Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Writing for a Living Sucks Part V: The Third World Writer
Take talent fee, for instance.
I don’t know how it is in other networks but in the company I work for-- one of the only two major television networks in the Philippines, mind you-- an executive producer can only give an episode writer up to ten percent of the episode’s entire budget as talent fee. Let’s say you’re a writer for Show X, a program that runs for an hour every Saturday. It has a modest production budget of 200,000 Pesos per episode. Ten percent of that would be 20,000 Pesos. Not exactly chump change compared to other jobs, right? Considering that a writer isn’t required to show his mug around the office every single day, that’s not bad. Of course, you won’t get 20,000 Pesos every week since there are other writers in the stable. Most probably you’ll get an episode a month. Still, 20K a month isn’t bad at all.
That is, if your executive producer will actually give you ten percent of his show’s budget. Here’s a clue: he won’t.
He’ll probably give you five percent. Oh, hey, let’s not give the writer ten percent. Let the dumb fuck settle for five percent so I can utilize the other five percent for the director’s fee, or to hire a bigger star for the lead role, or for more special effects, or maybe put it in as savings. Oh yeah, the bosses love savings.
And Pharaoh said: Man, these fucking Jews are multiplying like rabbits! Maybe if we screw them up by doubling their daily quota in brick production they’ll have less time to do the nasty fandango.
Five percent. That’s 10,000 Pesos. Papa Jesus Christ coming out of Satan’s Perky Little Asshole. We’re talking about a script here, the backbone of a television show that aims to generate hundreds of thousands of Pesos worth in revenue for the company every week.
Maybe you’re thinking it’s not that bad. You’ll spend what, two days writing a script? Two days for 10K isn’t bad, you greedy little fuck. Except, of course, you won’t spend two days writing it. What with all the revisions, you’ll probably be screwing with that damn thing for a week if you’re lucky. And each draft you produce will feel like an icepick in your eyesocket slowly lobotomizing your artistic sensibilities.
Oh, it gets worse.
I remember how back in 2000 a one-hour primetime show script was worth 20K. For an hour and a half a writer gets 25K. Circa 2001 a one-hour script was worth 15K. A year later it was 12K. By 2003 it was 10K.
And Pharaoh said: Oh shit, the Jews are still multiplying exponentially. Okay, let’s double their quota again. This time, though, let’s forget the hay. Hohoho, that’ll school them fuckers.
Now let me tell you what they’re offering us writers. Fifteen thousand Pesos. And they’re calling this show the company’s next megabrand. Someone call Animal Control because, man, we’re about to experience a plague of locusts. And toads. And lice. Scratch that-- call the coroner. Water is about to turn into blood and Uriel is on the road tonight with a sword and a pornstar-sized erection.
It’s unjust and the universe hates writers, especially the television whore sort, but there won’t be a reckoning anytime soon. Writers are an unorganized lot. Sure there’s a union somewhere but no one bothers to sign up because it’s largely ineffectual anyway. What can we do? Boycott networks that refuse to pay us what we’re worth? For every grizzled writer that leaves a show in disgust fifty snot-nosed Padawans are slitting their grandmothers’ throats to get a shoe into the biz.
Writing for a living Sucks Parts I to IV