Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MPAA says show biz creates jobs

No surprise, the lobby industry for Hollywood published an "impact report" that says show business is good for the economy.

In fact, it says the average salary for "core production staff" (whatever that means) is almost $75,000, over 20% higher than the national average for other jobs. It also points out all the tax money the industry brings to the coffers of state governments.

I certainly don't think the movie industry is bad for any state's economy, and it definitely helps put food on the table of people who work in that industry. But the numbers in this report appear skewed:

Most people (including most actors) involved in the making of any movie, even $20 million-plus films, make nowhere near $75,000. They are paid a decent, but not exorbitant daily rate. For example, most extras on a film set (who arguably have the worst job on set), are paid around $75 for a 12-14 hour day. In non-union states (like Texas), that might be as low as $50 per day.

The "average" salary is highly inflated, both by the grossly large salaries of a few key stars, and a few key studio executives, while those on the front lines do OK during the three months of a shoot, but then are left wondering when and where their next job will come.

Some argue that this is the reason why we need greater union participation. Others argue that stronger unions will only serve to drive up production costs, and make filmmaking a more risky and less profitable business.

My take is that the MPAA is talking out of both sides of its mouth. When it serves the industry, the MPAA will talk about how much money it loses to piracy, star actor profit participation, union demands, and state taxes. But on the other hand, this report touts how much money the industry makes and generates for it's workers and host states.

Any veteran of the music industry will instantly recognize this sort of rhetoric- the same type of stuff the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) spouts. It serves to remind us that Hollywood is big business, no different than Enron or AIG. And we all know how great those companies were for the economy.

Look, movies are business, period. If you make movies to make money, learn the game. As with most industries stiffled by large oligopolies, it helps to look at what innovators like Blake Calhoun and Mike Maden, Robert Rodriguez, Trent Haaga, and others are doing. Just make your own damn movie.

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