Is the industry hibernating like a bear or dying slowly with its appendages slowly rotting off? George Clooney said in his Oscar acceptance speech that movies and TV have always been ahead of the curve, addressing subjects like civil rights and gay rights before either cause had a single picket sign written for it. And Hollywood was ahead again in recent years, with the box office suffering before anyone really noticed a lag in the rest of the economy.
Now, whether you’re a line producer or a PA or an executive or an executive assistant, odds are you can’t look at a Starbucks barista without wondering if that’s your future. Today is the five-month anniversary of my losing my assistant gig and the dry-up of the industry and other disasters have got me thinking whether or not I should head back to Chicago and join my dad in the insurance biz, bag groceries and/or tear movie tickets like I did in high school, take on a roommate in my apartment, or all of the above. And I don’t even have a wife or kids to support. God help those that do. All over the state, layoffs and the dry-up of production has got people packing up and taking jobs out of state, hoping against hope that the damage wrought by the recession, writer’s strike, and SAG drama will one day magically heal. Most compelling evidence by far of the bleak times is that Catherine Zeta-Jones is back to doing those lame T-Mobile commercials. Things are not good.
The government has already bailed out the banking and automotive industries, but it’s probably a safe bet they won’t be doing the same for Hollywood. An economist once said that in a recession, people should be paid to dig ditches and fill them back up. The corollary to our situation is to suggest that the studios and production companies pays us to shoot movies and TV shows and then pay us and others to watch them, so the answer is not to be found in conventional economic theory, either.
But something needs to be done. Half the industry has been laid off or facing layoffs and everyone is content to wait until people have money and the courage to spend it on movie tickets, DVD rentals, and premium movie channels again. And like many bloggers, I am urging that some action be taken without having any idea what that action should be.
To those like me, who are considering packing it in and following that secondary ambition to be a CPA, don’t lose hope. Whatever got you into this business in the first place—whether it was the guilty pleasure of watching Tom Hanks’ early pre-superstar movies or the simple ambition to work eighteen hours a day rigging lights—hang onto it and the force that compels people to escape reality for an hour or two will one day save us all.