A reader writes:
I'm a 10 year vet of the television industry getting mostly steady work since I started in scripted dramatic television. What the writers' strike hasn't done to destroy the optimism or "high end money" for creative types, the global economic crisis has. More people than I can count are looking around after years of sacrifice and asking "how did I get here and why am I doing this?" (and not just run of the mill sacrifice, I mean the brand sacrifice that only comes at the foot of hollywood's "haves").
Many of us have justified our low wages and poor treatment as a right of passage and a necessary sacrifice for the privilege to be work in a creative business. The dream is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and some creative validation I suppose. It appears that the pot no longer exists.
With reduced money and shrinking opportunity, many of us would elect to take jobs more suitable to our levels of education and intellect, only the job market is awful and getting worse. Studios and networks are merging, the industry is buckling as less people plop down in front of their TVs, more and more content becomes available online, cost-effective reality program continues to eat away at scripted television, and things like Jay Leno's move to 10pm eliminates 5 hours of scripted programming a week, which equals 40 or so writing jobs and hundreds of crew jobs. Worse yet, if it's a success the other networks may follow suit.
My most successful close friend in hollywood was laid off during the strike and hasn't been able to find work in over a year. He's gone from development executive to applying for and not getting interviews for production assistant jobs... and he's highly qualified and very experienced. If he doesn't find work in the next 2 months he'll be moving in with me and my girlfriend into our very small place. And more than anything I feel relief that I can help him out and that we may be able to have another person who can help w/utilities and rent should I lose my job too.
I'm VERY thankful to have a job, any job. But I do have to grit my teeth every day and work for a person I dislike and do not respect. In a way the bad economy has allowed me to maintain my self-respect, as I now justify what I put up with as a necessity of the time. It's my daily sacrifice "to get by" in these tough times. But I also feel trapped in a life and a position that I have no desire to be in.
My "out" is law school. But the idea of going to school and graduating into an equally unsure or suffering economy gives me pause (as I think it would anyone) that the only thing I'd be doing to myself after 3 years of hard work in sacrifice is a mountain of debt that would hamstring my options even more.
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