A conversation on spec

Posted on Jan 4, 2011 in Thoughts

After writing my last post, I still wasn’t committed to removing myself from the Nokia Direct and Project competition, or making a film on spec to educate those in attendance at the gala. I spoke with a three different colleagues, Mark Busse, Todd Smith, and Shawn Hight on the matter. Below is a copy of the email conversation that I had with Mark, which only solidified my beliefs, and furthered my beliefs that more needs to be done to educate people about this ill practice.

On 2011-01-01, at 12:45 PM, Amanda Healey wrote:

I was contacted by Nokia mid December to enter a 30 person competition to make a film about anything with their new N8 phone that they would supply. I signed myself up thinking it was a great opportunity to have a video camera over the holidays and figured I could whip something up on my return. Thinking about it more and more over the holidays, I realized it was the regular old spec work nipping at my knees again. In design, it’s a no brainer, don’t do it. And there’s an organization to back me up on that (the GDC). But it seems in the film industry, where I’m getting more involved, spec work is perfectly normal and everyone does it to get a job.

I wrote a blog post about it here: http://amandahealey.ca/spec-work-in-different-industries/ and as I was writing this blog post, I was like shoot, I’m doing spec, it’s apparently ok in film, but not in design, who am I? what do I do? I think I could enjoy the best of both worlds and combine everything that I am (because that’s who I am) and make a film on spec work. Is that just combining the worst of everything and really not hitting the target for either, or is it a good idea? Should I just throw it back at Nokia and tell them I don’t want to do it? Or do I take the opportunity to educate possibly everyone that may attend the VAG party where all the submissions will be screened? I know you’re a busy man, but I also know you’ve always got an opinion on everything. 😀 Mind sharing it with me on this issue?


On 2011-01-01, at 5:04 PM, Mark Busse wrote:

There’s a phrase that comes to mind: “To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above your principles.” You could substitute “politics” for “design” or even “your career” I suppose.

I don’t know any of the details about this situation, and there are always some scenarios that are better structured (ethically) than others, but no matter what, spec is spec.
When I look back at my own career, there have been times I’ve done creative work without being paid, but there’s always been something other than “it’s a good opportunity for exposure” or “if we like yours, we’ll use it and pay you”.

In fact, the single mist rewarding aspect about being a creative professional is when people put their trust in you. That is far better than being paid frankly.
So what is my advice? I have none. You know your situation and what this opportunity represents for you. You also know the risk and consequences.
We reach deep inside the dark, wet mush of our souls and pull out creative brilliance, but at least we get paid. We’re basically creative whores.
Engage in spec and we’re nothing more than sluts. And where does it end? Do we do it *sometimes* to get a keg up, and then just declare we don’t do it once we have momentum?

Does this rambling help?

On 2011-01-03, at 10:58 AM, Mark Busse wrote:

Was this at all helpful? Or did I just muddy the waters further?

Let me know where you landed on this.


On 2011-01-03, at 12:39 PM, Amanda Healey wrote:

Yes, super helpful. I guess when I looked a little deeper I knew it was ridiculous if I participated no matter what direction I took the project.

I also emailed Todd Smith and he suggested declining but attending the gala party where all of the submissions would be screened and getting sound bites from the contestants regarding spec and if they fully realized what they were giving up.

Thanks for the rambling, it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of another human being that has similar values and isn’t afraid to speak to them. There’s way too many polite and quiet ones that never do.


1 Comment

  1. Gagan
    January 4, 2011

    Hi Amanda:

    Very interesting goings-ons, and besides the no-spec stand, I am proud of you for two things:

    1 – Taking a stand. No matter what the issue, more people should think and choose, and find their position on the matter. It’s shows engagement and intelligence. If we don’t we could end up with people like Sarah Palin as presidential neighbors.

    2- On a geek note, keeping a blog alive. I am guilty of killing ’em and it’s inspiring to see someone use their blog to create discussion and expose their thinking.




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