The artistic way of life is not a simple or easy path (then again, is any path simple these days?). There is a case to be made that the only people in artistic fields regularly being able to make anything are ones that don't actually have to make a living at it (i.e. independently wealthy or trust fund folks).
Indie filmmaking is no different. The exploitation which goes on in this business is rampant because there is always someone else out there who will do the work you've trained for and bring years of experience to...for free. I have had this happen to me more than a few times - I get approached to do a job, they're excited, I give them a whole design and pitch, they're impressed...and they still ask me to do the work for free or they then find someone else who will do it for literally nothing.
That sounds more bitter than I mean it to be. This is just an observable fact of the current landscape and it will probably continue to be for the foreseeable future.
But my advice is this: whoever ends up working with you or for you - pay them something...even if it is very little...just pay them.
Yes, I know we are all low/no-budget filmmaking hounds. Who has money to spend? But our relatively new philosophy at Diamond in the Rough Films is that when we engage crew on one of our projects, we pay them something. That means a real check (cash works too) and not a few crusty slices of Domino's pizza. From the actors to the production assistants. If we can't do that then not only are we unprepared to go into production, we are helping to perpetuate a system of exploitation which hurts all of us.
Whenever I have someone who insists on working for me for free after I have approached them, I turn them down because here is a little secret I have learned - most folks who want to work for you for free do so because it gives them an "out" in case they balk at long hours or tough shooting conditions. It allows them to not feel guilty at forcing you to work around their schedule, being late to the set, doing a half-ass job, or insisting on their way to shoot or edit a scene instead of helping you to realize your vision. Paying someone recognizes them as a professional and it subconsciously puts them on notice that they have been truly hired by you to do a job. They will perform better and appreciate it more.
Now what if you are the writer/producer/director/everything else...should you pay yourself? Absolutely yes even if it isn't actual money before production starts. Pay yourself on paper as an IOU. Keep track of all the hours you put into the film (get ready to astonish yourself) and what dollar amount it was all worth. Then pay yourself when you make that Netflix/Amazon deal. At the very least it will help you when you are pricing future projects for future clients and you will see where the majority of your time is spent.
So please...even if it is $15/day...pay your indie filmmaking crew. Pay them something. It's long past time to stop this madness.