Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taking jobs away

One of the topics our little group discuss over Sunday breakfasts at the Figtree restaurant on the beach in Venice, is the subject of jobs. Not necessarily for us but for the country.

Having grown up across from Detroit and with lots of relatives in Detroit, I know all too well how hard hit Detroit is, their unemployment rate is around 15% while the reality is closer to 35% if you discount the suburbs.

I've always said that many jobs have simply disappeared, never to return no matter who's President.

Take my book, Emperor, it took 2 people to get it published. There was one formatting expert who will cost me around $150 and a graphic artist who has cost me $250. She did the front and back covers I posted a week ago.

And that's it.

My director friend Malcom has a background in publishing and graphics and he figured that I just took jobs away from around 20 people. Now this would be pre-computer era. All those people, typesetters, readers and more.

So 18 jobs have disappeared. Never to come back.

And how about this; I'm doing a favor for a friend in a week or two. She has written books on directors and wants to interview a handful of older actors who worked with the director in question.

Since my background is camerawork, mostly film but lots of still photography also, I said I could help her out. I would film the interviews and then edit them into whatever she needed.

Here's who was left out:

An assistant cameraperson
A soundperson
A lighting person
The processing lab
The counterperson at the lab
An editor
A colorist
An effects person (titles, fades, dissolves, etc.)

How's that. 8 jobs lost.

I can do all of those jobs now with digital cameras (I will rent one for about $150/day) as well as a wireless microphone ($35/day), a reflector and maybe a light ($50), tape/memory card ($50) and lunch.

When I finish, I will take the video to my iMac where I  have Final Cut Pro, used by many feature and TV editors who prefer it to Avid, the industry standard. I learned FCP when I had comp courses at UCLA when I taught screenwriting extension classes.

In short, I can do it all.

Of course, the argument is; is this a good thing? If you're an editor looking for work, it probably isn't. Or a cameraperson.

And of course, there's the often repeated saying; "the good news is that everyone can make a movie, the bad news is that everyone can make a movie".

If this is what's going on in the film business, if I can literally make a movie for free, what does it speak for every job in the country.

Fresh & Easy, a British food store has locations in L.A. and they don't have cashiers at all, it's all scanners. Ralph's has 6 scanners in Sherman Oaks. Robots are making cars and work more efficiently and better than humans.

Where are these jobs Republicans are claiming to have if they're elected? Trickle down does not work as we've seen, and they're mostly delusional. Or just lying.  A politician lying?

The American worker hit his/her peak in 1973, meaning that was the moment when the average worker made the most money, say when a dollar was worth a dollar. It went downhill from then.

And American industry peaked in 1979. That was when America had it's highest level of industry, everyone was working. And that went downhill steadily too. A lot of experts say that industry is no longer driving America, now it's consumers.

Neither of these ever came back, there were spikes now and then but as of 2010 it was 65 cents.

So how can consumers drive the economy if there's so much unemployment (average is just around 9% but doesn't include those who stopped looking, and that's more like 15%)?

I think that as population increased, there are simply more people who can buy things. Go by Fashion Square here in Sherman  Oaks, yesterday there was a half a block of traffic going into the Mall and Macy's in particular.

Go figure? Who are these people? While unemployment is high, I can only think that there are enough people (and sales) that they continue to drive the economy.

And of course, I told you often that of the alleged 10,000 writers in WGA that only 1500 or so are actually working.

So don't complain to me.

And there's always "The Singularity". You know, when computers take over completely. Just like Terminator.