Monday, October 10, 2011

Yet Another Over-Paid Studio And Under-Paid Writer

So, you wanna write for television huh? Hope you don't expect to get rich doing it.

If you're like me (and a bunch of other Starved Writers) you learned long ago that you would like toil in obscurely for quite some time before you ever (IF ever) make it big. Or simply make enough to pay your bills. You probably dream of the day you score a decent paying gig, maybe a magazine article, an award winning short story or--gasp!-a television script somebody actually wants to buy.

Well, don't plan on getting rich doing the latter.

The big news lately has been FOX studios pursuit in cutting costs for the billion-dollar-making show, "The Simpsons." The voice actors took a 30 percent cut in pay and even the producers took a cut in pay to make FOX happy and keep the show on the air. The only folks who didn't take a pay cut were the writers. This is because they already receive the minimum Writers Guild of America scale for writing a script for a 30-minute show: about $22,000.

It's interesting to note that while the voices are great and the art is so-so, the entire franchise, from "Don't hove a cow, man" to "D'Oh!" is based entirely on the work of writers. Without the writers there would be no show at all. It was started by a writer and has been kept fresh, funny and profitable by writers, but once again, they are given short shrift.

And let's not forget, aside from Conan O'Brien, how many writers of The Simpsons have become household names?

So, if you're looking to make it big in Hollywood, and think television script writing is your ticket to fame and fortune, you should perhaps think again.

...for writing the story and first draft for an episode of less than 30 minutes, the writer would have been paid around $23, 358 for the script. So whilst the actors will be paid $300,000 for reading a joke, the person who wrote the joke will receive less than a tenth of that.

Just to clarify, this is in no way a dig at Harry Shearer or any of the other voice actors on the show. I think the protest at the salary cuts is entirely justified and that Harry Shearer’s request to exchange a huge cutback in wages for a small profit share was an excellent suggestion, albeit not one that I’d ever expect Fox to accept.

It’s already known that Fox outsource their animation to a studio in South Korea in order to save money, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that they pay low rates to their writers as well. But if it’s possible to justify huge voice actor salaries based on the show’s success and profit, how defensible is it for the same show to pay writers the absolute bare minimum rate allowed by their union?

Click here to read more about the experience of "The Simpsons" writer Ben Joseph.


LorcaDamon said...

I completely sympathize with your article and its valid points, so please don't take this as a "suck it up" first year as a public school teacher my GROSS pay was $25,000. For the year, not for one episode. Until the behind-the-scenes people make pay that genuinely reflects their worth, our country is going to continue to worship Kardashians instead of physicists.

Jerry Battiste said...

The state of education in the U.S. disgusts me. They always seem to have money for a new football stadium or a baseball field, even as they eliminate Science Fairs and art programs; and teacher pay for the most part (especially new teachers) is appallingly low. It is past time for the U.S. to take a long hard look at the emphasis we put on education.