Saturday, April 04, 2009

Please, allow me to contradict myself.

A few months ago, I was questioning some panelist's advice to "work for free" to advance your career. Too much free camera work or editing would devalue the services offered by camera ops and editors.

Except I really wanted to attend the SCAN NATOA conference in Santa Monica, coming up in May. I have a few videos entered into the competition and I'm also interested in being seen by some SoCal stations (in case I need to move to Los Angeles for career advancement).

The City isn't funding conference attendance this year, due to budget cuts. The only way to attend the conference for free is to be a speaker. So I sent a cold-call email to one of the organizers and sold myself as being knowledgeable on the subject of online video distribution. During the past month, I've been setting up the official SFGTV pages on YouTube for our different TV series. I had to make a plan for distribution, learn page layout settings and spend hours and hours comparing the look of compressed video on YouTube. I've been putting my own videos on YouTube for two years, but the standards have recently changed and the old settings aren't the best choice anymore. In addition to YouTube, I've also been comparing other online video sharing sites. Some of them have special features that would work well for educational and How-To programming. Some of them have no special draw, except that they rank well in Google search results.

By speaking at the panel in exchange for free admission, I've decided to do some free labor to bootstrap myself professionally.

And then I did it again.

The San Francisco MusicTech conference is also happening in May. The topics are interesting to me, but not $300 worth of interesting. They don't directly relate to my career, except that these events often help as sideways advice six months from now. So again I made the cold-call email to the organizer. This time I offered to crew the video production in exchange for admission. From last year's videos, it looked they could use an extra hand. And again, my offer worked.

I'm working for free and devaluing the TV production business.

I guess you could look at it that way. I'm thinking about it as being paid in terms of education and exposure. Basically, the same things I was skeptical about last time. The difference for me is that I'm doing it on another level. If I did straight labor for free, then yes, I'd be ripping myself off at this point in my career. But I'm moving past straight labor. I'm entering knowledge worker territory. Look out!