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One for the Money; One for the Art

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"Do one for them; do one for you. If you can still do projects for yourself, you can keep your soul."

What happens when creators do a project for money or to fulfill a contract so that they'll have the finances and creative freedom to do their artistic dream project.

This can be done indirectly by, for example, an actor or director doing a project for money and then turning around to put the money into an indie film they wanted to do. In this instance, however, the creators still have to deal with all the problems faced by indie film directors. The paycheck is rarely that huge, they have to find a distributor, and they have to hold casting calls.

The funding can also be done directly when, as part of a multi-film contract, a creator agrees to do a commercial project for a studio while the studio, in exchange, agrees to fund the creator's artistic project. This version ends up being far more convenient for the actor/director. First, the studio is frequently willing to fork over more money for this, as they stand to take a share of the box office cut, so even if the artistic film takes a minor loss they're not out that much. Second, with the power of a major studio behind them, the actor/director now has A-list stars on speed dial, and doesn't have to worry about finding a distributor.

Compare Paying Their Dues for when an artist needs to take smaller gigs before they hit the big time. Contrast with Only in It for the Money, in which the work made for making money clearly is not for personal projects. See also Auteur License. This trope is frequently used as a justification by non-American actors to travel across the Atlantic and/or Pacific, as they use the money from Hollywood to finance their ventures in theatre, independent films, and other lower budget yet artistically appealing projects in their native countries.

This isn't necessary a good or bad thing. The "commercialized" work can still achieve immense fame and still be as artistic and quality as the passion project. Can lead to Magnum Opus Dissonance if the project done only for the money is the one that takes flight while the project done for the art never gets off the ground.


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  • John Cleese started appearing in advertisements so he and Connie Booth could afford to work on Fawlty Towers at the pace they wanted.
  • In late 2008, John Lydon appeared in an advertising campaign for Country Life butter on British television. He defended the move by stating that the main reason he accepted the offer was to raise money to reform Public Image Ltd. without a record deal.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America licensed out Davey and Goliath for an appearance in a Mountain Dew commercial in order to acquire funding for the Christmas Special Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas.

    Comic Books 
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis are all writing or have written Marvel Comics titles to raise money for publishing their personal projects. The first three also use Marvel's creator-owned publishing line Icon, while Ellis publishes his personal titles through smaller companies, like Avatar Press.
  • After alienating much of the comic-book industry with his embrace of Objectivism (and losing the rights to many of his most famous creations to DC Comics when they acquired Charlton Comics), Steve Ditko spent the 80s taking low-prestige jobs like drawing for coloring books in order to fund his own Objectivist-themed comics.

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angela Bettis said as much about her involvement in Carrie (2002). The film was planned as a Pilot Movie for a TV series that she hoped would give her the financial security to pursue indie projects like May.
  • Jeff Garlin has said he likes The Goldbergs and is very proud of the show, but that the major appeal of doing the series came from the fact that a mainstream sitcom on a major network gives him the financial security he needs to pursue riskier indie projects in his downtime.
  • Werner Herzog took a role in The Mandalorian so he could use the money to fund another project he wanted to work on. Despite having no prior interest in Star Wars he has stated that he genuinely liked the script and ended up enjoying the role.
  • John Mahoney's primary motivation for playing Martin on Frasier was to earn enough money to be able to afford to perform in the artistic theater productions that were his true love, even financing them from his show earnings if necessary.
  • The profits earned from the merchandising for Sesame Street is distributed to Sesame Workshop and is used to fund the show and other Sesame Workshop projects.
  • Lottie Tolhurst, British actress (who has only been acting since 2015, so a new-ish actor) has this approach to her roles. However, two of her roles, Becky Teller, in the two-part Silent Witness episode "Covenant", which aired in 2017, and Kitty Carter who was in ten episodes of Harlots until Kitty was killed off by Lord Fallon in Season 2. She takes roles such as this both for the paycheck and the artistic value, of which both series have, but is to a degree, open to many roles.

  • Famously inverted by David Bowie. After getting a raw deal on his contract, he spent the next several years producing experimental and highly-acclaimed but not very commercial material (i.e Low, Heroes, and Lodger. When his contract expired, he produced some more mainstream (but again, highly-acclaimed) work for the money (i.e. Let's Dance, Tonight, Never Let Me Down) before ultimately getting dissatisfied and making experimental-oriented music again.
  • Claude Debussy began composing his Etudes for piano as a side project while editing a new edition of Fryderyk Chopin's Etudes commissioned by his publisher, Durand. Debussy's work on the Chopin Etudes included providing editorial fingerings; for his own Etudes, he wrote a preface telling performers that they should figure out their own fingerings.

  • Blank Check is dedicated to examining director filmographies through this lense.

    Video Games 
  • Allegedly, the reason that Aliens: Colonial Marines ended up being poorly received was that Gearbox used the money that they were paid to make the game in order to fund their own properties, including Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Duke Nukem Forever, and only started working on Colonial Marines in earnest after becoming in danger of violating their contract.
  • Suda51 and his company, Grasshopper Studios, will occasionally make quick and cheap licensed games to get some extra money to fund the projects he's truly passionate about, as he knows most of his original work doesn't turn a profit.
  • Treasure agreed to develop McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure for Sega only so that Sega would help them fund the development of Gunstar Heroes. Although Treasure Land Adventure finished development first, Treasure managed to complete Gunstar Heroes quickly enough to release a week ahead of the other game so they could claim Gunstar as their true debut game. It worked out for the best regardless, because both games ended up highly acclaimed titles for the Genesis and put Treasure on the map as a developer.
  • This is WayForward Technologies' way of life. One particularly evident instance of this is making a game based on The Mummy in-between installments of Shantae (one of which was a fan-funded Kickstarter project, no less), which ironically ended up being more well-received than the actual film it was based on.
  • The main reason SCS Software developed games such as Scania Truck Driving Simulator and Extreme Trucker 2 was to help secure funding and industry backing for Euro Truck Simulator 2.
  • Yuji Horii created The Portopia Serial Murder Case to make enough money to fund what would eventually be Dragon Quest.
  • Asobo Studio also follow this as their business model. One half of their studio is dedicated to contract work and kid-friendly licensed games for clients such as Pixar. Their other half is dedicated to more alienating projects such as A Plague Tale: Innocence, or experimental Tech Demo Games for procedural generation technology, as was the case for both Fuel and Microsoft Flight Simulator.
  • CyberConnect2 is an extreme example. Many of their games contracted by Bandai Namco typically take a few years to develop, and when they do have freedom, they use what funding they have left over to create smaller, niche properties. This especially true for their Little Tail Bronx series, with only a few installments to show for it during decades, while still putting out artbooks that develop its setting even further. And with Fuga: Melodies of Steel being their first venture into self-publishing and cutting the need for them to pitch to someone like Bandai Namco, they now have even more opportunities to develop smaller projects. As Fuga creative director Yoann Gueritot once put it:
    Yoann: For those who wonder, the only reason we can make Fuga sequels and donate its sales to charity despite Fuga making no money is because we have no publisher with common sense to tell us we’re crazy.

    Western Animation 


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Robby Kumbazi

"One Feeds the Pocket, the other Feeds the Soul."

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Main / OneForTheMoneyOneForTheArt

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