Part 3 of the series from TheWrap.com explains the human cost of the Great Recession on the film and TV world.
Though she's only in her early 30s, Christine Lakin has already spent two decades as an actor, from a run as a series regular on "Step by Step" while in her early teens to more than two dozen other series and 17 movies, including "You Again" and the upcoming "New Year's Day."
But a life of constant auditions, callbacks, readings and offers has changed dramatically over the past few years, Lakin told TheWrap -- to the point where her current career path has nothing to do with waiting for the next plum role and everything to do with doing anything she can.
Which means writing a web series for herself, doing voiceovers, becoming a choreographer.
"If I just waited by the phone for the kind of offers I used to get to come in, I'd never work," said Lakin, who also serves as a member of the Hollywood Screen Actors Guild board. "What I'm doing now isn't what I ever imagined myself doing, but you have to use the skill set you have if you want to work."
While she said that part of the slowdown may be due to outside factors, including a fickle Hollywood that finds "a new hot age" for actresses every year, she has no doubt that much of it is due to the slowdown in film and television production -- and the effect that has all the way up and down the Hollywood food chain.
"The economy is the most significant factor in what I've seen," she said. "In the past five or six years, studios are not doing as many films. And that means that you have more movie stars going into television -- not just to star in series, but also to do three-or-four-episode guest roles.
"And that trickles down to people like me, and pushes a lot of us into the category where we're just trying to make a living."
Note how she says the studios are not making as many films as they used to. That takes its toll as we find out in this article from TheWrap.
"All the business models that we grew up with? They went out the window."
The speaker is a veteran of more than three decades in various facets of the entertainment industry, much of that time as an independent vendor for post-production services. The industry vet, who is in his 50s, didn’t want his name used, or even the specific nature of his business identified; we'll call him Larry, and say that he has carved out a niche providing a post-production service that readies film and television productions for overseas distribution and video release,.
For Larry, the crash of 2008 did not have an immediate affect on his business. The company he owned continued to do steady work both for major studios and smaller indie clients.
"We got through a couple of years, and then it hit," he said. "Fewer films were being made, and that ended up meaning less business across-the-board to a lot of different people."
An additional impact for his Southern California-based business, he said, came with the migration of a good chunk of production to right-to-work states like Texas, Michigan and North Carolina.
If you think this is impacting only actors and post-production people then you need to read this.In the multi-faceted world of post-production, technological changes have also led to a shift in business. A good amount of post work used to be based around film processing and shipping -- but as work migrated to digital, large companies whose business came out of film processing aggressively entered the digital arena.
His first movie had grossed more than $80 million, and he had sold another. Want a Hollywood dream? He had it.
At least, that's what he figured.
Today, the 40-year-old screen scribe -- who fears notoriety from this article will exacerbate his employment situation should he be identified -- is working a two-week temporary job in sales.
"I didn’t have any backend points and I knew that the residuals wouldn’t last forever," he told TheWrap. "But you assume that once you have a hit movie out, more work will fall into place."
The economy changed that.
"I was doing fine for a while, and then it seemed like after the writers strike, studios and production companies used that as an excuse to cut in-house deals and use that as an excuse not to pay writers for anything."
He suddenly found himself competing with A-list writers for B-list jobs.
"A lot of the jobs I used to go up for, A-list, like super A-list writers are going for those jobs right now," he said. "In the past, they wouldn't have. There was enough of every level to go around."
Now, he said, with studios cutting back on the number of movies they make, it's a tougher world.
The studios are making fewer films and less hour-long TV Dramas so that means alot of people have been thrown out of work. With the industry becoming far more competitive and many of the free spending business models of 5 years ago being tossed out the window those who will survive will be the ones who know how to get the most bang for the buck. Not emulating failed business plans."They used to make films in the 5-to-10 million dollar range," he said. "Now everybody wants to do either the super micro-budget stuff, they want to make remakes or sequels, or they want to make tentpoles. A lot of those middle-ground movies that filled the marketplace, those assignments are gone now."
“From my perspective,” he says over breakfast at his favorite deli, “The effect of the down economy on the actual production of motion pictures is very different than the effect on other corporations and businesses. Everybody’s freelance. Almost everybody below the line on most crews is hired on a daily or a weekly
Nothing is longer than that.
"Union contracts are structured so that people are hired on a daily basis so that you have the ability to fire them anytime you want to during the day before 4 o’clock in the afternoon. That gives them enough to time to get another job the next day. That’s how contracts are written.
"And that’s why their rates are a few bucks more than those people who work for corporations."
As now what happens frequently -- most conspicuously as producer Jerry Bruckheimer went shopping for a state with the most generous givebacks so he could remount “The Lone Ranger” -- part of our UPM's job is finding the best deal.
Much as it goes against his grain, that’s not going to be in California:
“Various states that have put together programs to lure production money from motion pictures to union production centers, and the state governments have invested in their labor force the same way Canada did," he told TheWrap. "The entire nation of Canada would not have an entertainment industry without its government; it wouldn’t exist.
“Virtually no motion pictures, other than tentpoles and the like, are made in California anymore. As a result, a tremendous amount of the labor force has left California for the states that have the tax incentives.
The 2006 mindset wasn't sustainable and you needed to be able to adapt when the easy money dried up. It did in 2008 and you can tell who adapted by those who are still standing and those who are not.He says his favorite special effects guy has moved his entire operation to Shreveport and New Orleans. "He moved himself and his whole family. You would be amazed at how many technicians have left this area because they’re not TV guys.”