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Sunday, November 16, 2014
Such a Deal
Two for the price of one is great when it comes to hot dogs, but TV shows? Not so much…
I was going to lead off today's post with a familiar photo of a blank billboard (if you've been around here long enough, you know the one I mean) signifying that I've got nothing… but then I got to thinking about the past five days, and that as much as I like the notion of getting two hot dogs for the price of one, I'm not so fond of having to make two television shows for the same deal.
The cable network I'm currently slaving for thought it was a great idea, though, and for good reason: they only had to pay for one episode this past week while we delivered two. The normal multi-camera show schedule is one episode every five days -- but even though we made two complete episodes in that same span of time, our paychecks next Thursday will reflect only five days of work.
Which means the network got the hot dogs while the crew got the shaft.
The new CEO of the network doubtless considers this a win/win -- a radical increase in "productivity" that will please the shareholders, who will then be more likely to let him keep his highly-paid job. For the crew, it was just another old fashioned ass-fucking worthy of the Bad Old Days before the advent of labor unions. Unfortunately, there's nothing in any of our collective bargaining agreements to deal with this kind of situation.
Granted, we'll get paid for three 12 hour days instead of the usual two, so an additional four hours of overtime will pad my next paycheck, but the net savings to our corporate overlords amounts to forty hours of straight time plus four hours of overtime for each the full-time crew.*
Any way you look at it, that's one hell of a deal for the suits.
It wasn't so great for the writers, though, who had to deliver 44 minutes of scripted comedy by Friday rather than the usual 22 -- or the actors, who had to learn and perform the scripts for two complete shows rather than one. As a result, many cue cards were employed, something I haven't seen on a sit-com for a very long time.
And here I thought having to make one-and-a-third episodes per week was bad…
We pretty much got our asses kicked, and although it's not particularly hard to kick my aging butt these days, the rest of the crew was feeling it too. There wasn't much time for anything but work and recovery from work, which is why I was thinking about using that blank billboard photo again today.
Still, the week wasn't all bad. I received an e-mail notification that a revised version of an old post called Stunts has been accepted for publication by a small literary magazine up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not that anybody will mistake The West Marin Review for the much older and vastly more influential Paris Review, mind you, but I'm happy to strike some sparks beyond the hermetic hothouse of the film and television industry. Besides, it's one of only fifteen prose pieces selected from a hundred and twenty-five submissions, and that feels pretty good.
There's no money involved, of course. It's just a pat on the head, which -- along with five bucks -- will buy me a small cup of Starbuck's finest, but that's better than the proverbial sharp stick in the eye. And after the beating meted out at work last week, I'll take any little ray of sunshine I can find.
* Grip and electric. Set dressing and props are full-time as well, but I have no idea what their usual hours/overtime/money situation is. This week was good for camera and sound, who enjoyed three full days instead of their usual two, and God only knows what kind of deal the people in production got.