Monday, 1 April 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1004: Poor Mouthing & The Price Of Minimums

A group of prominent filmmakers and producers in France have signed a petition against the passing of a law that would set minimums for wages and sizes of film crews operating in the country.

The unions for the crews, and some politicians want these minimums put in place because they think it will protect them from being screwed over by greedy producers, however, when it comes to economics, such actions are a double edged sword.

I don't know what the French call it, but around here the phenomenon that they're trying to protect their workers from is called "poor-mouthing." That's where a producer tries to squeeze as much as they can in concessions from the crew by pleading poverty.

I can understand the crew feeling some resentment when they take a 20% pay cut and the producer then uses the money to buy themselves a Rolls Royce and charge it to the film, or, since we're talking about French producers cases of wine and cigarettes and a nice holiday with their mistress to make up for him paying to much attention to his wife and his girlfriend.

However, not all producers are faking when they're poor mouthing. Sometimes the concessions are the one thing that might actually get the film made because the film is too artsy, or the subject matter too controversial.

If this law passes, then the option of negotiating up-front pay cuts in exchange for a piece of the back end will end. That means that the costs of production will go up, many films will not get made, and lots of crew-members wouldn't get any jobs, let alone jobs with reduced pay.

Another factor is that they're also demanding guidelines that determine the minimum size for crews.

This too is a double edged sword that can do just as much, if not more, harm than good.

Sure, they claim they want these minimums to ensure that crew members aren't overworked, and takes away the power of hiring and firing from the greedy producers and in the hands of the unions who are solely out there for the good of the workers.

Well, maybe in a perfect world where unicorns frolic in the fields, unions are run by saints, and Karen Gillan is writing me passionate love e-mails, but we all know that perfect world can only be found in a realm of fantasy.

Unions, like corporations, are run by people, and people have agendas that don't involve the mission they're supposed to do. Corporations are supposed to create wealth for their shareholders, but too often end up the personal piggy banks of the senior executives who loot the company and leave everyone high and dry. Sadly, unions can become hotbeds of cronyism where minimum crew sizes get fattened up to create do-nothing jobs for the friends of the guys who run the unions or the politicians who pass the laws.

So you get production costs going up even more, fewer films getting made, fewer new jobs being created, and the jobs that do get created are snapped up by cronies.

Also, low budget productions are the gateway for new people to get into the business. If the costs go up and fewer smaller films get made, then fewer new filmmakers, fewer new actors, and fewer new crew-members get their collective foot in the door.

You're probably wondering what can the crews do to avoid getting screwed, but without falling into the traps that the proposed laws could cause.

Well, the first they could do is make a list.

List all the working producers in the country. It shouldn't be that hard for them since they do business with these people every day.

Then they divide that list into FULL PRICE producers and DISCOUNT producers. Obviously, the Full Price Producers have to pay full price in not only salaries, but in crew sizes, while the Discount Producers qualify, naturally, for discounts in salary and crew sizes if they meet certain criteria:

1. The project in question really needs those discounts in order to be made.

2. The producer in question actually fulfills promises when it comes to paying back end promises.

If the production or producer fails to meet those criteria, then they have to pay full price or they just won't get what they want.

New producers could be given the benefit of the doubt, but if they don't fulfill their promises, then it's full price for them from now on.

It's not rocket science, it's business.

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