Yesterday's forum included this astute observation:
If you are the producer of an animated film/show/commercial and you can't get the job done on time, on budget and WITHOUT breaking the backs of your workers - you, sir/madame, ARE A SHITTY PRODUCER.
Executives don't seem to appreciate that accomplishing all of those tasks is a big part of a producer's job - and if you're unable to get your job done without your underlings working tons of overtime, you're not suited to be a producer.
True enough. But it isn't simply that there are louts at the helm of tv productions. It's -- in part -- the system itself...
When the production pipeline is structured so that line producers, exec producers or whomever are rewarded for coming in under the schedules and budgets that are already as tight as oiled drumheads, then the system is ripe for abuse.
Earlier this week, I talked to artists on a t.v production at one of the major studios. They're getting paid overtime. They're also working long weekends and weekdays because of the schedule. Arms are starting to get blown out.
So I went to a production honcho, and laid out the scenario her for her, detailed the problems and complaints. How arms and wrists are giving out. I've known this person a long time, and she's never been unreasonable. She said:
"We don't want people to break down from the schedules. If people need a weekend off, they should take it. We're not going to blacklist anybody. I've got one artist who works very little overtime and we always rehire him. We don't require they do every bit of o.t., we ask that people do it. But we would like them to do some..."
The artists' responses?
"If I don't take the work, they'll give it to somebody else, and my producer will remember"..."I won't get hired back"..."I gotta do it, I don't care what [blank] says..."
And on another production, an artist told me "They expect people to do a set amount of work week to week, and if they don't do it, those people aren't hired back for the next season..."
In the years I've roamed around the studio landscapes, here are (in order of perceived importance) the reasons people get cut loose:
1) They're totally inept and unsuited for the job.
2) They're hard to get along with.
3) They're slow and miss deadlines.
4) They come in at noon every day.
5) They're drunk every afternoon.
Obviously everyone can add or subtract from the above. I've left out "gross insubordination/stealing" because those are listed in the contract as firing offenses. (My father-in-law, at the end of a 35-year animation career, told his much younger supervisor at Warner Bros. Animation to "go to hell" one bright afternoon, and was dismissed. I was doing this job at the time, but there wasn't much I could do to save him, and he didn't ask me to. Gross insubordination is gross insubordination.)
In coming weeks, I'm going to run an informal poll about schedules and workloads, and try and determine how they've changed over the years. I know there is no perfect ideal. In my far-off youth, I used to listen to Disney veterans speak grimly about the working conditions they endured in the 1930s. Crappy conditions ebb and flow, for a wide variety of reasons. All any mortal can do is work to make conditions better.
*This is, ah, chocolate pudding, not the other thing. But it seemed like a nice visual touch.