Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

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.  


JB Bruno said...

In many blog posts, we see these highlighted portions that refer us somewhere else. Many of us have come to pass them over. I am glad I did not do so in the case of the link to your post, Stunts.

The subject of the post was breath-taking, and not just for the events recounted. The prose does justice to the matters described, and that is no small feat.

Pay or not, the article deserves publication in a literary journal, and you should be proud.

I was touched by family and friends who reached out to you. I had a similar experience happen to me when I wrote of an actor who I thought few knew.

Anyone who reads the post above - do yourself a favor and follow the link to the post Stunts.

Michael Taylor said...

JB --

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you liked it -- and yeah, I'm definitely happy that it will finally be published in a non-internet venue.

Thanks for tuning in...

egee said...

Congratulations on the publication of "Stunts." I went and read the entry. It sounded vaguely familiar and I went to the comments. Holy cow! I had commented on it when you originally posted it? Has it really been seven years? A blink of the eye and life just zips by! Kudos to you for continuing to share your experiences.

Michael Taylor said...

Egee --

Thanks. Yeah, seven years now come and gone. Hard to believe. All those cliche's about life flashing past as you get older? True.

Thanks for hanging in all these years, and for taking the time to offer your comments.

Austin said...

Mr. Taylor,

Sorry to hear about all that garbage. Do you see IATSE taking action if more like Scrooge the tv exec try to pull the same move?

Also congratulations, do you know when Stunts will be published, and where in the Bay Area I can get a copy?

Tanks for the read, and happy Thanksgiving

Michael Taylor said...

Austin --

I don't think there's anything IATSE can do. For wherever reason (probably to make himself look good to the shareholders) the new CEO cut the budgets for several of their multi-camera shows, including mine. This left the production company caught between the rock of having to make 22 new episodes and the hard place of a reduced budget at the same time the entire crew finally -- after 80 episodes -- began making full union scale. They had to figure out some way to get it done, and the compressed schedule was their solution.

I don't blame our producers and UPM -- they were handed a shit sandwich and are doing their best to choke it down. I'm pissed at the network… but I suppose it's their money, and they get to decide how to spend it.

The West Marin Review with "Stunts" will be published in the fall of 2015, and should be available at bookstores around the Bay Area. I'm pretty sure you can buy a copy direct from their website when the time comes -- the link is in the post. I'll post an alert on the blog when the time comes.

You have a good Thanksgiving too -- and thanks for tuning in...