Stupid Amounts of Money

I recently rediscovered Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on Hulu. If you don’t remember the show, it’s basically a funny version of 30 Rock, except that it’s an hour long and doesn’t star a cute writer who vaguely resembles the former governor of Alaska.

As much as I enjoy Studio 60, I must admit it is a solipsistic view of Hollywood from the producer’s perspective. Yesterday, I watched ”The Option Period.” Part of the plot involved the network demanding the producer fire fifteen crew members in order to save money. (Why the executive was talking to the director-producer instead of the line producer is a question I’d rather not consider.)

At a certain point, the executive offers that the producer could take a pay cut to save jobs. The producer waves this away with a dismissive, “No, we’re not going to do that.”

This harsh comment hit home for me, because my own show is going through a similar situation. Our studio has imposed a pay freeze on all returning shows this season. (Generally, one can expect at least a small raise from one year to the next, especially on a successful show.)

There is an exception, of course, for actors and producers, whose contracts are written years in advance. In exchange for their promise to return season after season, the studio guarantees pay bumps from one year to the next.

This seems like a great plan, except when everyone around you isn’t getting a raise. I honestly don’t know how I could, in good conscience, accept the extra money. “Sure, I already make millions of dollars, and stand to make millions more in syndication and DVDs, but I really need that 5% bump to keep up with inflation.”

I’m not saying they should let the studio keep its money–that’d be dumb–but these are the supposedly “creative” people. Surely the could refuse the pay raise, in exchange for a commensurate increase in the show’s budget.

You always hear about CEOs who work for one dollar a year when their company is in trouble. How can someone who’s pouring their creative energies into their chosen art form not do the same?

Of course, I know the answer *cough*GREED*cough*, but I’m young. Allow me to wallow in my naiveté for a few more years, please.

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4 Responses

  1. They don’t pay below the line staff more because they don’t need to. Times are tight, profits are down at the top and folks making high millions are making low millions. So cost cutting 🙂

    Where to cut safely? Below the line staff in this economy are going nowhere.

    Frankly, it’s not even worth the lawyers $400/hr billable rate + everyone elses time to re-negotiate an agreement to pass more money down even if a creative wanted to do it.

  2. Studio 60 was OK in the beginning. But then it went downhill when they decided to focus on the relationship stories most. Also, they were very hit & miss with the actual skits that were supposed to be on the fake show. It’s funny how Studio 60 and 30 Rock came out around the same time and Studio 60 was the odds-on favorite to succeed because of Aaron Sorkin, and then it failed fast. I guess Studio 60 would be more interesting from the perspective of someone in the industry.

    The whole thing about CEOs taking a 1 dollar salary is misleading. The vast majority of a CEO’s yearly compensation comes from bonuses and stock options, not an actual salary. So when they take a 1 dollar salary it is a very small sacrifice in comparison with the actual money they will still receive. For an example check out this breakdown of the pay for the CEO of Activision:

  3. Just to play devil’s advocate…

    There are the smart ones who know that they may never work again once this show gets canceled, so they’d better bank every penny they can get their hands on. (I know, I know. If the show’s a success, odds are they’ll work again really soon, but paranoia has it’s uses.)

    Or then there’s a producer I know who is paying for 5 ex-wives. The only way he’s ever getting out of debt is by dying.

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