The Writers Guild of America has an issue.
The Writers Guild of America, West ... wants to keep the age of its members hush-hush. According to the film-town blog The Wrap, the Guild is pleading with the Internet Movie Database to stop listing birth dates on its widely consulted website. ...
There's no business like show business for sheer relentless pressure always to be securing the next gig. ... Nothing exacerbates age anxiety like a job hunt. It's bad enough to get pink-slipped. But if you're also over 40, you face the prospect of being considered a wheezy geezer ....
Fifteen years ago, at the height of the last animation boom, older artists securing and keeping jobs was not a huge issue. Newbies were flooding into the industry and finding work. Sixty and seventy-year-olds were coming out of retirement to work on the flock of animated features being made by Turner, Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera to chase after Disney's string of hand-drawn hits. (I talked to a lot of them.)
Now, I get weekly phone calls from story-boarders, designers and t.v. directors in the middle of their fifth decade who are under or unemployed. Some 0f the joblessness is due to bad timing and bad luck. Some of it happens because of our current cultural and business bias: people 18-34 are the key demographic for movie execs, so it's that age group the moguls are most eager to employ (for they hold the secret for hit t.v. shows and movies, as everyone knows.)
But there's another reason. Unlike the business of fifteen or twenty years ago, the cartoon industry isn't expanding like mad and outgrowing its talent pool, which means a strange kind of age discrimination comes into play. Creators of shows are in their thirties, and reach out to their peers to fill key jobs. They, in turn, reach out to people they know. This leaves the twenty-five and thirty-year veterans at the end of the employment line, because the movers and shakers they relied on for work -- other fifty-somethings -- aren't in the drivers' seats any longer. As a long-time board artist told me last week:
"[A forty-six year old director] called me up last month for a two-week boarding job on a movie he's doing. He just phoned one morning and asked 'Are you available for work?' and I said 'You bet I am.' He's one of the few guys in town who doesn't feel he has to use the younger crowd but goes after people he knows and has worked with before. And that he knows can do the job.
"The two weeks ended up being five weeks. Thank God there's still a few people like him around, or I wouldn't have much work in the biz at all."
The sobering part of this tale is, for animation employees the hiring situation is relatively better than it is for workers on the live-action side. That isn't particularly joyful news, but in this day and age, you take comfort and solace wherever you can find them.