2009.11.30

Another day, another couple of links to interesting projects…. projects that are interesting not just because they were executed well, and created something worth seeing, but interesting because once again the people behind them claim that they did it for “zero dollars” or “300 dollars” or some other number that is ridiculously low.

As someone who has worked in the creative industry for many (many) years, I know it’s not true, and I’m guessing others in the creative industry also know it’s not true, but does everyone know? Does the general public know? Do potential clients know?

One project was a film that someone worked on for 6 months, and the end result was pretty damn cool, but by claiming the project cost $300 the person is suggesting that their time was worth nothing, and their equipment was worth nothing, and somehow it all just materialized out of thin air.

Another project (again, a film) said it was done with “zero budget” which I guess means the experience of the people involved was worthless, and the $10,000 worth of equipment they used was just sort of magically handed to them, and anyone could have it.

If your band wants to shoot an epic music video for free, and you manage to get your friends with the experience and the equipment to donate their time, and the results are amazing, that’s cool… I’m all for it. Just don’t devalue the efforts of all involved by saying it was done for $0.00

I’m going to assume that the people behind these things know what they are doing, and my guess is that what they are doing is marketing. To that I say well done! It’s clever, I’ll give them that.

But wait, don’t I do the same thing? I mean, I shot like 50 free portraits at BarCampMilwaukee4. I could say it cost me NOTHING but in all honesty, Sam Dodge and I spent a few hours doing the shooting, and I spent many more hours editing and posting the photos, and I had to buy my equipment in order to even take photos (as did Sam) and I had to put in hours to learn how to shoot portraits… Don’t get me wrong, many things can be done for low-costs, but to assume it costs nothing seems silly.

If you look at a project like Help-Portrait, it’s about giving back, from people who are skilled, and have the equipment, and want to help others. It’s only made possible by the fact that people are willing to donate their time (which has some value) and that people have the needed equipment/supplies/etc. (which was probably paid for from some other paying job.)

If it’s a labor of love, and a project you want to do, by all means do it, do it well, do it great, and talk about it. I just have an issue with people telling other people it cost them “nothing” to create something. I’m working on a film and while I’m doing it for very little cost, and even though I’m borrowing a lot of the equipment, there’s still consumables like gasoline, and tapes, and paper, and ink, and things like hard drives and software, and web hosting, and there’s the many, many, many hours I’ve spent (and will spend) shooting, and editing, and eventually promoting it.

There’s an old saying that comes to mind: It’s only free if your time has no value.

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