A Bad Movie Is Still a Good Job

I’m a big fan of On The Media, especially their off-air podcast interviews. Last week, they had a fascinating conversation with Alec Baldwin:

I recommend listening to the whole thing, but the salient point for my readers is about nine and a half minutes in, regarding people who had been bad-mouthing the latest Schwarzenegger movie:

When Arnold goes to work, three hundred people in this business go to work on high-paying, skilled union jobs.

And when he’s made three hundred million dollars in profit for Warner Brothers, thirty million of that, ten percent, goes into a research and development budget that’s going to develop the next movie you’re in.

While I don’t have a high-paying job, his point is well taken. It really doesn’t matter if the movie is good or bad. It’s a job. And that’s a good thing.

This is why I have little patience for above-the-liners leaving a television series because they’re no longer feeling creatively fulfilled. I mean, if the show can continue without you, whatever. I’m talking about people who quit, which leads directly to the show’s cancellation.

Basically, what they’re saying is, “I’m bored, so I’m going to put 300 people out of work.”

I imagine it’s a tough decision; you got into the business to write or direct or act, but now you feel like you can’t do that to the best of your ability. For a lot of these people, the cost/benefit analysis is purely about the creative. They’ve made enough money that it’s no longer really a factor.

But that’s a shitty attitude to have when 300 co-workers and their families depend on you to put food on the table. I think you should have to walk onto the sound stage and look every crew member in the eye when you say, “I don’t really like this job anymore, even though my car1 costs more than your annual salary. Good luck finding another show!”

I think it’d be a lot harder to leave the show, then.

The next time you see a shitty movie or terrible show, sit through the credits. Think about the fact that, even though you didn’t enjoy the end product, at least all of these people had a decent job for a few weeks or months.

Unless the producer’s didn’t pay the crew, in which case, fuck those guys.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Or, in my case, his suit.
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4 Responses

  1. If you’re going to make the argument that one should separate the ‘art’ vs. business element of working in production, you’ve boiled down everything to just a paycheck. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given a speech that I “shouldn’t just treat this job as a paycheck”. I support that point, it IS a paycheck. That’s why I’m here. I only hope that readers who think they are going into this business to fulfill a creative drive are performing the same labor as an accounting clerk, event coordinator or delivery boy. The symptom of this industry seems to be a delusion that you’re doing more than you actually are because you’re “MAKING A MOVIE!!!”

    I’m glad you’re putting the realistic counterpoint out there but it seems to be against what most young PAs actually think about this business. The coffee house barista who thinks they’ve struck gold when they land that first assistant gig has simply traded one type of beverage fetching for another. And let’s not pretend PAs who worked on a Tarantino picture don’t think they’re better than those on Paul Blart 2. I’ve seen the attitude first hand and I swear some people get into this kind of work to adopt it.

    1. There’s much truth in what you say, but without the illusion that they’re embarking on an exciting, glamorous career that might lead to the fulfillment of their creative dreams, most young people would never get into the film and television industry in the first place. That’s what young people — with their naive, romantic outlook on life — so often do on their way to The Next Big Adventure, be it joining the military, falling in love, or trying to break into the movie biz.

      But that’s okay — it’s all part of the learning curve in life. We all go through it one way or another.

      Those young PA’s will find out soon enough what a grind the movie business can be. Some will be disillusioned enough to quit, but others will persevere and find a niche in the biz. A select few just might rise to the top, and maybe find some measure of creative satisfaction.

      Many try, most fail, but everybody learns something along the way. It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad, either. Such is life.

  2. Perspective is everything. I’m glad I’m not the only one eyeing the credits as a sign of respect to all involved.

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