Sunday, April 1, 2012
Hollywood and Wealth: An Introduction
Now, if you have read my bio, you know that I work in the entertainment industry. This puts me in a unique position to witness, up close, the phenomenon that we call "the wealth gap."
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who works in television and film is wealthy. In fact, the majority of people who work in "the business" (especially actors) are lucky if they make an annual income above the poverty line. Many cast and crew members hold down non-show business "day jobs" to supplement their incomes. Grips and set builders work as handymen. Make-up artists and hair stylists work in salons or department store cosmetic counters. Actors and actresses are well known for working as waiters, but many are also real estate agents and sales reps. I was once surprised when an actor that I had worked with several times (a man whose face you would recognize, if not his name, if you watch a fair amount of television) showed up at my house to give me an estimate on a window repair.
Even name "B list' actors find themselves having to moonlight on occasion.
In his autobiography "If Chins Could Kill" actor Bruce Campbell ("The Evil Dead," "Xena," "Burn Notice") tells of a time, well after he had established an enviable level of cult fame, when he had to take a job as a gate guard at the Budweiser plant in Van Nuys. He spent hours on end, every night, fielding the question, "Hey! Aren't you...?" from truck drivers entering the facility.
The next largest group of show business workers, the ones lucky enough to work in the industry with consistency, make comfortable, middle class incomes. They are the supporting actors that go from one sitcom or movie to another. They are the crew members whose names you may recognize if you read the credits at the end of TV shows and movies. No mansions, butlers or limos. But, rather suburban homes and mini vans. And, they take the trash out themselves. They use coupons when they shop for groceries and send their kids to public school. Except for the fact that they make their living "making magic," they lead pretty ordinary lives.
Finally, there are the few who make a lot of money. And even fewer who make a whole lot of money. Top billed actors, producers and "above the line" production executives and a very small handful of "the best of the best" craft people.
And this is where "the wealth gap," and the psychology that comes with it, begins to show itself in the world of show business.
It had been my plan to write two or three posts about my observations about wealth over a couple of nights. I am starting to see that it is all a little more complicated than that. So, instead, over the next few weeks, I will post on the subject intermittently, while filling other posts with the usual snark about other subjects.
That's enough for tonight. I have to be up early in the morning to go to the television job that I have been fortunate enough to have for nearly a decade.