Survival isn’t something I’ve addressed often in this blog before, but with many of reality television’s best (in my opinion, anyway) behind-the-scenes players going through slumps more often than usual these days, I think it’s a good time to bring it up.
In 2010, there were just over 760 reality shows in production, according to the results of a Kansas City Star study on the industry. Anecdotally, different sources claim that that number’s dropped slightly, but is still well above 700 shows. Tastes change, and the amount of available work in dramas, sitcoms and reality shows naturally ebbs and flows based on what viewers are in the mood for.
I find myself working less often than maybe five or ten years ago when I’d wrap a project on Friday and start a new one Monday. I’d been able to work as much as I wanted to whenever I wanted to, and with a decade or so of credits on a string of well-received shows, there was no reason for me to think there’d be an end to that kind of possibility.
In 2013, just after a management change at the company I’d been working for for three years, I exited a show I’d worked on for five seasons in the midst of what an exec at network called a “freshening up” of the franchise. He left the network less than 30 days later for a new opportunity somewhere else, but the damage was done and I was out. I chose to frame the end of my time on the show positively, as I’d had a fun run with it and had a normal, not-so-crazy time finding other positions.
The Truth: You simply cannot rely on a project-based career for any kind of stable, predictable income, no matter how good you are or how in-demand you may be for an extended period of time.
So, how do you plan?
Don’t build your life around “good times” money
If you scale your life to a place where you treat every paycheck like half or two-thirds of a paycheck, you can’t go wrong. Save money. Cultivate a profitable (even mildly profitable) hobby. For me, it’s books, lectures and consulting. For you, it could be an ebay store, house flipping, or any one of a thousand other things.
Pay cash if you want to treat yourself to anything rather then adding to your monthly overhead. Probably the dumbest thing I ever did was move into a luxurious new pad and buy a Mercedes at the height of my time on one series. Car payments and exorbitant rents live on, even when you’re suddenly out of work for five months. Ouch.
Make good use of your downtime
I’m one of those guys who sort of doesn’t know who he is if he’s not working. I don’t have a wife or kids, and live on the outside edge of LA now (in the name of peace and quiet as I can get it) and there’s not much occupying my time outside of work except finding new ways to get work. If you’re married and have any kids, use the downtime to reconnect with them and make sure you have something to live for outside of production or post.
Don’t rely on your agent or manager, if you have them, to find work for you. It’s a slippery slope, having a little time for yourself. I’ve accidentally wasted a lot of time by not making one step every day, no matter how small, to finding my next gig.
Know how to make money when you’re in a slump
I know plenty of guys and gals with Emmys and Peabodys who strike out during a staffing season or two and either fall out of the game completely or use the downtime to build an inventory of specs that they can go out with next season. Some have some great side businesses they can fall back on when they’re not on a show. An editor I recently worked with flips houses between shows and on weekends.
Sticking around is important
Half the battle in any creative profession is simply sticking around. If you’re new to the business, taking a “day job” to pay the bills between gigs might be necessary just to keep you accessible to employers. As I tell film students, the important thing is to be in town when the calls finally come. In reality television, most jobs I’ve had start within a week of getting an interview (as many as half starting within days of the call), so I’d be in deep trouble if I was in Florida when the phone rang.
Dan Harmon does it again. We aren’t sure what it is, but, what can we say but “Found on YouTube.”
Check it out:
Oh, wait, now we’ve got it. (Maybe.) This is a public table read for a special by Dan Harmon of COMMUNITY and RICK & MORTY. The finished animated video is scheduled to be seen “only on Seeso” July 14th.
Now if somebody would tell us what the hell Seeso is….
I’m a huge fan of the X-Men film series. I was so excited that another one was coming out. X-Men Apocalypse introduces the audience to the first ever mutant, coincidentally enough named, Apocalypse. In this film the X-Men must reunite to defeat his plan to extinct human kind. What do we think, everybody? Will the X’s succeed?
The special effects in this film are every bit as good as they need to be for X-Men Apocalypse to qualify as a summer blockbuster.
The Acting was good enough but only two cast members are stand-outs. James McAvoy performance as Charles Xaviar aka Professor X was raw and real as he is held captive by our villian and tries to save all of humanity. Oscar Isaac portrays our villain Apocalypse in a way I’ve never seen before. Watching Apocalypse, I absolutely hated him…but at the same time I found myself relating to the character more than any other character on the screen.
To say this hurts my soul because I am such a fan of this series. When you get down to it, there’s no creative reason for this film to exist. There is nothing whatsoever new to the ongoing story. The X-Men have to unite to stop a common foe. BTDT, right? Magneto plays a villain but ends up helping in the end. BTDT again. With everything remaining to be explored in the Marvel Universe this is all we get?
The worst scene, in my opinion is where Hugh Jackman appears as Wolverine. He comes from out of nowhere, and as a viewer my respect for both Wolverine and Jackman is greatly diminished by this whole deus ex machina thing which so obviously has been forced on us because Wolverine is considered to be the main face – and big moneymaker – of franchise.
I won’t suggest that nobody see this film. It’s the X-Men, right, and even this mess has its moments. But I recommend waiting awhile and watching it on VOD at the earliest. Sorry, Professor X, but there’s no need to waste the dollars at the theater.
Happy Summer Blockbuster Season!
Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE
Speaking of crowdfunding (as we were earlier in the week) this adaptation of the award-winning novel Lullaby, written by the author of a certain cult favorite novel called Fight Club, looks like a really good thing to this fussy (I am, honest…just ask my mother about my eating habits) TVWriter™ minion.
Here’s the skinny from Kickstarter:
We’re independent filmmakers in Portland, Oregon who are adapting the novel, Lullaby, from the mind of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk.
Chuck doesn’t write for mainstream audiences. His books challenge everything about mainstream audiences. His novel Lullaby deploys necrophilia, gender-bending, and no-way-would-this-make-it-to-comfortable-TV satire. We want to make a movie that makes people feel uncomfortable enough to think original thoughts again, just like Chuck’s novels do. To do that we need your help through Kickstarter.
We first got hooked on Chuck’s novels in the late 90’s, like some of you. We’re fans first, and so like you, as directors and producers we want to make sure Lullaby is the film we all want it to be, and not some watered-down too easy commercial yawner.
This project is also important to Chuck. He began writing Lullaby during the trial of his father’s murderer in 1999. The prosecutor came to Chuck and asked him if he wanted to advocate for the death penalty. This idea spawned the culling song, or the power of the word to cast a spell, and the story of Lullaby was created.
Today, as co-writer of the Lullaby screenplay, Chuck has maintained his vision of what this story should be. As an Executive Producer, he’ll help us make sure that this film stays weird and challenging.
Help us make a movie that doesn’t suck.
So What’s It About?
Lullaby follows the life of Carl Streator—an over the hill reporter whose family mysteriously died years prior. After being assigned to investigate a rash of mysterious infant deaths, he discovers the killer of his own family—an ancient culling song published as a lullaby in a simple children’s book. Carl sets out to destroy existing copies throughout the world but is surprised to learn that the people he once trusted to stop the deaths may be involved in the heinous acts.
We plan to shoot in late 2016 in Oregon—we have 27 days planned of principal photography, giving us plenty of time to edit and add visual FX through 2017. If you are trying to be an extra, you’ll need to be available during the later part of 2016.
Read more – lots more – and see a video with Chuck himself – HERE
If you’re not up to speed, please start from the beginning HERE
by Aaron Walker Sr.
In an underground bunker, several hundred meters outside the Ore Storage area, an eight man ISG Special Forces Unit known as Saber Team stood huddled around a small sensor station. The team leader: Lieutenant Donald Shepard, a stocky ebony skinned mountain of muscle, stared intently at the screen, when his second in command: First Sargent Alex Chavez, reported in.
“We have movement on the refined Krillium,” Alex said while watching the red dot flashing on his screen.
It took every bit of Donald’s rigorous training and discipline to suppress the cartwheels he was turning inside. For years he had been hunting the mastermind behind a number of high level terrorist activities within ISL space. Donald spent much of his career hunting criminals. He’d seen it all. But his current targets were true professionals. They had to be for their holo-files to come across his desk. Donald and his renowned Saber Team were tasked only with pursuing the most elusive offenders operating inside ISL space. It was only in the last year that he finally learned the identity of the team’s leader: Marcus La’Dek. All he had to go on was a holo-snap – a holographic snapshot — provided by a high level snitch he put the screws to a few months back. It wasn’t much, but he’d operated with less intel in the past, so he was determined to make it work
It had to be them, Donald thought. The modus operandi seemed to fit. His gut was telling him that this felt like Marcus, as he thought back to the other unsolved crimes that he now attributed to La’Dek and his team. But he wouldn’t be satisfied until he had visual confirmation. Who else would have the stones to hit a mining operation so close to his beloved Earth? Plus the little trick with the security interference was, in his mind, a dead giveaway. His peers thought he was crazy, but Donald was good at spotting patterns, even those as obscure as the electronic trickery being carried out on Mining Outpost Alpha. Anticipating this move, he compensated by planting a pressure sensitive silent alarm that was hardwired to the floor, then placed beneath one of the refined ore containers. A shielded subterranean wire ran from the device to the underground bunker, completely protected from the low level pulse that was bombarding surface level electronics. It was a crude system by thirty-second century standards, but it was effective.
Now Donald would see if the months he spent shaking down every high level outer core thug he could get his hands on, would finally pay some much needed dividends. Capturing Marcus would be his legacy… not to mention it would fast track a career to which he devoted his entire life; a career that was costing him both his marriage and a relationship with his son. He kept telling himself it was for the greater good, though his wife of seven years: Rachael, would argue otherwise. This guy better be worth it, Donald thought. He quickly shifted his wandering mind back to the task at hand.
Donald moved to the center of the bunker and called his team to stand in formation before him. They moved with purpose. There was nothing any of those men wouldn’t do for Donald, no order they wouldn’t follow, even if it cost them their very lives. Donald knew this, and vowed never to order them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. So against the urging of his superiors, he preferred to fight alongside his men. He wasn’t content with sitting in the rear on a plush sofa, calling the shots as so many of his fellow officers did.
Donald reached in his pocket and pulled out a small black disk and placed it in the palm of his right hand. A holographic image hovered over the disk of Marcus on the right, and a fuzzier image of Teric on the left. Marcus was a clean shaven individual in remarkable shape, with a light brown complexion. The device’s artificial intelligence, estimated Marcus to be little over six feet, two inches tall, weighing in at an even two hundred pounds. Teric on the other hand, was barely recognizable. But he appeared to be a clean cut, bearded individual with silver and black hair; possibly in his early sixties. But there was virtually no data available on Teric, and the poor quality of the image did nothing to further identify the subject, as even the holo-emitter was unable to successfully estimate his stats.
Donald’s team stood silently at the position of attention – feet together, back straight, arms planted firmly to their sides, and eyes front. “At ease,” Donald called to his unit. In unison, the team moved their feet shoulder width apart, with their hands clasped behind their back. “Listen up, we need Marcus La’Dek alive,” he said pointing toward Marcus’ image on the right. “We get him; we get Orion’s Shield and their leader: Teric Winters,” Donald said in the most serious of tones. He wasn’t into drawn out speeches, filled with extravagant and lifeless words. They had a job to do, and everyone in the room was eager to get to work. “Let’s move,” he finished, and with that, the team broke formation grabbing their gear as they prepared to move in on the ore pilferers.
Inside the mining facility, the mission was going downhill in a hurry. The RAT had Marcus and his entire team pinned down in the administrative section. When Skye sent the RAT into maintenance mode it disabled the robot’s internal friend-or-foe mechanism, causing it to be unable to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly targets. This worked in their favor, as all remaining guards that converged on their current position had been cut down by friendly fire.
The entire team took cover behind the line of ore crates that Daren and his team dragged into the area. The ore was housed in large mark-seventeen storage units, manufactured by the human owned: Galaxy Techtronics. Made of proprietary rare materials, mark-seventeen’s were most noted for their near indestructible design, perfect for the industrial, and military sectors. Those crates were the only thing in the room still intact as the Gatling guns of the RAT had virtually destroyed everything else. Raven Squad was not having a good day. Marcus glared at Daren.
“You had to be greedy,” Marcus yelled to his second in command.
But Daren had no response. He was disgusted with himself for allowing his ambitions to blind him, causing him to make a rookie mistake by falling for such an obvious trap.
“Tell me you tagged that thing,” Marcus yelled to Max.
“Yes… and no,” Max shamefully replied.
“What do you mean: ‘Yes and No?’ Marcus asked sharply.
“What Professor Wesner over there neglected to mention, was that the friggin’ detonator doesn’t even work,” Daren responded, trying to deflect the heat he was catching from Marcus.
“Now hold on a minute, Honey,” Max fired back at Daren. “My stuff always works,” she said while looking down at her detonator, completely baffled as to why it wasn’t responding. “It’s just a little buggy, that’s all.”
“You’d better fix it in a hurry,” Marcus interjected. He was highly irritated. Everything that could possibly go wrong on a mission was happening all at once. It was like amateur hour, and at the worst possible time. He had to come up with something fast.
“Switch to acid rounds,” Marcus ordered the team. He hoped the corrosive projectiles would penetrate the thick metallic hide of the RAT. Against any other hard target, the acid rounds would have pierced small holes in the mark, and corroded it from the inside out… But not the RAT; its armor seemed to be treated with a coating that was resistant to the specialized rounds.
“Acid rounds ain’t workin’,” Skye yelled to Marcus.
“I KNOW, SKYE,” Marcus yelled in frustration. But before Skye could tell him to watch his tone, which he knew she’d say, even in the middle of a battle, Marcus turned to Max. “C’mon, Max,” Marcus pleaded. At that very moment, Max solved the problem with her detonator.
“Got it,” Max screamed while pressing the button on her device.
A spectacular blue flash occurred, followed by a loud screeching noise. A bluish white sphere surrounded the RAT causing it to rapidly vibrate. Then in a violent blast of sheer energy, the RAT came apart like a child deconstructing a toy. The force of the blast was so great, it took out the RAT and half the wall. The concussive force knocked the crates, and the team three feet back. It was a site to see. Though flat on her back with the rest of the team, Max laughed in between coughs, as she looked at the disaster caused by her creations. But she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps one k-bomb would have done the trick.
“Sorry, kiddies,” Max said to the team. “Went a little overboard.”
The team picked themselves up from the ground and gazed upon the gaping hole in the wall.
“Um… ya think?” Skye replied.
“Grab the Crates,” Marcus yelled to the team.
Tony, Skye, Max, and Daren quickly took up positions near the crates. Tony activated the anti-grav rods, causing the crates to once again float above the ground. Tony was relieved the rods weren’t damaged during the battle. Marcus ordered his crew to exit the building via the newly created hole in the wall, thanks to Max’s K-Bombs.