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Episode 39 | DON'T DO ME A FAVOUR

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

This episode is sponsored by Magic Monkey Films

Hello and welcome to Film Pro Productivity, the podcast which helps film professionals and other creatives to live a more focused, effective and HAPPY life. My name is Carter Ferguson and this is EPISODE 39 – DON’T… DO ME A FAVOUR


Today I’m going into another in my TELL IT LIKE IT IS series of shows which have proven to be very successful in the past – These are episodes where I talk about a problem which it’s likely we may all have come up against but which out of politeness or awkwardness or some other reason we just don’t discuss. This is one which has bit me in the ass a good few times over the years. Before I get into it though, I am increasingly conscious that I may come across as a moany old git, but I do draw upon my own experiences for these shows, and offer them up in good spirit not in the name of negativity but as signposts of danger, and with the hope that through my failures you will prosper.

Benjamin Franklin said
· Most people RETURN small favours,
· ACKNOWLEDGE medium ones
· and REPAY greater ones

For me this has proven to be one of the greatest TRUTHS of life. Oh yes - today we are talking about FAVOURS.

We all know this of course: a favour is a common thing - the dictionary describes it as: an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual. Synonyms include: a good turn, service, kind act, good deed, act of kindness, kindness, courtesy, indulgence. And let me add that it something that is given with no expectation of return.

Today though, I need to dig deeper than that.

The first thing I want to say is that there’s a MARKETING RULE called the RULE OF RECIPROCITY – which says, “we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided for us.” If someone buys you a birthday gift therefor or invites you to a party, you’d do well to remember to invite them or buy them one in return. This isn’t necessarily because we are inherently good humans, but “by virtue of the reciprocity rule…we feel obligated to the future repayment of favours, gifts, invitations, and the like.” In other words, reciprocity is a deeply-ingrained human behavior. It would appear in fact, that all people, from all societies, practice this rule.

So with a favour these days, comes an unspoken, inference for some people of a return of that favour. In fact we often hear a response of I owe you one, when a favour is received. I just want to raise this here, as this is in fact where some of the muddiness in regard to favours is rooted. That muddiness of favours goes both ways btw.

William Hazlitt said “Our friends are generally ready to do everything for us, except the very thing we wish them to do.” unquote

I first realise that I had a problem with people “doing me a favour” when I was directing my first short film, a 3 part mini-series we called The Rage based on the 28 days later films – The film currently has millions of hits on Youtube incidentally, and voted 5th best fan film in the world by a few years back – so check it out. That all sounds great I know, but it was just a low budget film we did for fun, which people gave their time for free to complete and which we took very seriously.

One day, as a first time director, I was trying to deal with a problem of rain hitting the lens and a moving camera, which looks really bad btw, when an actor friend of mine who was part of a group in front of the camera got rather upset with me – probably for not explaining what the issue was. He pulled me aside and announced to me that he was doing me a FAVOUR in being in the film and he threatened to leave. In order to keep things moving I apologised but I have been kinda reeling from it ever since.

You see that “friend” was doing me NO FAVOURS AT ALL by threatening to abandon the project if I didn’t, in effect, obey him. The whole thing was difficult and even now, 12 years on, I never forgot it.

This wasn’t the last time that someone let me down very badly as they were “doing me a favour” though. Another actor on another job didn’t realise, somehow, that he was being paid to act in one of my films. He turned up 2 hours late and put the whole days shooting in jeopardy. In his mind it just wasn’t important and he was just “helping me out”. It was a big disappointment which nearly resulted in me playing his part as we got that close to the edge there something had to be done.

I’ve realised through happenings like this that I needed to introduce rules to protect myself in future. I’m going to share these rules with you today. Do with them as you will.

The FIRST OF THESE RULES was based on the experiences I just described – It is …NEVER LET ANYONE ON BOARD WHO THINKS THAT THEY ARE JUST DOING YOU A FAVOUR, as in my experience they will let you down, and when that happens - they will be doing you no favour at all.

Regular listeners will know that as a result of many very disappointing experiences in film making such as this, I have currently given up on making films, but for arguments sake: If someone wanted to come on to one of my projects, whether a low to no budget or a commercial endeavour with fees attached, they have to do so because they genuinely want to be involved, because it interests them or because it benefits them in some way. I no longer let anyone on board if they are “doing me a favour”. If you do this, you are introducing a chaotic uncontrollable element to the production which could cause you an immense amount of trouble in the long run.

Things like this - as I never did have much of a budget - just made the whole thing even more difficult. Incidentally I never use the FOR EXPOSURE argument when making films and I always played fair on low budget films. I poured my money, time and energy into them, ensured that cast and crew were treated well and I never walked away with anything more than those that took part. I also assumed the position of the rule of reciprocity and time and time and time again in return, I helped those that had helped me.

As an aside, I recently had to drop out of a low to no budget endeavour in which I had committed my time, energy and resources, including significant finance before discovering that the project leader was receiving fees when no one else was. I got absolutely scammed beyond belief on that one and I will be talking about scams in a future show, but please please please be careful out there and never assume that you are being treated fairly. This was yet another boot in the balls which led to my getting out of filmmaking. I honestly tell these stores on the show here and think, people must think me a total idiot, well, maybe I am, but this world that we live in is a damned dangerous place, even for the wary.

On the flip side btw I have also learned that when I am “doing someone a favour” a real favour not a fake favour, is not a contract for future return of favour.

As I said before a favour is “something that is given with no expectation of return.“

If I ever do a favour for someone, I’ll first ensure that

  1. I can actually deliver it, and

  2. if not I’ll utilise that powerful productivity technique I detailed in episode 2 - by saying NO - and

  3. I’ll suggest alternatives.

If, however, I do help someone out I’ll do so without expectation of any favour in return.

I suppose I learned this one the hard way too – I noticed that it’s particularly prevalent if I do a film or TV production a FAVOUR by reducing my rates. I can’t recall a time where reducing my rates, or lending equipment or props has ever led to a proper wage somewhere down the line, or a return of that favour later. It’s in this form of kindness that I’ve been kinda burned many times in the past.

I once lent swords to the Brunton Theatre for their Christmas pantomime. When the show ended its run though, they didn’t return them to me. I chased them down and they eventually did drop them back, about 6 weeks later - with one of them broken beyond repair. That’s how my favour of lending swords rather than renting them was replaced.

A feature film I was second unit director on in Glasgow did something similar. I lent their art department a cracking blunted butchers knife prop, and a US ARMY ID pass straight from the set of the 28 weeks later feature film with a value of over £200. I never saw them again. That’s how that favour was returned.

I lent a prop pistol to the ORAN MOR, a theatre in Glasgow for a show. That was about 6 years ago. They repaid that favour by losing it and never paying me for its loss. I chased down the director and they said I’m sorry it’s gone. Not even an offer of repayment. Like so many losses over the years, usually in padding that I have bought for actors in productions, I wrote the loss off. I in effect bankrolled their unprofessional-ism and they likely went off to fuck up someone else’s good will.

If I list any more examples or list the number of freebies I’ve done for companies that later turned out to have budgets etc you will think me a an even bigger idiot than before - a kind idiot, but an idiot nonetheless – and you would be 100% correct. For years I was that idiot, but not so now.

So to reiterate THE SECOND RULE I now have about all this is an important one that DOING SOMEONE A FAVOUR IS NOT A CONTRACT FOR FUTURE RETURN ON FAVOUR. It’s also not a guarantee of any kind of future re-employment if you give someone a special deal on a freelancer daily rate etc or of return of respect. If you get your head into this space – you are setting yourself up for future disappointment.


I think sometimes we can get a little confused in the creative industries and lose sight of the fact that show business is still a business. There are just too many unscrupulous people out there that will take advantage of us if we do not.

To sum all this up, you must never do anyone a favour with the expectation of gaining something in return, or doing the favour without your true commitment to it in the first place.

A favour is just a favour– it does not legally create a debt of anything owed back to you in some way in return – or that you can later call upon to redeem. It’s just not a contract for future return of favour so don’t put any of your heart into it either as you will all too often be disappointed and that is bad for the soul.

Bryant McGill says that “Giving is the master key to success, in all applications of human life.”

So keep on giving back and helping others. This is not an order to deny kindness, or dismiss compassion, or even to avoid risk - far from it.

“Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin unquote

With that said though, I hope that my 3 rules will be helpful to you as you navigate your life and work. These are just my rules, but you may find them helpful.

  • Never let anyone on board who thinks that they are just doing you a favour.

  • Doing someone a favour is not a contract for future return on favour.

  • If I ever lend something, that an individual – an actual responsible human being - must sign for it, acknowledge its value and guarantee to take care of it or pay for it if it gets broken.

Call To Action

Your call to action today is simply to consider what I’ve been talking about and take it forward into your life. Can you remember a time when one or all of these things have happened to you? Make a deal with yourself not to let it happen again.


I think as freelancers, creatives or just as human beings we often you do favours for people out of desperation – perhaps to be liked more or to be part of “the in crowd” or because we are desperate to make the best impression or to feel more wanted or appreciated.

I did this episode as I felt this to be an oft abused kindness which affects us all and I hope it’s been an interesting episode for you. Helping others is good for the soul, and is one of the 5 a day for good mental health that I keep mentioning here. Look back to episode 4 for information about that one.

Now big news here for all of your regular listeners. Over the next three weeks I’m releasing a special SERIES WITHIN THE SERIES of 6 connected episodes which will be released at 7pm on two consecutive nights SUNDAY AND MONDAY each week. In these shows I’ll be looking at NAPOLEON HILL’S book THE LAW OF SUCCESS IN 16 LESSONS and I will be giving you some of the most incredible advice on the topic of success that you will ever hear. As always it’s being delivered to you completely free so if you aren’t tuning in and listening then you are going to be missing out big time.

As you know I try to make the shows accessible to all but this mini series in particular will be accessible to anyone from any walk of life so - if there’s a time to tell your friends to listen in IT’S NOW. If you want to know the secret of success, true success, not some made up fake sales programme about success, then the 3 hours of content that I will be releasing in those 6 episodes will lead you right there.

And when that series within the series finishes I will be releasing the mail bag or listeners questions show which I’ve been talking about in four weeks time - so if you want advice with a productivity problem, or would like to get a tell it like it is type response on some relevant topic, please get in touch via the contact pages on the Film Pro Productivity website as soon as you can. Please also try out the speak pipe voice recorder on the websites contact page where if you can ask the question in 45 seconds, you can leave a voice message. It had been so long since I got a message through it that I checked last week that it was still working. It does work, and I’d love to hear from you on it. You can just access it through your phone, it’s dead easy. Surf via your phones browser to the websites contact page which is something like and hit Start Recording on the orange speakpipe button and you are off. If you don’t like it you can try again before sending.

Finally thanks again to Ryan at Magic Monkey Films, he’s a magic guy and an awesome filmmaker and the sponsorship is greatly appreciated. There are still two episodes seeking sponsors this season so get in touch if you want to help.

For now though please - take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’, and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.

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