The film industry is harder to break into than ever before. There are fewer and fewer jobs being offered every year and that has laid out a very scary job placement plan. You have to fight through so many hurdles to even get recognized, and then everyone demands free work.
Now imagine you survive all of that and get discriminated against because of your age.
This is what's happening across the industry, and in an open letter posted on the WGA West site, the guild’s Career Longevity Committee urged the Academy to encourage equitable representation of older candidates.
We already have rules set in place to help representation among racial and ethnic groups, women, LGBTQ+, and people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“Conspicuously missing was any reference to age,” said the letter, written by committee chair Catherine Clinch. “For decades, members of the Writers Guild of America have lived under the burden of this painful reality – that older writers are the only diversity category that it is socially- acceptable to discriminate against. Hollywood has not even created the façade of pretending to include older writers in the workplace. Diversity programs sponsored by the Writers Guild have been able to find employment and representation for members of all other categories – except for older writers.”
She added, “Older writers are shut out of the marketplace because of arbitrary metrics that can all be traced back to blatant discriminatory practices that are used against all protected class members.”
This was a strong letter that took on a fear many of us have when it comes to sustaining a long career. It's scary to think that you might fizzle out after only a few years because writers of a certain age lose their value.
This industry places so much stock in people being wunderkinds that they forget that experience and knowledge often leads to someone becoming better at storytelling.
The letter goes on to say, “Furthermore, when the industry references older writers, it is through the same language that has historically been used to defend racist hiring practices. Reasons for not hiring older writers include, but are not limited to: We don’t know how to find them; If they can’t get representation they must not be good; they’ve been out of work so long they don’t understand the current market; They won’t be able to keep up with everybody else; I hired one once and it didn’t work out; This show / movie is not about old people; They won’t fit the vibe in the room; I don’t want to hear how it was done in the old days.”
These kinds of issues are prevalent in staffing, consideration of features, and all kinds of jobs available to people. And it needs to stop.
These are not unfounded worries. Inside the letter, Clinch references a lawsuit which older television writers settled a class action suit against networks and talent agencies that had been filed in 2000 and not settled for years. The settlement called for payment of $70 million to affected writers. These were people who alleged they were victims of systematic age discrimination by talent agents who aided and abetted networks and studios by refusing to represent and refer older writers for work at the studios.
Across America is it illegal for people to discriminate for jobs based upon age, Hollywood needs to stop trying to get away with this stuff.
Let us know about your experiences and takes in the comments.