I once took a job for a friend as a dialogue editor on a pretty major production. It promised to be a fun gig and a foothold into professional audio with a big project. What I didn’t anticipate was getting screwed over by a friend.
When is a labor of love more labor than love?
6 books of material
13.5 Hours of final material
Over 100 hours of editing spanning multiple months, compiled from field recordings and various studio sessions.
Over 5000 files including director’s notes about how you’re getting paid too much.
The Pay (Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Ramen)
$1500? For two weeks worth of work?
As the project continued, I found myself replacing previously finalized edited material with stand-in recorded material. Gradually, the hours and time were stacking up and I was not being offered more pay for the work I was doing. I reached out to my friend and was told “It is what it is.”
In review of the production, I received the following remarks:
“I consider your work to have been invaluable, but I also felt it had some friction which bummed me out,”
This and a reminder that he was helping me out on what was a “labor of love.”
A labor of love. From Audible. With an all-star cast. And a copy of the budget that showed his labor was worth nearly $15,000 of love. Plus residuals.
Not Learning Your Lesson
So, you can imagine that as our professional relationship developed, we learned from our mistakes. I learned how to negotiate the value of my time on a professional production, and my friend learned a valuable lesson about fair pay. Right?
“There are 17 approx 30 min episodes, for a total running time of ~8.5hours). Pay is $1,500, non-negotiable.”
And of course, I took it. Some food on the table is better than no food at all. And again, the thought that a credit on a big production would be a window of opportunity.
Learning From Your Friend
I don’t want to come off like these projects were all bad. You can learn a lot from the host of actors and talent involved and from mistakes made along the way. I learned to not interrupt Kate Mulgrew in the middle of a take, to not belittle your actors, and to not talk smack about folks that edit your material in post-production. And of course, I got to edit some of my biggest heroes in acting. But unfortunately, I also got to learn about friendship, favors, and the grey area surrounding “passion projects” and pay.