At this time of year, we get swamped with emails and walk-ins from students who want to interview us for projects, make documentaries and other films, use us as a location for photo shoots etc.
Sadly, we do not have the time to accommodate most of these requests as they take up time, energy and space – whilst not really meeting our aims in any major way.
Many of the requests we get are from people who we do not know, and are worded in a way which says, in perhaps different words ‘Hello, please let me have something for free’. This can be space, our time or using the Art House as a backdrop for creative work.
Now, this isn’t really a great offer from our perspective – I mean, we are nice folks and all that, but we gotz little time, bills to pay and aims to meet, innit.
We do love to say yes, though, if we can – and sometimes we do. It occurred to me that it might be worth sharing what makes us say ‘yes’ 🙂
If the person asking:
Is a member of our volunteer crew, or
Is a regular supporter of our venue with whom we already have a relationship, or
Can offer us something of value in return – for instance a promotional video or photos that we actually want!
……then a ‘yes’ is quite likely. If somebody has supported or is willing to support us, then that works well for them and us.
It is somewhat disheartening to notice that third year students approach us, offering nothing in return for our time, space and energy.
To be fair – it must be equally disheartening to be on the other end of the exchange, with many of the people you approach saying ‘nope’ whilst your coursework deadline looms.
I would give students this advice:-
1) Ask somebody you know first, you are more likely to get a ‘yes’! If we recognise the name of the person asking as somebody who has been to lots of our events, comes in regularly and interacts with us on social media, we’re likely to up for helping them.
2) If you are asking a stranger, then on your first approach offer something rather than ask for something – and offer in a way which recognises the needs of the place you are approaching. Many of the requests we get come over as quite one-sided.
3) Watch the tone of your offer, too – ‘I am going to do this for you’ can come across as arrogant, if not worded well. Be helpful: ‘I am doing a project for Uni and wondered if there were any films, written articles or photos I could do for you, free of charge, to support or promote your business’ is far more likely to get a positive response than ‘I want to film in your venue for free and this is my angle’ or ‘please give me an hour of your time for an interview, unpaid’.
4) Venues can spot a bulk email you have sent to everyone. Personalise. Tell the venue or person why you would particularly like to work with them. Spend some time at the venue before you approach. Get to know them.
5) If you make the project public and promote it to an audience, it is going to be of more value to the venue. A private article nobody ever reads or a film only your classmates & lecturer see isn’t much use to a venue! At the very least, offer to send your finished product to the venue to use as they wish. And follow through on this promise (yes, we DO mean you, all those people who didn’t!).
6) Treat the person you approach like a potential client, not as somebody who is there to do you a favour. Send examples of your work and specifics on what you can offer, exactly how much time and space they will need to give you, and be super flexible on this. Ask them what THEY need. When you have real life clients, you are going to have to get good at this, so may as well practice!
7) Give people plenty of notice. Small business people & their staff are often very busy and are not going to be able to drop everything to accommodate you. Saying you want an interview this week or to come in tomorrow to film isn’t going to work with many places.
Sometimes it can be hard to see things from the other side, I know when I was a student I didn’t realise the importance of offering value when asking for a favour. It is my feeling that learning this lesson early can help make life a lot smoother and getting what one wants much more likely!
We wish all of our students chums the very best as you head into the final stretch of your year – don’t forget to pop in for cake and say ‘hi’, even if you don’t want to film here 🙂