Free work, a necessary evil…


Free Work, a necessary evil…

Chances are if you work in a creative field, every once in awhile a friend or colleague may ask for your creative services as a freebee. Lots of people in the post industry get angry when asked this and for good reason. It seems like people think creative professionals are some how different from your family dentist. They went to school, earned a degree in their field and practice their skill professionally. Would you ask your dentist friend to come over and clean your teeth?

I actually accept lots of free work and side projects as a post production professional, but I make sure I get something out of it. Maybe I wont get money, but I may use the project to learn new technique, train myself new software programs or just to keep the skills sharp between projects. Picture Editors on the A.C.E. board have said they have even edited feature length documentaries free of charge for friends.

I use every free project offered to me, as it’s own college course. Here is a short list of things I learned cutting free work:

  • 4K Red Online/ Offline
  • Panasonic P2 Card Workflows
  • XD Cam Workflows
  • Final Cut Pro Studio
  • Apple “Color”
  • Avid Script Sync

I strongly suggest students and beginners in the post production field to take on free work. It will immensely help your post production career if used in the right manner. I started editing weddings for free around town and I still use some of that knowledge I learned from that experience in my everyday life editing documentaries, features and broadcast television.

Below is a quick look at the next “freebee” edit I’ll be working on:

Kept (2009), short film

Director/Writer: Travis Legge

DP/ Animator: Tim Stotz

Editor on/off line, Sound Mix: Robert J. Williams, myself


Samantha and Derek try to make their way to a government outpost during a zombie outbreak. On an empty stretch of country road, the young couple encounters a man having car troubles.  Stopping to help, they soon discover that zombies are not the only monsters stalking the night.

Production Stills:



My Payoff:

– Working and collaborating with two local creative professionals that I may be able to get work from in the future.

– Practice in the art of cutting for suspense and horror.

– Experimentation with the Sony EX-1 footage workflow

– Practice using Apple Color to create a unique and stylized color grading strategy for a Horror Project

– Best of all, a chance to have my work shown at Cannes as a part of the “Nation Undead” short compilation project.

-IMDB Credit in the editorial field.

A lot of editorial students I come across strongly believe that once they are done with film school they will some how become rich and famous editing. For the ones who believe this, go down to your local grocery store. Then ask a random person who Steven Spielberg is, once they answer ask them who Steven Spielberg’s film editor is.



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3 responses to “Free work, a necessary evil…

  1. editmentor

    Then at the next cocktail party, ask how many people realize that Spielberg’s editor is one of the only editors in Hollywood (or most anywhere else) who still physically cuts workprint while editing his latest film… uh… well, it’s a nice factoid. 🙂

    Agreed, editing is not a place for people who want to see their name in lights. And free gigs are indeed some of the most educational – even if it’s about learning to say “no”. Still working on that myself. Great post.

    • rjweditor

      I’m glad you liked the post and yes, saying “no” can be hard. But since this project I have been hired by the director as editor on his first feature getting paid my full editing rate. Starts in June.

  2. editmentor

    Awesome! Congrats!!

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