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Saturday, 24 November 2012

"Sorry Red Camera Operator, We Can't Pay You!"

Actual quote.

Or near enough to the actual quote to make my point. (And possibly get me sued?)

Now, it's important to note that actors will work for free (or for food) when they feel they are part of a team and that everyone is putting in the same commitment for the same reward. Usually this is a non-monetary sense of achievement and a beautiful, or at least passable, piece of art that will last for as long as digital does. If the creator needs to pay a specialty service to like a lepidopterist or something, to make the project happen then the actors are really likely to understand and not feel ripped off. But why should one person that contributes to the film significantly, like an actor, not get paid for the benefit of another team member, like a Red camera operator?

The context of this 'actual quote' is an online discussion of the logistics of paying one's actors. The person who said this was using a slippery slope fallacy... or possibly a straw man fallacy (I can't remember, it's been years since my first year philosophy unit, Critical Thinking, introduced me to all these terms) to conclude that it's better not to pay your actors, just in case it leads to not being able to pay your crew. Or even more devastatingly, not being able to pay yourself.

All hell broke lose. Actors everywhere suddenly erupted into diatribes of indignation against the stand that this producer was taking at our expense. The actors decided en masse to join the MEAA and boycott any producers that thought it was okay to exploit their passion and commitment for their own personal financial gain (or puffed up reputation with their film-making buddies). There were online protests and a few public demonstrations when actors were told they 'wouldn't find work in this town again, partner' because of their lack of cooperation with the unjust and corrupt system. The original forum went into meltdown, trying to cope with the traffic between angry actors fighting courageously for their right to share in the booty and the producer who, I'm sure innocently, suggested that actors really don't count in the creative process enough to count in the budget. Finally lawyers had to get involved when actors started sending the producer bits of their flesh, scabs and dead skin, in a symbolic gesture. 'No more blood and tears for you, Mr. Producer, Sir,' the dried up flesh seemed to say.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I'm mistaken. That didn't happen at all.

A couple of screenwriters stood up for actors: suggested that it was reasonable for actors to at least ask, on the projects for which they were being expected to offer their time and talent for free, whether anyone else was being paid. They were, rather predictably, berated by the producer and friends and accused of being communists. (Because that's a bad thing?)

Where were the actors? Did they stay silent? Did they watch nervously, reasonably concerned that any interest in money would make them undesirable for future casting? Did being a dime a dozen actor mean they settled for being a dozen actors per gratis? Did the actors secretly long for someone in the upper film-making echelons to stand up for them and say, 'wait, it's okay to want to be paid for your time and talent, especially when everyone else actually is being paid for your time and talent' and hope that the producers paused long enough to hear the growl of their starving bellies?

Actors' pay day.

No. The actors LIKED these comments.

Too bad these actors can't afford to put themselves through a critical thinking course. 

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