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  1. #1
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    Question Is this guy for real / do artists ever work for free in pre-production ?!

    Hi all, this is a whole dang thing but would really appreciate your input.
    In brief: is it a practice for concept artists to be hired by independent producers for NO PAY in pre-production before the movie even gets funded?

    I'm deeply disturbed by a recent experience, I was approached by a guy who works at a bar who said he could help me with finding an art job. I later meet him and over coffee he reveals that he's producing a film with an estimated 60 million dollar budget. He wants me to do concept design for his film. Including characters' costuming, weapons, etc. He goes through his concept, and shows me three storyboard pages on an ipad. Some other person is currently working on these storyboards.
    However the meeting lasts about three hours, and I never get to talk once. I felt I'd humor him and just listen to what his movie is about. I ask about payment and he says don't worry about it you will get paid. "You can buy your mother a house" etc. when the film is successful. He says I would also get a 'point' along with payment. No details about payment were hashed out. He said he'd have a contract and details later.

    So the next step he said was to meet up with his main actress and a backer. I'm going to be a part of his inside "team". I sit there and let them lead the discussion but I'm already annoyed because something feels off. Also he talks on the phone in front of me or talks in another language to this person in front of me too, for minutes on end, which is rude and wasting my time because this is supposed to be a "meeting".
    The actress likes me, whatever. I'm being pleasant but have no idea where this is all going. They're telling me I have no idea what I've gotten myself into and that I'm lucky to be a part of this huge project.

    I don't even know this guy's last name. He is nowhere on the internet. I don't know the title of his movie even. Or his past work experience. He says he's working on the script.

    So apparently I'm "in" and we arrange to meet up again, and I'm expecting to talk business and to actually START on something, anything, but yet again he gives me more details about what he wants his movie to be about, and is just endlessly talking. But he bought me a sandwich so whatever. He says he will send me the movie details that afternoon after I leave. The email ends up consisting of three crappy images of the sort of designs he's looking for and a badly composed long email about it.

    Now I'm really annoyed because there's NO REAL information I've been given about ANYTHING related to compensation.
    So -annoyed- I arrange for a meeting the next day (he insists to meet in person) to talk business. I'm expecting him to have some kind of contract which is what he had been talking about. We meet and finally get to the point that he doesn't have the money for his film YET but he wants to approach funders with not only the script and storyboards but also concept art - basically having most of the pre-production already done.
    Which obviously would mean that he can't pay me for anything I do.
    And then I know there are other complications with copyrights.

    But he's assuring me I could make thousands. and that he knows how people take advantage of artists, and women, etc. - again he talks endlessly like some sort of salesperson but I have no idea if what he's saying is just trying to manipulate me into some kind of agreement.

    So now I'm overwhelmed with this yet another time wasting situation in which someone is asking for art for free in Los Angeles. I've been a part of it before, people have taken advantage of me in HUGE ways and affected me to the point of severe depression once. So I actually start crying in front of this guy in Starbucks, trying to explain that I NEED SOMETHING ON PAPER to even begin with anything. And I'm so, SO frustrated that after about 10 hours I've spent in stupid pointless meetings with this guy he has not emailed or given me ANYTHING to show to me in terms of industry standard contracts.
    He's only shown me (via his ipad) storyboards which his friend is doing ('I'm pretty sure for no pay), and some sort of document also on an ipad which was a summary/listing of the movie's info, including some big-name actors listed.
    I'm new to this but all I know is that this is all tentative. And he doesn't have funding. He keeps talking about his rich 'brother' who has backed films like spiderman, etc. He keeps throwing out all these "facts" about how I should trust him, etc.
    His movie is a projected 60 million and who even is this guy?!
    So with the emotions high and me almost yelling at him at one point, I give him hourly rates (because I don't know how long this all will take, I have no idea about anything and judging by the sheer amount of how much this guy talks, I could expect endless edits and renditions..)
    and we come to a consensus that I WILL be paid something for my work as I do it even if it's out of his own pocket. He said he'd talk to his lawyer and get back to me.

    I have not been a part of the concept art industry, I haven't freelanced, and I haven't worked on any official films.

    How do independent films looking for artists even typically work?! How is the hiring process dealt with, how are contracts presented, what is the copyrighting like? Isn't a film supposed to be already backed and funded and good for production BEFORE the producer goes looking for concept designers to work on pre-production?!!

    All I know is that I DO NOT WORK FOR FREE.

    And this guy is asking for a major investment of my time and talent, and for what? He can't even produce any formal documents for me at meeting #4!!!!
    SO this all ended with me being fed up and texting him that I will no longer take calls or meetings with him until he can produce a legitimate document for me.
    He texted back: "I sent your prices to my lawyer yesterday and i was ready to call you tomorrow and give you $300 to start + the contract. but apparently it seems you have some issues with me so I prefer to stop everything."
    I simply texted back "I'm just saying I wanted to see the contract before any more talking. If you have something, please send."

    I'm super angry and feeling like he has wasted so much of my time. And NOW he throws a tantrum just because I set a boundary with my time?!!!!
    I have seldom met anyone who talks as much as this asshole. Endless. Big ideas, blah blah, more big ideas. Where's the proof?!! Why isn't his film funded?! Why is he looking for a 'team' of "friends" to work with him for free like a startup based on blind loyalty? Why didn't he tell me that in the first place?

    I've been in a similar situation before where some startup guy slickly worded around the fact that I'd be working for him for free until business picked up. It took a week and him refusing to pay me anything to realize that I misunderstood the agreement, or it simply wasn't vocalized - I was basically just tricked into working for free. And I've learned that even with "friends," verbal agreements ARE NOT VALID and everything needs to be on paper. Always. And I always need to be paid for my work.

    Please let me know your opinions. I have no experience in film although I did study animation in school but of course we were never taught how to deal with "Hollywood" situations like this. Or independent filmmakers and contractors.

    I'm not crazy or being too distrustful, right? This guy is being a total dick and I have no proof of legitimacy !


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  3. #2
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    Sounds like you had a lucky escape. It's an artist's choice if they want to work for free or on 'spec, but you're right about having it in writing. You could have told that with nothing in writing, there's no NDA. He's a flake or he'd have all the contracts ready to go from the beginning.

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  5. #3
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    Why did Kaa singing "Trust in Me" pop into my head after I read this? People who are worthy of trust demonstrate it, not constantly demand it. Trusting your instincts was the exact right thing to do. If the guy won't go away, throw a lawyer at him (or threaten to). Yikes, what a creep.
    "A pig that doesn't fly is just a pig."

  6. #4
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    it's a scam, walk away and don't play along, if you do you will get burned. 90 percent of movies and games never make their funding goals and so everyone who works for a piece of the action is fucked, even with a contract or a little money up front. For every story of this kind of thing paying off, there are thousands of people getting burned.

  7. #5
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    Thank you all for your input!! It's good to feel backed up. He was so manipulative and tried making me feel like I was the one with problems.. Look how idiotic....
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  8. #6
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    If he wants to "stop everything" then so be it. Let'em go.
    My commentary is a gift to you.

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