When should you walk away from a projectOct 05, 2020
It's a tough decision but let's get the safety aspect out of the way.
If they are not being safe and they are wanting things to be done or performed in a way that puts you or others at harm then you should not be in that project. Ultimately we all make the decisions if we think we can do a stunt or not and we are ultimately the final ones to decide if the safety protocol has been met. If you are not sure then don't do it and put more measures in place.
Make sure that the action is right for you. Just because someone else can do something doesn't mean you can also do it.
I have a set of three criteria to decide to be in a project or not.
1 - Money - If I am being offered so much money that I can put up with a few issues then I take the job but then I make it as safe as possible or distance myself from those on set that I may not want to be associated with. You know the ones to avoid if you have been in this game long enough. Watch the ones who talk about others to you because you know they talk about you to others and they are not the people you want to be associated with. It's ok to not want to work with someone even if the money is great, you need personal rules to keep your integrity.
2 - Great Cast and Crew - Sometimes a project doesn't have the money that you normally get paid or any at all. This is ok, it happens, but you must know that if your costs and time aren't being covered then it is costing you money and you are subsidising someone elses dream. This happens but I only do these kinds of projects if there is a great cast and crew that I have previously worked with or there is someone on set that I would like to work with. If they have a big name or reputation then you may want to be involved as association of working on a great project can elevate you up the ladder to film success.
3 - Creative Control - This is a big one for me. Let's assume that there isn't much money and that the cast and crew aren't stand outs that can propel your career forward, then having the ability to create something great is a winner.
If you get creative control to make something from your vision then that is a rare opportunity and I think it is always good to take that chance. It does require time and effort and rehearsals with the camera and cast. If they don't want to put in the effort to help your vision come out then you may want to walk away as you will be pushing up hill and battling egos and I can just about guarantee that all of the set time will be burnt up on drama and shot after shot that will never make the final cut and the action will be crammed into an hour or so as that is all that is left on set.
When action becomes an after thought and you are expected to make magic but your wings are clipped then you will harm your career. Why?
You can't put a graphic on the movie and have a winge (complain) and explain what happened. You will be judged on the final result and no one cares about your reasons as to why your vision has fallen short and that is what people will think you are capable of.
To quote Richard Norton, from a seminar we ran in our studios many years ago - "good action takes just as long as bad action", so make sure you get the time.
These are my reasons that I may walk away from a project. You may have your own but you need to make it clear to the producer as to why you are thinking of leaving the project and they may be able to work something out with you so that everyone is happy.
I always make it clear in the beginning when I take on a job why I am doing it and if things change or if it starts to fall apart and you have that awkward conversation then they know from the very beginning why you wanted to work on their project in the first place. Be kind, be polite and be respectful.
It's ok to remove yourself from a project but you need to do it with poise and respect, this way you won't be burning your bridges and your reputation stays intact.
It takes years to build a reputation but seconds to destroy it and you are a product that is being bought and sold.
We hope this helps you to pick the right gigs and know what you are getting into and how to get out of a sinking ship.
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