Tell me if this sounds like you. It's a cozy winter night. You flip on one of the streaming channels or that cheesy cable channel you watch more than you tell anyone, and you settle in for one of those insane Christmas movies.
The ones that star the celebs from that show over a decade ago whom you haven't seen since. The ones with the plots that involve inheriting a castle, having an evil twin, falling in love with a reindeer, or just moving home to open an antique shop. Come on, people, you know the ones.
You're in good company. During a two-month period, 85 million people tune in to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. That's more than the Super Bowl!
Places like Hallmark, Netflix, and Peacock have made a mint going viral with these crazy Christmas movies. People talk about them, binge them, scream at their TVs during them, but while that's all fun and games... it would be nice if these productions actually used union crew members, were WGA and DGA signatories, and made sure everyone on them got a living wage.
Still, people love watching them, and I do too. They're cheesy, you can laugh a ton, you never miss any crucial plot point if you go to the bathroom in the middle of them, and after a long day, on a cold night, sometimes you just want to watch something with a happy ending.
But then I wake up in the middle of the night and think about the crew.
The goal for most of these movies is to keep the budget under a million, which qualifies them as a "microbudget" feature, meaning they are not required to hire a union and pay union rates. That's not totally true, since sometimes they underwrite a budget and leave off catering and loading and other things they build into and pay for out of other accounts, like the network or maybe into a contract.
But alas, many times they do not. I've spoken with people paid as little as $5,000 to write the screenplays for them, and frequently no one earns points toward their union cards working on them. That means wages can be forced artificially low, and oftentimes it leads to less safety on the sets and lower standards. They're also shot in usually one to three weeks, meaning pushing people around the clock to make sure they're done on time. Because a lot of these places have to then shoot more Christmas movies to have a glut on the air every year.
You can read this Reddit thread filled with people talking about their experiences on them as well.
We should totally mention the stories on these films, which feel the same every year and don't quite branch out.
While Netflix and Hulu have tried to diversify their offerings, Hallmark is not even trying. And for good reason. Their audience has no desire for it.
As an anonymous producer of these films told Vancouver Magazine, “The reason they all look and sound the same is because the network is involved, and they know their main audience is Midwest Christians.”
She went on to describe why Hallmark, specifically, would never diversify their content, saying, “Netflix did Let It Snow this year. It’s interracial, LGBTQ, beautifully shot... and a prime example of a Hallmark-style movie that would never make it onto Hallmark.”
Look, we all want to work, and we all need jobs, but why can't these Christmas movies take a little bit more off the profit scale to make sure the workers who get them done are paid fairly?
And why can't they be union sets? I mean all of them. In 2017, the Hallmark Channel brought in an estimated $390 million in ad revenue on their Christmas month alone. You're telling me you can't go union for that much?
Suck on some coal.
That way people can move up to bigger movies, pay into health benefits and pensions, and actually derive a living wage from what looks like an incredibly profitable industry.
After all, we all just can't move home to open an antique store and find the rich love of our life who wants to keep us there in time for Christmas...
Let me know what you think in the comments.