Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding Time to Live

... and breathe.

... Every twice unfinaled shot, every understaffed, underbid, over delayed project keeps us from watching our children grow and keeps us from precious moments with our loved ones. Does it really need to be that way? If the President of Production can have such a balance, can we not, as compassionate human beings who love the work we do, and love our families, come to a more equitable solution, where projects can be planned at least well enough to keep from going into crunch for a year at a time? I don’t know about you, but when my job forces me to miss out on a year of my daughter’s life or more, I think it’s plain wrong. How can I make a film for children and not spend any time with my own?

Besides this, how do I care for my family without health insurance, sick days or vacation days while working mandatory twelve hour days, six days a week for months on end? Is the value of my children or even myself less than others? ...

The reality of movie-making in the glorious twenty-first century is: everyone works until their eyes cross and their typing digits drop off, until the insane production schedules are sucked into a black hole swirling at the edge of the Ursa Major Galaxy.

When I was an unemployed house-husband staying home with a toddler, my wife was working the same kind of insane work schedule. (Seven day weeks. Thirteen-hour days.) What made it semi-palatable was she was making a lot more money on her check, and was getting a lot more hours into the union pension and health plans.

Don't misunderstand. Unionized employees can work brutal hours too. Once upon a time, the double and triple time rates served as a disincentive to work people until they dropped. But this was in the days before worldwide movie rollouts in thousands of theaters were tied to release dates set not in concrete, but high-tensile steel. Before movies were produced by hungry conglomerates with deep, deep pockets that didn't care what the costs were if it meant missing a narrow,carefully calculated window.

So what's the difference between union and non-union work? If you're union, when the brutal schedule is over and you're out on the street hustling for the next job, you aren't hunting on-line for an affordable health care policy at the same time. You are covered by health benefits that last six to fifteen months, so that is one iron weight off your back. And you're building pension credits that will insure you aren't dumpster diving in your sunset years.


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