This hits home so it’s a long read.
Way back in 2006 when I got out of NYU (not TSOA) the prevailing thought was to go through a specific kind of hell to achieve your chance at the craft of filmmaking.
Back then there was also the caveat that this was doable because film jobs paid on average better than the boring office cubicle anchored job. It was also fun and the proximity to fame and your dream was the hook.
Yet that was perhaps the last breath of that reality. The 08 financial crisis made all firms triple down on basically treating their workforce like indentured servants.
American culture blurred the lines.
The mythical American work ethic and the people who actually work it were positioned as go getters who went above and beyond because they are “hustlers”.
My generation grew up with greed is good and get money because ain’t nothing going on but the rent. And boy there was nothing like 1980’s American materialism.
Money and whatever you had to do to get it was the key. It’s all good because you weren’t going to settle for the nine to five. Nah son you were different.
Lost in all of this was since the 70’s wages starting from the lowest jobs were kept frozen in real time. It took a while for it to catch up to the film business but here we are.
Yet millennials didn’t quite realize it just yet.
Perhaps the fake sense of work shared on social media masked the fact ain’t no one getting paid shit?
But in 06 (for reference I was 29) I was still down to give it a shot.
However that was the same time frame all post houses demanded all editors be also good in graphic effects sounds normal now but back in the 90’s and early 2000’s the two skill sets were separated.
And learning them on your own was dumb expensive and time consuming.
So I decided to PA and work on indie joints and music videos.
All the while I kept my day job. Freelance work was never consistent enough. And I sure as hell don’t come from money.
I got close but never got in. Interviewed for the rental shop in TSOA, interviewed with Diddys marketing firm Blue Flame and a post house on city island that does a lot of local work. Never got the call.
I’d speak to my freelancing friends and I have to admit even back then I just kept saying sounds like I’m better off with my day job.
The logic though had been even a lousy low paying film job is better than a well paying non film job.
Can’t meet anyone in film on a Tuesday morning at the coffee truck on 23rd and Park. Besides it was the much often mentioned and sought after connections-that was why we are putting up with this bullshit.
Well several things occurred that made me walk away from pursuing the freelance lifestyle under the old philosophy.
One, I got laid off. Back then unemployment lasted a while so I saw it as a chance to go extra hard. Work on everything. Get all skills sharp. It kinda work but it just wasn’t consistent. Worse I didn’t cut bait soon enough.
I proceeded to get evicted twice in four years. At that moment I took a job in commercial security.
One of the ways to move up in that world was a job called fire safety director. But you had to be a security guard for three years before applying.
In that time I kept trying to make some kind of reentry into freelancing. But the pay and work demand just never added up.
I would hear stories of friends with a dozen skill sets being offered $21 an hour.
Showbiz has always been sketchy but it wasn’t retail. Well it became so in my 30’s.
Two, social media hit. I now know filmmakers in Africa. That’s just nuts.
Now can they get me where I want to go? No. That’s not the point.
We no longer need to put up with asshole behavior (from people whom never had a fight in their life most likely) just because they “know people”.
As long as you aren’t a jerk on social media you can network as well as we did in the 90’s.
And then finally I became a fire safety director.
I live a better life than every line producer in New York.
Starting pay is close to 30 an hour. Guaranteed vacation and sick days. Time and a half for all OT and holiday pay too. And I do nothing. Even pre covid. Nothing. When it’s slow I write. And I’ve gotten a lot written since March!
I stand around all day and get paid 30/hour. Now I’m sitting on my ass. Check still the same.
Now why would I want to leave that to hear some power tripping ego centric jellyfish of a human being scream at me for 21/hour which with the added 20 hours (sixty hours in total) is $3/hour?
What’s the personal price for a dream? I’ll leave commercial security for a favorable work environment in film. Not this for this garbage I’m hearing.
I’ll use this job to allow me the cushion to shoot short films from scripts that I write. And then enter the films and scripts into festivals and contest.
I work days (done by 3pm)and have weekends off. A schedule apparently no one in film has.
We have flipped hustling -the extra things you do to ensure a favorable outcome into survival.
If you’re hustling to survive switch hustles.
The hustle is supposed to offer what the routine cannot. If you’re sleeping in your car to be a film maker you’re not proving you want it more you’re proving you have a price and it’s lower than whatever the local crack head is offering.
Ironically I’m still an fsd. I’m still working. Covid hasn’t made a scratch in my income.
How are those balls to the walls freelancers faring now? Let those who have mom and dads money work for these productions who treat their workers life serfs.
This explains why several filmmakers I’ve known for ten plus years all 35+ all have been in relationships for a long time; all of them just got married in the last 18 months.
All of this “change” in the air maybe it’s time we reevaluate what it means to chase your dream.
Living in poverty, nah son not going be able to do it.
I have to chuckle at the "walking around the Stuy at 1 am" line ...then again I am from East New York (you know Goodfellas and all other kinds of gangsta sh!t)
Anyway I think the best thing for me to do as a screenwriter-now that I have a stable job, is to let my mind wander (not good when you don't have a stable gig). I also agree that we should get into other things not just be "film makers/24-7". Gotta have balance.