unpopular opinion but i think the film and tv industries should have better labor laws even if it makes it harder or impossible to depict certain things

i dont care if it makes it harder to produce game of thrones or whatever, acting should not leave women traumatized

Okay I know this is about acting and people are getting more traction about it (sexuality safety coordinators are a job! yell about them. demand your shows get them) but

Any person who has worked on a set for more than a few years has at least one person they know who died.  

Not usually on set, but afterwards.  Because we don’t have anyone shutting down production for unsafe practices when “unsafe” means 16 hour days.  Or more.  For weeks.  Finishing a day before hour 12 (not including lunch) is considered an early leave.

I had teachers tell us not to, unless we absolutely had to, take music video gigs because they’ll work you for 24 hours and send you to drive home.  And if we had to work that, pull over and nap in our car because multiple people per year fall asleep at the wheel and go over the canyons around LA.

I know you mean acting but please.  Don’t forget the crew.  We have a shockingly high rate of suicide because these working schedules leave us with no sleep, no time outside of work, and it destroys lives, relationships, and families.  Burnout is high.  Chronic illness and broken bodies are common.  Cocaine use in order to get through a 20 hour day is rampant.  Every single one of your reality shows is fueled by cocaine.

The number of days that are scheduled to shoot a feature has shrunk dramatically in the past two decades.  Which means longer days.

Netflix shows are notorious for being poorly organized, understaffed, and long days.

There are labor laws but what they do is levy fines.  Those fines are either factored into budget, people are bullied into not reporting actual hours, or crew members see them as incentive to take those jobs because more money and cost of living is high.  (Also this industry has a crew culture of dick measuring by sticking your wang in a blender and boasting about how many 100 hour weeks you pulled.)

this can be applied for people working in animation as well. Like I know people who work at Pixar and they straight up work 12 hour days and go into work on weekends to meet their deadlines. The incredibles 2 made over a billion dollars and Pixar still cut jobs due to “budget”. The entertainment industry is a business at the end of the day. There here to make money and they are going to do it at the expense of workers because they know no one is going to do anything about it.

This is why I get pissy when people have a go about British TV shows only producing 10-12 episodes per season at most, instead of 24. Do you know why? Because the UK has fucking labour laws.

When I worked on BBC Causalty, as soon as it hit 5pm, everything stopped. The producer/director etc would have a quick meeting to decide if we’d go into overtime or schedule it in later in the week. And I got an extra payslip in the mail for every minute of overtime I did, even though I was paid a weekly rate.

I don’t care if it means producing less content. I don’t care if it means it costs twice as much – if treating your creatives and your crew like shit is needed to make your show, then your show doesn’t deserve to get made.

And that’s aside from the fact that actors are often exploited, neglected, coerced into doing scenes they’re uncomfortable with etc or outright abused by directors for the sake of ~performance.

No art is worth that.

This is one of the reasons I quit. On the producing end, at least in indie films, there’s absolutely no way to make your cash stretch far enough to compensate everyone fairly and work sane hours unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars minimum. And even that’s assuming you’re shooting something with minimal actors and locations – no stunts, no trailers, no large equipment, no track to lay down, no difficult lighting setups, no big company moves, just people in a room talking. 

There’s just no other way to do it beyond having those hundreds of thousands. You either push your people so far for so little pay that they genuinely get hurt, or you go so far over budget that no financier will touch you.

My last one in March was budgeted at $50,000 total, for a 12 day shoot, at 12 hour days, 11 pages a day, single location, 12 crew, 6 cast. That was barest of bare minimum budget-wise – everyone was earning less than minimum wage, we had a crew smaller than several of my guys were used to, and they’d have needed to move at an insanely accelerated pace. An indie shoot tends to average 2, 3 pages a day. We’d have needed to shoot 3 times that, every day, no room for a single fuck up anywhere, to make those numbers work.

I tried to be clear about what the rates and hours were; got a lot of nos for that reason. I built in to the production that some people were sleeping on set and nearly everyone else was staying really close by so no one was driving tired, and I made sure to find a couple chefs who would cook kick-ass vegan food on-set as well (and who were trying to break into film, therefore I could afford them). 

But even then – still less than min wage for a hell of a lot of work. Indie crews are amazing – they’re used to pushing hard and improvising amazing shit with whatever they have on hand – but asking those indie crews to work like that feels shitty, every time. 

Everyone on that production was fantastic, absolutely some of the best people I know, but there’s no way in hell we would’ve made it, even if everything had stayed on track and our funding hadn’t fallen through day one. We’re human and what I needed to make all that work was superhuman. 

I’d have had to push them so hard that I’d have hurt them, and the reality of that made it too painful to keep going. 

I was given an offer late last year to make this particular film on that same schedule for half that amount of cash. The offer was made by someone who had the cash on-hand and could’ve given it to me right then. That probably would’ve meant halving the crew and cast in order to make the numbers work. I probably could have found people to do that, too. 

Here’s the thing, though: it’s counter-intuitive but the fewer crew you have, the slower you go. You have more jobs for fewer hands (and if you miss anything – say, if an actor puts a coat on for a take that they didn’t have on for the last two takes and you have no one else with eyes on that detail – you have to redo the damn take and can’t move on. Each little slip costs you, every time). There was no way to make the days really work with the cash I could get.

I felt sick about it for a long, long time while I was out scrambling, and eventually i felt too sick to keep going with it. 

Those guys would have kept backing me. They would’ve thrown themselves in and worked those hours. But I don’t feel bad not asking them to do that anymore. I already owe them enough for all they did up to this point, honestly. 

I’m not sure it’s possible to make films for indie money and do it ethically. I’ve been on a lot of sets that don’t. The only way I’ve ever been able to find that works is making something for zero dollars where everyone understands going in that no one gets paid anything (outside of getting paid on the lottery-ticket-chance that the film becomes some wild massive hit when you’re done) – and even then, since they need to go on to other gigs that actually pay their rent, you only work them a few hours and you feed them well before they go home.

Any other option – absolutely any that I’ve seen on any indie set I’ve been on – is stretching money way further than it’s able to stretch.

The industry is a fucking mess, it absolutely can and does ruin people, and I for one have no idea how to fix it. 

(Edit: typing all this out and reading it makes me feel fucking exhausted again but also relieved as hell that I don’t have to do this shit anymore or ask anyone else to.) 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.