The Creator's Life #2: Cameron Stewart on working for free

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Yesterday Batman artist Cameron Stewart tweeted about a particularly awful “job” offer; we put job in scare quotes because “job” usually implies something you get paid for.

I just got offered a job drawing a comic for a national TV show, promoting the Avengers, for the princely sum of ZERO DOLLARS #wowsignmeup

“We can promote your work though!” Said the producer.

After refusing the job and being asked to recommend someone else, I wrote a polite-but-firm reply explaining why it’s an insulting offer.

@Ivan_Marcondes Having my name flashed onscreen for 2 seconds at the end of a celebrity interview for the Avengers won’t do anything for me

@Ivan_Marcondes The way to honour someone’s work is to PAY THEM FOR IT

The joke is, in order for seconds of TV “exposure” to be useful, I’d have to make something REALLY exceptional, which would take time

If I just hacked it out because it was a free job, then it would look like a cheap hack job and so tv exposure is useless.


Exposure! The best payment of all.

We all know this kind of thing is rampant, but when artists of Stewart’s calibre are being asked to draw for free, a feeling of gloom sets in.

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    When Ellison says “pay the writer”, just sub in “Pay the artist”:

    http://youtu.be/mj5IV23g-fE

  2. Johnny Memeonic says:

    So I take it everyone here is going to say “pay the writer/artist” the next time piracy advocates start talking about obscurity being worse than no pay?

  3. MBunge says:

    “So I take it everyone here is going to say “pay the writer/artist” the next time piracy advocates start talking about obscurity being worse than no pay?”

    Say goodnight, folks! No reason for anyone else to chime in.

    Mike

  4. Funny, how a national TV show can’t afford to pay an artist, while I’ve been paying the artist for my comic since issue #1. Chances are they have more money at hand than me.

  5. Yeesh. That ain’t right.

    Quick question, though–where is that Catwoman page from?

  6. Kid Kyoto says:

    Wait. What?

    they don’t have any comics featuring the Avengers already?

  7. James Van Hise says:

    There are few people cheaper than television producers. Dick Clark has received a lot of accolades since his death but some can’t help but mention that he tried to pay as little as possible to anyone who worked for him, although I don’t think even he tried to get anyone to work for free. About 20 years ago I knew someone who did some technical work for Star Trek The Next Generation and Paramount tried to stiff him by claiming that the episode he worked on went “over budget”, something he had nothing to do with. He had to fight with Paramount to get them to honor their contract with him!

  8. I will never do work for free unless it is a charity. If it happens to be commercial work, the rates increase.

    Why would anyone even think of doing this…and the balls on them to dismiss his life worth of training.

    Unless we make a stand as artists, we will forever have people dismissing what we do for a living.

    Good for Cameron.

  9. Glenn Simpson says:

    To be fair, having someone give something to the show in return for promotional consideration is a pretty standard thing. It just doesn’t work in this particular case.

    If they contacted Marvel and had Marvel give them the artwork in return for posting Marvel’s web site at the end of the interview, that might be more normal.

  10. Right on.
    Any corporation should be told where to stick it for promising “exposure” as payment to a creative type.

    I’ve done comics work without upfront pay, knowing that I could sell copies of the book and make money that way; I’ve written comics scripts for charity projects without expecting paychecks, because it’s good karma.

    But doing pro bono work for a multimillion-dollar corporation that profits off my work? No thanks.

  11. Scratchie says:

    Sheesh, how degrading. They’re treating him like he’s a MUSICIAN!

  12. Turkish says:

    He should do it. Nobody knows who he is, and national television exposure will only drive up sales of his comic book work because people that watch tv want nothing more than to read comics, if only they knew the names of the people that work on them and that comics still exist. (Sarcasm was easy to find in this case.)

    In fairness, the tv show probably can’t pay him. It was probably some P.A.’s idea, and they said, “Sounds great! Make it happen but don’t spend any money.” That’s exactly what I would hear whenever I tried to do promotions at my previous job. “Great idea! As long as you don’t spend any company money and work on it outside of work hours, we’re happy to do it!” And that’s a fair assessment as well because I think most things find their audience very quickly these days. Promotion is almost preaching to the choir at this point. I’m surprised companies still pay for television commercials and airtime. Who even watches tv anymore that has yet to receive an AARP invitation?

  13. Amie Brockway-Metcalf says:

    Always, but always, refer to this chart:

    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

  14. horatio weisfeld says:

    Am I getting this story right:

    An artist refused an offer (of peonage) from Disney/Marvel/Avengers — and then was retaliated against (AKA: fired) by Warner/DC … ??

  15. Cameron Stewart says:

    I made an effort to explain in my email that I wasn’t *angry* at the producer, I told her that I understood that she was just doing her job, but I had to explain to her why she was likely to find resistance from most illustrators to this terrible offer. 3 pages, full colour, with celebrity likenesses, wouldh take days to do, to be done well, and that amount of effort just would not be worth 3 seconds of my name onscreen.

    She then said that no one gets paid to be on the show, not even someone like Justin Bieber – and I had to explain the difference between me and the Biebs is that he’s being paid by the record company and is coming on the show to promote work that’s already completed, whereas she was not going to pay me anything to create new artwork specifically for the show.

    Anyway we resolved it amicably – I think she understood my stance and I told her I’d be happy to work for her in future on a “mutually-beneficial” project.

    I’ll probably never hear from her again.

  16. Cameron Stewart says:

    @horatio weisfield – no, that’s not what happened at all. I was contacted by a large national tv station (in Canada at least) to do a comic for one of their shows, who would be hosting a couple of the cast of the Avengers for an interview. They wanted to have the cast in the comic, which would be shown onscreen and then given to someone in the audience I think. Disney or Marvel had nothing to do with it, save for the segment being essentially an ad for The Avengers.

  17. Christian says:

    Where is that piece from above? It’s AWESOME.

  18. Comics creators tend to have low self-esteem. I mean, holycrap, if the kid flippin’ burgers is getting paid SOMETHING, shouldn’t YOU?

    (I mused on a bunch of freelance horror stories of my own — including free work — on our blog awhile ago: http://shadowbinders.com/2012/01/11/marketing-webcomics-free-advice-part-1/ )

  19. Even when working for pro-bono clients such as charities, i always send them an invoice at the end with the rate of what the job would have been billed for, and then a zero balance due. its helpful for your book keeping and theirs, but it helps to reinforce the idea that what you do has actual value, even if you choose to not charege for it.

    btw…celebrities are required per their giant contracts to do a media tour in ADDITION to being in the movie. No one is promoting those movies for free.

  20. RegularSyzedMike says:

    This is similar to what happens in the graphic design world. I think visual art in general is under appreciated in the business world. They see it as just doodles or magic shapes that a computer program makes on its own. I don’t know why this is but that has been my experience in my limited time trying to break into the graphic design world.

    Artists of all types really need to value themselves and their abilities. If you’re worth a damn then someone out there is willing to pay for your work!

  21. Matthew Southworth says:

    @joey–that’s a smart policy, I’m going to adopt that plan.

    And good for you, Cameron–and I’m glad this is getting some attention.

  22. This sums it up pretty well.

    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

  23. >> She then said that no one gets paid to be on the show, not even someone like Justin Bieber >>

    And if they were having you on the show, like the Bieb, you’d probably do that for free.

    But that’s not what they wanted; they wanted to have your work on the show, and more, they wanted it to be new and unique work. Would Justin Bieber write them a new song for free?

  24. This is easily four-fifths of the posts at the DigitalWebbing forums. Exposure and a possible backend are. Not. Jobs.

    But extra shame on that producer for assuming that a professional (and astounding!) comic book artist would be rinky-dink enough to jump at that wonderful “offer”. Is he selling bridges too?

  25. horatio weisfeld says:

    Am I getting this story right:

    An artist refused an offer (of peonage) from Disney/Marvel/Avengers — and then was retaliated against (AKA: fired) by Warner/DC … ??

    >>

    @horatio weisfield – no, that’s not what happened at all. I was contacted by a large national tv station (in Canada at least) to do a comic for one of their shows, who would be hosting a couple of the cast of the Avengers for an interview.

    >>

    Ok. I get it now. I think, at one point early on Heidi had the links crossed w/ Chris Roberson thing (did someone comment to that effect?) so I was reading both as one story? – otherwise wise: I am sometimes known for being damn stupid. .. all of these big huge companies should not necessarily be viewed as one big common interest.

    I think it’s been shown that there are still (at least) four separate interests out there in global media.

  26. horatio weisfeld says:

    Cameron Stewart: Also — thanks so much for stepping up to the plate with all this. You have guts.

    I’ve always paid everybody for everything I’ve ever asked them to work on and I always will.

    And all you reps of from big corporation who ask freelancers to do work for free:

    YOU are a disgrace. If you have no budget then you are less than nothing! You do not exist. Do not kid yourself into some fantasy of existence. There has been no math invented which can explain the nothing of which you are! You should not have a job annoying people who actually know how to do real work and real jobs. You should stay at home, hiding, in your dark room- because if you come out into the sun.. the blinding rays of decency will burn you down down to maggot laced rot. If you get fired and you can’t find another job -you should not turn to prostitution because hard working hookers don’t want putrid, crawling slime like you fouling up the air in their midst any more than creative people do…& please do come around my house neither.

  27. People think that artists are flaky and desperate, so they will always try to get over on us.

    However, sadly there are artists who think exposure is just as good as getting paid, so the companies will continue to make their offer until they get someone to accept it.

  28. horatio weisfeld says:

    However, sadly there are artists who think exposure is just as good as getting paid, so the companies will continue to make their offer until they get someone to accept it.

    >>

    Unions used to worry about their members wages being undercut by poor, non-union workers, now it seems highly talented professionals have to worry about a generation of recently graduated, wealthy, second raters working for free.

    Here in NY, I notice that the business model for the “fine art” world seems more and more to make money by charging the art to exhibit their work – and less and less to make money from actually selling an artist’s work. And when I look closely at many of these “artists” they seem more and more people of wealth who have never had any sort of real success with art (or ever seriously pursued it, for that matter) but who like the idea of being promoted and branded as “an artist” and are willing to pay (quite well) for the privilege.

    Regarding both the people willing to work for nothing and those willing to spend merely to be seen:

    There has long been a school of conservative thinking that worries about standards being debauched by the imposition of “equalitarian” standards – where in fact, I see a culture being
    diminish by a small army of wealthy mediocrity masquerading as our new elite.

  29. That’s sad. Was it Richard Bey?

  30. Encore un merci pour ton blog.

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