message. I'm glad to assist him in that effort.


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