1001 Black Men–#362

At the Hollywood production designers panel–which, incidentally, including the man who was the production designer for the original Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno, and the Poseidon Adventure–almost all of the audience questions were from artists and designers hoping to move up in this field. This guy in this picture almost didn’t get a chance to ask his question (about how he can get a foot in the door in the production design business) because the man in front of him took up a lot of time with the one question that wasn’t about how to break into the field. He was looking for advice on the appropriate response to an incident involving his employer and his union. The incident was quite detailed and it took him a long time to recount it for the panelists, none of whom seemed to know what to say in response.

When the man in my drawing finally got to ask about the best way to get work in the field, the panelists gave an answer that I’d also heard from the presenters at the costume design panel and at a previous year’s Black panel. They advised aspiring production designers to start out by working for free. For several of the production and costume designers I  heard speaking on this year’s panels, working for free was how they first attracted paying jobs. I have to say that I am always intrigued by this answer, no matter how many times I hear it. Something about this response feels wonderfully subversive in that it suggests alternative forms of remuneration…like experience, word-of-mouth street cred, and visibility. Very cool!

Ajuan Mance

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