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“Labor of Love”

I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to talk about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, from the perspective of someone at the bottom.1

On the Scriptnotes podcast, Craig Mazin referred to it as a “labor of love.”

It’s not.

I mean, I’m sure Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell like Veronica Mars. Hell, maybe they do “love” it. But it’s not a labor of love.

I see the contracts of every single actor on the show I work for. I know how much the lead of a show makes; and Kristen Bell has starred in several movies since VM was cancelled. Rob Thomas, likewise, has been the showrunner on many, many shows, which basically means he’s a bazillionaire.

The two of them could easily put up the 4.3 million dollars they’ve raised (so far).2 If it was truly a passion project, they’d put their own money into it. Just ask Mel Gibson.

But rather than risk their own money, hoping to recoup their investment later, they’ve asked you to give them money in exchange for trinkets. Even when they talk about “working for cheap,” every one of the main actors will make more on this film than I will all year. And that’s before residuals.

I’m happy that there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie. I’m totally going to see it opening weekend.3 But I really wish people would stop feeling sorry bad for actors.

In a not-too-recent commentary on one of his comics, Joel Watson wrote:

It has to be an unbelievable shock going from a professionally unemployed actor to making 10′s of thousands of dollars a week to wondering how you’re going to afford your pool boy’s Lexus payment when essentially not [sic] of the decisions that affect those major life changes are in your control. Hollywood is basically a glorified temp service broadcast to the world.

That’s true. Except it’s even more true for the crew, who never made tens of thousands of dollars in a week (or, in my case, in three months).

Or this Film Critic Hulk piece about celebrity relationships:

EVERY TIME AN ACTOR MAKES A MOVIE IT’S LIKE GOING TO SUMMER CAMP (REALLY, THAT IS THE EXACT FEELING OF BEING ON A MOVIE CREW). SO THINK BACK TO THE SOCIAL DYNAMICS OF SUMMER CAMP… YUP, IT’S LIKE THAT… AND UNLIKE CAMP, IT HAPPENS ALL YEAR, CHANGING EVERY FEW MONTHS. IT’S IMPERMANENCE.

SO THE FIRST THING THIS IMPERTINENCE DOES IS IT MAKES MAINTAINING ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP VERY, VERY DIFFICULT. BOTH THE CONDITIONS OF THE RELATIONSHIP AND THE WAY THEY UNDERSTAND THEIR RELATIONSHIP CAN CHANGE IN A SECOND. AND THEN CHANGE AGAIN. AND THEN CHANGE YET AGAIN. “HURRAY WE JUST GOT A FLAT IN LONDON! OH, WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE THERE FOR THE NEXT 8 MONTHS? … OKAY.” YOU MAY THINK THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE COMPLAINTS OF THE SUPER-RICH (AND THEY ARE) BUT THINK ABOUT THE STRESS OF THE BASIC EMOTIONAL STUFF AT PLAY. EQUATE IT TO YOUR OWN LIFE. AND IT’S NOT EVEN LIKE ONE PERSON IS TRAVELING AND THE OTHER IS THE “HOMEBASE” SO TO SPEAK. BOTH CELEBRITIES ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING THE ENTIRE MODUS OPERANDI OF THEIR LIVES.4

Again, this is true for everyone on the film set. But the rest of us aren’t being paid hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Imagine having to work on location in another city, while your husband works 16 hours a day between a 90 minute commute. Now imagine you have two kids, one not even in diapers, and further imagine that you don’t have a personal assistant, a business assistant, and a live-in nanny.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge the actors their pay and perks. I’d love to get paid millions to play pretend. Doing it well is a rare skill, and the law of supply and demand tells us that they’ll be paid a lot. But that compensation puts them at the bottom of my list of people I want to give money to.

* * *

On the subject of above-the-liners, check out the most recent Hollywood Juicer blog post.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. That’s what it says on the masthead!
  2. It’s possible they’ve squandered their millions, but that’s one more reason not to give them my money and expect some good to come of it.
  3. Or at least download it off The Pirate Bay…
  4. Yes, he writes in all-caps, all the time. Why? HE’S THE GODDAMN HULK, THAT’S WHY.
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