Hey Ladies and Gents! Thanks for coming back!
I have the luxury of having a full time, steady job complete with health benefits. I'm happy about that, I really am- especially with the way things are in the economy and the fact that I'm racking up even MORE school bills while reaching for my Master's degree. While my savings account has taken a couple of nice, big meals and is growing up nice and fat, I feel nervous and oddly detached. Why is that, Red, you might say? Well, readers, let me give you a visual...
This is me before my current job, back when I was using my hands and being an artist (to a degree):
And this is me now:
Okay, not really, but the sentiment in the pictures illustrates my point. Being an artist is hard! I tell people I'm going to school for Animation and Visual Effects and the number one response is, "Wow, that must be SUPER easy!"
NO, ::insert angry name in New Yorker accent here::, IT'S NOT!
Not only do artists have to have skill, talent, and knowledge, but also persistence, humility, and the ability to take life with a grain of salt. Also necessary- the ability to live on little to no money, which I naively thought I could bypass with blinders on throughout my whole Theatrical Design undergraduate program. Now, I'm not saying I'm high maintenance, but I like me some comforts, such as the ability to not have to eat fast food for every meal. My body just can't handle that shit all the time, and yeah, I might adjust, but dang, I don't want to get to that point.
Let's hold the phone here for a second: what exactly do I mean by artist? Well, pretty much any job where a person conveys a story, emotion or feeling to another person. This encompasses the fine arts (painter, sculpture, photography, etc. etc.), writers, story tellers, designers of all kinds, musicians, all the way down to my genre areas, theater and film. Now, I definitely do not want to omit actors/actresses from the subject of artist. I have seen some incredibly touching actors already in my short time on my career path. However, I feel this line gets thoroughly blurred when it comes to the term, "Celebrity."
As a newbie in the film industry game, it has really come to my attention how terrible most film actor/actress "celebrities" are, and how most should NEVER be classified in the artist category. Now, I don't want to include everyone in this statement, I love me some Brad Pitt (for his actual ability, and his damn fine looks don't hurt it too. All I'm saying is, watch some Snatch, Fight Club, and Burn After Reading... 'nuff said). But the pay scale for these so-called actors is just bogus.
Take for example, Vin Diesel. This man got his real start in the movie "Saving Private Ryan." (1998) For that blockbuster movie, he got paid a whopping $100,000, more than triple my current annual salary at a job where I try to make a difference for the everyday Long Islander. It gets better, though, peeps, because at over $216 million, that was Vinny's highest grossing film to date.
Now let's talk about the movie "The Chronicles of Riddick." (2004) My main man, Vin, had made his mark on the world by blowing things up in the stunning film, "The Fast and the Furious" (2001) Okay, scratch that... dude made his mark on the world by having big pecs, a bald head, and pretending to blow things up, while his stunt double did all the hard work. The "Riddick" film consisted of enough effects to entail the employment of well over 200 visual effects and special effects artists (closer to 300, I'd say). "The Chronicles of Riddick" did not do so hot, pulling in only a cool $57,712,000 (1/4 of "Ryan"'s total), and Mr. Diesel took home $11.5 mil of that. Dame Judy Dench was in that movie as well, and we all now Dames make a lot of dough!
Now, let's try some math for a second (I know, I know, I ask a lot of you.) $57.7 million minus $11.5 million equals $46.2 million. Take half of that ($23.1 million) to divide among the remaining 50 credited cast members, and divide the other half by the 300 special effects artist, and you get $77,000 each for those special effects guys. But, wait! There are still producers, writers, directors, cinematographers, camera operators, editors, designers, sound people, make-up artists, wardrobe, lighting techs, PAs, extras... all to be paid.
Where is their pay?
But, Red, you say, people don't go to movies to see the special effects artists, they go to see the actor or actress in the movie.
I call BS on you!
Look at todays "talent" pool. I'm sorry, kids, but it is SLIM pickins. And with the way technology is running today, people ARE going to see movies FOR the visual effects. Chris Pine did a phe-nom-i-nal job as Jim Kirk in the new Star Trek, but damn, if the effects sucked, people would be pissed! Today we are watching less and less of the actor, and more and more of the computer's fixes to make the actor look like something he is not. That is where the experience of going to the movies comes from- the detachment from reality. Heck, I just spent three hours of my life watching a digital Brad Pitt head do a bang up job of aging backwards and reattaching to his body!
I want to know what the average vfx salary was on "Benjamin Button". According to SimplyHired.com, the average vfx salary throughout the industry is $61,000, as of June 1, 2009. Hey, I'll take that in comparison to the average artist salary, which is $40,000, and on Long Island, means diddly squat.
So, why is it that we give the Vin Diesels of the world millions of dollars (which they usually end up using for ridiculous things that ruin their lives) for their insanely bad artistry, while the over worked, under payed, seriously forgotten, no-name visual effects artist has to pan handle on the street corner in his spare time?
Maybe without hard times and starving, we wouldn't have artists, but that's another load of stinky stuff, I say.
Anyway, this brings me full circle back to my doom behind a desk. While I know that I am striving for that knowledge component of my "artistic ability," it takes good, cold hard cash to get what I need in order to hopefully "make it" someday. (By "make it," I mean work on a movie that I am proud of telling people about, and maybe get a reasonable sum of money for it, but I don't want to push anything.) The problem lies here within- I put my work as an artist on hold for my current 9-5er and full time schooling. This means that I am no longer working on my resume for my ultimate goal- which consists in an area where it's all about experience and networking, but where it is also impossible to get into regulated, steady jobs unless you know someone or have a good amount of experience.
Is this Catch 22 blowing your mind yet? 'Cause mine's been gone for a couple of weeks now.
What was I talking about?...
Oh, right. So I go into my office, work, come home from work, sit at my computer and do my classwork, get a couple winks, rinse and repeat. The weekends consist of random gigs as a stagehand in order to keep my name still hanging on to something in this industry.
I'm sorry, social life? What does that mean?
But I angrily digress. The issue at hand is that I can't seem to figure out that balance between both of my worlds, as well as the proper time to dive into my dreams. I KNOW that I have it good with a steady paycheck and the promise that if I get appendicitis, I won't end up in the gutter somewhere because I can't pay for my medical bills. But that comfort in my safety net is holding me back, because I've lived the artist life before (thank you, college!). I also know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck and to not know when your next gig will be and to finish the year with (-red) all over your budget.
The world would definitely be a boring place without artists. We depend on artistry everyday, and in everything we do. Why, then, is it such a forgotten and discouraging job, and why do we proudly support the "Celebrities" of the moment, such as Octo-Mom, Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears?
Oh, right, because they make us all look sane, which in turn makes us feel better about ourselves...
Hey! There's that ugly Birken bag I saw Jamie-Lynn toting around the other day! I gotta get me one of those...