taking one frame at a time since 1999

i have had a great opportunity to make an animation for a music video but the guy i am in talks with mentioned payment would be done through royalties.

my question is, has anyone done any work that is basically free but involves royalties? does anyone have any suggestions as to what i need to agree with him?

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Well, frankly I'd be wary....

To be honest, I find it deeply offensive that people expect animators to work ridiculous hours and practically rip out their souls and deliver them bleeding on silver platters (probably while their employer is muttering surprise about how long the delivery of the tattered souls is taking).

Is there any other industry that does this?  No.  And it happens because we let it because we're so scared of not working.

So, I say go ahead and do the shoot if you really feel it would benefit YOU but I'd not anticipate any actual money landing in your account and structure your commitment accordingly (you dictate the hours, basically!).

Good luck.

I would prefer to get cash on delivery, or else work for free but know I am working for free for someone I want to help out.   And someone who is up front about not paying for it, instead of vague promises.  Or because I want to do the work for my own reasons.  

Royalties, or percentages of the profit, are very doubtful things.  If it's a short film, they don't make a profit, there isn't much of a paying market for them, even the best ones.  (And it's easy to arrange the books so they don't make a profit, even if some money does come in.)  Don't know about music videos.  But still, payment through royalties sounds vague and hard to monitor.  It would be a trickle over a long time, with someone keeping account and making sure a few cents went to each contributor, for months or years...  if indeed any money materialised at all.  What would generate those royalties - playing the video on MTV x number of times?  iTunes downloads?  The songwriter and performer might be entitled to something in normal music industry practice, but does that apply to the animated visuals?  

I could simply be ignorant of how it's done with music videos,  but the needle on my BS meter is hovering up around the 75% mark.

Thanks for replying guys, I am defiantly feeling the same way. I am torn though, I have not got an animation/model makers job after graduating from uni and was thinking this could be my chance to pop something down on the cv. Or do I just forget about this project and carry on with my film I am making? Oh the decisions.

Make your film and get it on the festival circuit is my advice.  If you're going to work for nothing, at least do it for your own work and your own story.  Employers like seeing shorts from prospective animators - shows you have a grasp of storytelling.

Where are you based?  We occasionally need extra animators at our studio ( but have nothing coming up in the next few months.  Be interested to see your ability though.  We pay, by the way!

Good luck!

I'm living just outside of Bristol UK. I will admit, my animation skills are a bit rusty but my main passion is armature/puppet/set making.

We're very keen to add armature-makers to our database.  Please feel free to email some examples over.  And maybe think of an internship at either MacKinnon & Saunders or John Wright to learn as much as you can from the best - again, if you're going to work for nothing, make it count towards your own future, not someone else's!

I have had some very similar situations myself. I graduated from college with a BFA in Animation three years ago, and soon realized how difficult it was to get anyone to pay me for my work. There are so many ads up on Craigslist and Gumtree and other freelancing sites that expect you to make music videos and 5-minute short films for free or for "experience". Experience is very important, but you need to be sure you are working on something that will get you useful contacts or will give you a chance to experiment and evolve as an animator.

I have also found that communicating with online employers can be very tricky and they can vanish into thin air for no apparent reason. This year for example, I made three stop motion music videos for a small studio in South Korea. I got paid for all of them, by the way, and the employer seemed very pleased with my work. He sent me glowing responses praising my animation and model-making skills and promising more work. And then he vanished. Just like that. He didn't bother telling he didn't have any more work for me, or offering constructive criticism on the work I had done if he wasn't actually 100% pleased with it. This is not so bad as I got paid for my work. Once I spent days working on a project and communicating productively with an employer only to have them disappear the instant I sent them the finished video. I tried emailing and skyping them to ask (politely) for my payment and nothing ever happened. It's a tough world out there.

Cadi - I checked out your website, and noticed you were in Glasgow. Is that correct? I am an Edinburgh-based stop motion animator and I have a little studio where I design, construct, and animate my own short films and small commissioned projects. If you are still looking for people to add to you database, can I send you some examples of my work?

Cadi Catlow said:

We're very keen to add armature-makers to our database.  Please feel free to email some examples over.  And maybe think of an internship at either MacKinnon & Saunders or John Wright to learn as much as you can from the best - again, if you're going to work for nothing, make it count towards your own future, not someone else's!

Yes please!

I've only heard of getting "points" a term referring to payment based on a percentage of ownership ( percentage of profit ) on larger/ commercially distributed projects such as feature films and TV projects. Never heard of music videos getting distributed for profit, so I can't see how such a project would generate money and thereby pay you anything at any point ( other than from a production budget, which producers would have BEFORE they start shooting.. ).... I would be very, very skeptical ( unless this producer could negotiate your landlord taking some "points" in lue of cash your rent ;-) ) just joking, not a "normal" arrangement to me... I have been burned before, working in camera dept. for a TV show on a "deferred payment" deal ( meaning, you get paid after shoot is wrapped and sold ).

I like the way you think, Stephen!  I'm sure there are landlords out there who are happy to get "deferred rent", or to just let you live there for the "experience" of being a landlord... not.  

This original post from Mark was a year ago, so I'm wondering how it turned out.

I've been paid "off the waterfall" as it's sometimes called, and by "paid" I mean a different, expletive word. 

Not for animation, because that's mostly new territory for me, but for other art and design related fields. Just wanted to throw my snarl into the mix as well. Anything to help warn others who may be considering taking an offer like that.

Now I don't do anything without a written agreement that I'll be paid, unless it's a favor for a friend, an opportunity to network and gain experience, or a project that I feel an emotional connection to and just want to be a part of. Sometimes it's worth it to trade skill for skill too. I'll animate for your project if you'll light and film mine, kind of thing. One time I worked in exchange for an old camcorder just because the work was fun, and I needed something to get started filming and animating things. Even though it probably wasn't worth much, it was still worth a lot to me, and definitely better than nothing at all.

Outside of those sort of arrangements, even if a client can't pay you now, they should at least agree to pay you in small amounts over time (regardless of profits made or not made).

Love the landlord analogy! One time I actually upset a distant relative with a similar analogy. They were a carpenter, and asked me to paint a pretty large mural for free. So I said sure! You build me a nice little ranch out in the country for free, and I'll paint that mural for free. Fair? Needless to say, I never painted the mural.

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