Saturday, February 07, 2009

There's No Business Like...

I'm not sure what is going on in the world of media production these days, but it doesn't seem good (at least for people trying to pay the rent from production work).

This year's NATAS panel at the annual Snader equipment show was about Job Hunting. After seven years of HD panels, the number one topic is jobs. Going into the meeting, I was expecting a room of recent college graduates. Instead, it was filled with dozens of people who have over 10 years experience working in production. As usual, the NATAS panelists were a combination of out-of-touch, slightly unrealistic and sometimes hypocritical comments. I love 'em, but very few times do I get an "ah-ha!" feeling from something I'm exposed to at a NATAS event.

There was some good career advice about the value of knowing everything and not being pigeoned as just Audio, or just Editing. There were also some blasts at the broadcast unions. Unfortunately, the natural extension of this advice is a vast pool of widely qualified job-seekers who will work for any money or even no money. This pool will de-value the entire ecosystem by undercutting each other in an environment without minimum standards of pay or work conditions. I understand what the panelists were saying to the individuals in the audience, but when you scale it up into the thousands of people looking to make media, it falls apart. Everybody starves.

After attending the traditional big money media event of the Snader show, I went to the Disposable Film Festival panel later the same week. Two dozen enthusiasts were having an open discussion of their concerns and issues about making media with disposable media tools. The odd part was how much they sounded exactly like the From Here To Awesome participants from last summer. The distance from Disposable Filmmaker to Independent Filmmaker is about two or three feet. I could hear the sound of grinding gears as these people tried to figure out if there was any way to make some money off of what they were doing.

I actually think the Disposable crowd may be in the best position to have a balanced life. They have Regular Jobs and they make media for fun. They are still enthusiastic and creative in their approach to their hobby and they can still pay the rent on time through their nine to five. I understand the emotional urge to go into production as a full time occupation. After seeing the older NATAS crowd, I'm just not sure I can recommend media as a sensible career choice for everybody.

Hopefully everything changes in a few years. The economy recovers to the point where it can support more media production again. In the meantime, the disposable filmmakers will be two years more experienced in their hobby. There might not be as much call for "Professionals" anymore.