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What’s happening to the film writers?

What's happening to the film writers?

I have always marveled at how Anthony Kaufman was able to maintain a freelance life.

Tony and I met at film school years ago. We are in each others’ short films, either in front of or behind the camera. When school ended we both went on to journalism. One of my proudest career moments is bringing Tony into an eager start-up I was working with called indieWIRE.

While I went on to make a living as a screenwriter, Tony kept at film journalism. I’ve watched Tony’s writing become sharper, essential, and wonderfully opinionated as the years passed. With regular gigs in Variety, Village Voice, HR, Filmmaker Mag, etc., I consider him one of the more important voices in indie film journalism.

So it disturbs me to read his new blog post about struggling through the recession:

I’m finally starting to feel the economic crunch—personally. Over the last year, I’ve written about the crashes of ThinkFilm and New Yorker Films, tracked the demise of VHS, the collapse of indie film financing and followed the obsolescence of movie critics. Now, I, too, am seeing my occupation slip away from me with every passing week. Major publications have admitted to me that they “ran out of money”; others don’t have the room or budget for feature stories anymore; and fair compensation has dropped to the insulting “blog rate”—$35 to $50 for what would have been $100 to $200 for an equivalent amount of work a couple years ago. This shit is real.

I know precisely how he feels. When the writers’ strike hit, I got a staff job at Variety. The steady paycheck and health insurance for myself and family was crucial. When I was laid-off, I relied on a few freelance jobs to keep the income coming in, as did many other former Variety staffers. But the pay started to rapidly shrink.

Recently I covered a film festival for a major indie film publication. Along with a fest wrap-up, the editors wanted daily blog posts of pictures and captions for their site. After four days of posts and another few writing the wrap-up for print, my grand take was 100 bucks.

When I mentioned that’s what I got paid 10 years ago for half the work, the editors apologized. It’s all they had to give. I believe them.

The freelance life is a scary one. Luckily, I’ve been able to transition back into screenwriting. This blog suffers for it, unfortunately, but it’s a move of necessity. But where will the other writers go? How will they cobble together enough scratch to weather this?

I’ll continue occasionally posting on this blog. But as many of you have noticed, it’ll be few and far between. I hope you’ll check back every once in a while. But before you come here, go to Tony’s blog. See what he’s writing now. He has much more interesting things to say anyway. He deserves the click-though votes. And he should keep writing.

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