The present and future of post production business and technology

Who else is cutting budgets?

In the previous post I talked about cutting production costs, but nowhere did I advocate just paying people less, mostly because I believe that good talent is worth paying well. I do not, however think there’s fairness in an industry where a few make millions while many can’t get their projects off the ground.

So, imagine my surprise when  Fewer Stars, Fewer Risks As Networks Tighten Belts comes up in my news feeds – courtesy of myNAB365 – detailing how the networks are either dropping the pay to well-known talent (10-50% lower than current pay checks) or opting for less-well-known (but good) talent instead. (I will note that my sixth point – of the ten in the book on cutting costs – advised people to “Go for the B-talent” in name, but not quality.)

All is not woe for the talent though, as the article notes:

Big stars such as Kelsey Grammer have taken pay cuts to keep working. And although Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men) and Laurence Fishburne (CSI) pull more than $350,000 an episode, second-tier players who routinely got $125,000 an episode not that long ago now are settling for about $80,000.

I know that actors have limited opportunity for exposure, so a hit series can make it harder to get work afterwards, but two seasons at $80,000 a show should set most people up with a very sound financial footing for life!  Maybe the industry is just getting some sense.

The article also talks about filming where there are incentives and tax advantages that make those locations cheaper; shooting digitally instead of on 35mm film*; running shows with fewer producers involved;  and replacing comedy and drama with reality and shooting multi-camera style instead of single camera style, claiming that multi-camera single take is half the price of single camera multi-take production.

* The choice of shooting digital instead of film could also be influenced by the ongoing lack of a contract between the producers and Screen Actor’s Guild. SAG covers TV projects shot on film, while AFTRA, who covers project shot on video or digital, have a contract in place.

The current economic conditions and sudden downturn in advertising expenditure has stressed an industry already undergoing structural change, and accelerated that change, possible taking it further.

I have a lot more to say in a book I’m writing for smaller production and postproduction owners on how to deal with the changing (and changed) conditions and how to continue to grow their businesses, even in these changed economic circumstances, using the tools that have been created by the very changes that are shaking the industry.  Look for it around NAB 09 time.