Oli Back, 27 January 2013

The following is a series of bullet points that generally show how the conversation

went. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed there is a very brief conclusion at the end

which attempts to summarise all of these ideas.

The reason for doing unpaid work: generally you're receiving things other than money

i.e. experience or knowledge etc.

If you're providing a service for a company and doing a good job then maybe you

should get paid.

“Free” and “unpaid” does not mean that the work is bad e.g. amateur work can be


The problem of competition, someone else will always do it. You will always get

undercut by someone who is willing to do it for free.

The problem is that there isn't a level system like in other industries. You can't climb

the ranks like in business.

How do people get by without getting paid? Answer: do a rubbish (different) job that

pays the bills and do what you want in your spare time.

If you want into this industry these are the risks you take. This is what you have to do.

The arts offers attractive work so a lot of people will want to do it. It's over-subscribed;

you have to do it for the love of it.

Often it's difficult to even get enough money to earn a living wage.

Perhaps more productions should do a ‘profit-share’ amongst the people involved in

the project.

Interns should negotiate their terms a bit more.

Funding should only be given to companies that pay their workers?

There is a difference between good and bad unpaid work - know the difference.

Perhaps there should be a system that ‘shames’ people who exploit their artists.

Perhaps Equity could help on this?

The people in charge, such as producers, take full responsibility for seeing everyone

gets paid fairly.

It is important that your internship (or whatever volunteer work) gives you a sense of

ownership about what you are doing.

Companies have a responsibility to manage their interns properly.

You (interns and the like) will be treated how you let yourself be treated.

Companies shouldn't have the attitude of ‘get an intern to do it’.

You need to walk away from an internship with something to say for it. Even if it's just

the job title - argue a good job title to put on your CV.

Your voluntary work needs to be a means to an end i.e. I want to work with ‘X’ so I can

get experience in ‘Y’.

Often it's about doing good work rather than bad work for a big name.

Be clear about what and why you are doing the job. You have to be in control. Try and

get your employers to give you some responsibility.

The industry is not a ladder.

Don't expect to work as an actor and then be given a producing role or if you do, make

sure you make that intention clear from the start. Don't let your employers ‘fix’ an

identity of you (unless you want them to).


Unpaid Work. Is it ok? Yes, but you need to be clever about it. If you're not going to

get money what are you getting from the role? Ultimately, what do you want out of this

work? Don't get sucked into a trick.

As we know there isn't a lot of money in the arts so unfortunately unpaid work has to

exist but hopefully this work will lead to good things - a paid job.

If you're offering unpaid work you can't exploit people and make them do the jobs you

don't want to. You need to be helping develop their career in return for their work.


Fair, exploitation, Jobs, Voluntary, fair, Pay, Experience, careers, Exploitation, Unpaid,

work, voluntary, Work, money, pay, jobs, Careers, WORK, internships, Internships,

experience, Money, unpaid

Comments: 2

Chris Grady, 27 January 2013

I hope the model which Colin Blumenau (Artistic Director to July 2012) and his senior management team (me and Lynn

Whitehead, Head of Creative Learning) forged could be useful to other theatres and organisations.

TRAIN - The Theatre Royal Apprentice and Internship Network sought to work with gap year, graduates, and return to

workers in Marketing, Press, Admin, Casting, Front of House, Technical and Creative Learning. Most contracts were as

“voluntary workers” within the charity for 6 months, 3 days a week. Expenses paid but no fees. So 3 days learning what they

wanted to move into allowing 4 days to earn money in bar or live other lives.

Each person was doing real work, learning on the job, and being part of the team. Many have now moved on to paid work in

their field, some are now fully employed in the Theatre Royal in senior levels having worked up the ranks.

It takes time and care. The line manager has to believe in the process of personal development, and understand the level of

delegation which is advisable for each person.

Sadly Colin could not gain the funds we had hoped to extend this into an apprenticeship scheme for paid actors. The

theatre does have paid apprentice roles as a stepping stone in the admin side.

I was delighted to spend 3 years working with some fantastic TRAIN crew members - and some will hopefully get to the top

of the profession, and employ me as I slide down the other side.



Phelim McDermott, 20 February 2013

Here are some great guidelines from Seth Godin around working for free and the changing market.

Woking for free Seth Godin