Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy the Entertainment Industry

Here's the Breakdown: To paraphrase that Jay-Z song, "99% are having some real problems and the richest 1% have none". Where is there a better microcosm for our Country's increasing wealth inequality, lack of career advancement/opportunity, shrinking middle class and general pervading culture of corruption than in our beloved Entertainment Industry?
If you're an actor, director, playwright, screenwriter or musician and you're NOT a household name, related to one, or already working on Broadway, TV, in mainstream Hollywood Films, or selling out venues, then you've no doubt felt the dramatic, debilitating changes that have occurred within the Entertainment Industry during this long Recession, changes that have taken a HUGE bite out of earnings, cost people to lose their Union health coverage (which, ironically, became harder and more expensive to get), and overall have stalled chances for many to move up in their chosen field. For these reasons, you should ask yourself whether you REALLY have the chance to succeed today given how things are. If you were active in the Entertainment Industry prior to the collapse, then you know the answer: not likely. You should then ask yourself how YOU can affect positive change in the world YOU know. Change has to begin somewhere, and where better then your own backyard, pavement you pound, stomping ground, work and/or out-of-work place.

The Entertainment Industry, as we know, can do more than blow things up, glamorize the glamorous and lay fart jokes. The Entertainment Industry can act as an EXAMPLE. The purpose of Occupy the Entertainment Industry is to discuss, motivate, inspire each other, meet up perhaps and hopefully make the powers that be in this industry aware that there are worthy, talented professionals out there that are being SHUT OUT of this business, by the Entertainment Industry equivalent of corporate lobbyists (greedy or simply unaware investors and producers with financial safeguards to meet, casting directors and agents, managers and PR people with clients to push), who've turned this industry into an exclusive business for those already working, and ONLY for those already working, period. As Albert Brooks said recently about being cast in the film DRIVE after learning he wasn't on the short list of the same old same old, or recently Award Winning, "name" actors being circulated by Hollywood Big Wigs; "The truth is, there are six guys you cast all the time for these parts, and it's so nice to cast a new guy in one." Wouldn't it be? Or does the Entertainment Industry only like taking the easy route? This country, this industry, was built on hard work, so why not allow those who've earned it but not yet earned millions the opportunity to get a BREAK instead of just being pushed DOWN.

Yes, the Entertainment Industry has always been a hard nut to crack, but it doesn't have to be damn near IMPOSSIBLE! Schwab's candy story scenarios and indie short film fest discoveries notwithstanding may still exist, but must all others trying to crack the nut have to PAY to (do a) play, via increasingly expensive (not to mention possibly unethical) seminars, showcases and other money making opportunities hosted by (or phoned in by) those already within or representing the inner sanctum of the already successful? If so, how may we ask are these supposed networking opportunities supposed to be PAID for if one isn't getting enough paid WORK in the first place? They're just bleeding the poor, and further creating a "survival of the richest" only community. There are NO MORE drop offs, Electronic submissions are essentially for the country club set; under lock and key, resumes basically mean NADA, industry doesn't come to see one's work anymore without a sure bet financial motive, some unions let in anyone with money to burn (who then take the jobs you're overqualified for but have been forced to apply for), and everything else out there is, well, offers.

Basically, what's happening now is NO LESS than a modern day form of segregation: the good ol' haves vs. the have nots. Now we're not saying our recessionary capitalistic tactics mirror our despicable racist past, but as the poor get poorer and the middle class becomes nothing but a memory, where will these methods lead us? Breadlines for background work? We know that time and innovations will NOT backtrack or reset, but if there aren't some out n' out changes to a system that disenfranchises the masses, then we've gotta at least find a happy medium. With core expenses higher then they ever were, now sure' aint the time to make work (and health insurance) harder to get, which is what has happened, plain and simple.

With Occupy the Entertainment Industry, let's attempt to take our passion, our art AND our careers back, so we can start moving forward again, because enough is enough, and there SHOULD be enough work to go around in this industry (esp. if it's thriving as much as we see and hear it is). This isn't about "it's not fair", it's about what IS fair. The Hollywood Dream = The American Dream after all , so we stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. We were told that Entertainment was the industry that WOULD NOT be affected by the economic downturn, remember? Well, at first it looked like that might be the case, but then all of a sudden the doors closed to many, and they've remained SHUT ever since. There are FAR too many unemployed and underemployed talented individuals out there. Reality programming and the like was supposed to be the killer of recognizing and allowing new and true talent in the door, not a recession!

Truth be told, our country has never been fond of funding the arts, yet we exploit them willingly. That being the case, perhaps the Entertainment Industry can set an example and start sending people back to work before other industries do. That may take a Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, PDiddy, Neil LaBute or other work $aturated celeb/industry mainstay to step aside in a role (or position or job) and let another worthy candidate play or take the part. Now THAT sounds like a fantasy, but perhaps the aforementioned (or the Occupy Wall Street conscious industry pros like Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and Kanye West) could at the very least INFORM the Entertainment Industry powers that be that Show Business has (whether they've realized it or not) mirrored Corporate America during the recession, and that there are deserved individuals out there that need to be given a chance again, whether or not they're "as marketable" or "on the short list" as "name talent". If not, then perhaps they can remind our Unions, er... Guilds, that they should be fighting for US, as well as the Tom Cruises, Marc Wahlbergs and other performer/producers (um, can you say... conflict of interest?) with whom we share membership. It's NOT a fantasy to say that the future of good product may even be at stake as well. As Glenn Close said not so long ago "It's gotten out of control. It's taking bigger and bigger names to make smaller and smaller films. I worry that important films without a big name attached won't get made at all."

Obviously, all this will take time, as Rome wasn't built in a day (that series looked great, so it must have cost HBO some time and money to make ;) but audiences WILL get sick and tired of seeing and hearing the same people constantly on their screens, in the halls and on iParaphernalia, mark our words, just as those whose jobs have been cut or downsized have grown tired of being CONTINUALLY marginalized, while seeing the rich get richer and richer. Look, fans readily accept new, no-name athletes when they "hit" their marks and "perform" well on the playing fields and courts, so why not in the Entertainment field? Yeah, Pro Sports have their steroid controversies and all-too powerful owners et all, but athletes STILL have to earn their way up the ladder; their resumes still count, and in Sports there's the ability to essentially let new stars make THEMSELVES daily, merely through good play. Now if we exploited THAT ability, we'd be heading in the right direction.

That said, it's high time we Occupy the Entertainment Industry and REdirect it. Though much can and has been said about Entertainment Industry content, it's important to stress that we're concerned first and foremost with jobs, getting people back to work. While the rich MUST pay more taxes, we also want them to pay more ATTENTION to the rest of us, right? It's their greed and lack of compassion that's led our country, and this industry, to where we're at, so let us rally the troops and join forces with Occupy Wall Street, BUT, we CANNOT wait for the Celeb contingent to lead us. What have they to fight for anyway? Well, US, obviously, and maybe they will (as they surely have a voice that goes along with their wealth and opportunity), but we need to make OURSELVES heard first for ANYTHING to happen. What have they to fear in helping us anyway, being blacklisted? Please. A pro actor/friend of Occupy the Entertainment Industry said recently that no one has the cojones in this biz anymore like an Orson Welles or Clifford Odets. If that's true then why bother? Well, "If you don't start somewhere you may very well go nowhere" is the only way to answer that claim, and to quote Occupy Wall Street, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

In conclusion, we'd like to leave you with a quote by the esteemed Carl Sagen: "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." Truer words were never spoken, but we have been given a RARE opportunity here via the surprising success of Occupy Wall Street to TRY and get our power back. Performers very well know that opportunity sometimes does NOT knock twice, so let's make good on this opportunity shall we? If you're willing to stand with Occupy the Entertainment Industry please contact us here ASAP, or at

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