I've been interning for a small web series gig for about a year. I originally did it to get course credits, and stayed under the promise of eventual pay. There is no budget so nobody is being paid, and we use our own personal camera gear. We don't pay our locations either, we politely ask them in advance and the location owners are usually fine with it. For the final day of one particular shoot, our director told us to bring some spare change to donate to the location owners. I felt a little uncomfortable being asked this.

Is it unethical to ask your unpaid film crew to donate to the location?

  • 2
    It's similar ethical to ask your crew to donate their work and camera gear to you.
    – FooTheBar
    Aug 12 '17 at 10:29
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    if i say "yes it is", what does that get you, exactly?
    – bharal
    Aug 12 '17 at 10:53
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    Without a contract, who is going to own the final product? It's not you. Right? If you ask me, you need a contract. "stayed under the promise of eventual pay" is just nonsense. Without a contract, I swear to you you're never going to get paid, even if the director is able to sell the series. You need a contract. Bring that to the director and make him sign it. Videotape the signing with his consent, or get the document notarized, but you do need that contract. Aug 12 '17 at 10:54
  • 1
    It may not be unethical to ask but you are not being forced to pay.
    – paparazzo
    Aug 12 '17 at 12:50
  • Of course not. The director probably wants to thank the location owner (maybe this one was more difficult to get than others). If you can help out, great, if not, you don't.
    – user45269
    Aug 13 '17 at 3:09

If the whole thing is done as a communal activity e.g. by members of a club or church, or as a hobby between friends, it is neither uncommon nor unethical for everyone to chip in on expenses. I assume the above doesn't describe your situation.

Generally speaking, schemes that require people to pay to work (in order to get something on their CV) are immoral and unethical.

Nevertheless, many of these schemes do exist, are legal, and there are industries you can't enter without playing by these rules. The most common form of pay to work is an unpaid internship where the intern still pays for transportation and various other expenses.

What you seem to be doing, however, might be worse. By not even having a contract, you expose yourself to severe liabilities should you damage something or someone by accident in the course of your "work" (or end up being blamed to have damaged). That is unwise.

Just like when you're playing the lottery, working like this can eventually make you rich, but the probabilities are ridiculously low. I advise you to look for a paid job.


Is it unethical to ask your unpaid film crew to donate to the location?

No. It's not unethical to ask. You are doing the work for school credits and the promise of eventual pay. You are getting compensated. The location owners would likely get nothing out of it if not for donations.

But it's also not unethical for you to decide that you don't wish to donate. If you can't (or would rather not) spare any change, then don't.

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