Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free shows!

More about free stuff and value. Not interns this time. This time, it's shows.

Television shows cost a hell of a lot more to make than a chocolate bar, so it's odd that so many programme makers would be willing to give their shows away for free, isn't it? Or even offer to pay to have their shows aired.

But it happens.

Just recently, a fairly new show gave a whole second series to one of the bigger (maybe biggest) children's channels over here for free. Well, not quite free. In return, they wanted a better time slot, just like the guy selling chocolate bars above. They wanted to have some say on when the show aired and that was worth giving the entire series away for no money whatsoever.

It's something I've mentioned before - the value of what many of us do in this industry is zero. Sometimes less than zero.

And you've got to wonder where they're making their money. Well, they're hoping it's in licensing and merchandising. Selling shit to your kids. That's what it comes down to.

There have been criticisms in the past that children's television is no more than dressed-up advertising. So many of the popular 80s cartoons were toy properties and were little more than cynical marketing ploys. Ploys many of us remember with fond nostalgia. Because we were total suckers. We were just children - a completely innocent audience. A victim unable to distinguish between entertainment and exploitation.

With shows being given away for free, that criticism needs to be brought to the fore right now. Because, unfortunately, it can be the only way these shows remain, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, commercially viable. Either people need to accept that in order to get television shows for their children, they need to allow their children to be targets of advertising (and I don't think people should ever accept that)....


The entire business model of children's television needs to be torn down, examined and rebuilt.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I don't have a dog right now. But this is what I'd be doing if I did.

I'm not really a spiritual person at all. I have questions with no answers and other questions with answers I don't like but don't really believe in a huge amount. But two things seem to allow me to go beyond what I see day to day. Just glimpses, probably just into my subconscious... but maybe to something more than that.

Music and dogs.

Music goes deep inside. Like that guy from Inner Space. Inside and then it sort of plants little bombs that go off, waking something up inside.

Dogs are different. It's not like I'd listen to dogs for any length of time. And barking isn't all that soothing. Certainly not approaching anything spiritual. But, with dogs, I see something in their eyes. I don't know what it is. Something familiar, something special.

I even see it in the stupid ones. Possibly more so in the stupid ones. Yes, so some will eat their own vomit or worse. And they sniff each others posteriors. And lick themselves in... well, you know.

But there's something more there.

Not in cats. I know some of you are cat people but cats are up to something entirely different. I don't trust them.

But dogs... dogs are special. If I had time, a lot of music and a dog, I'm pretty sure I could unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Learn from the Apple App Store

Just a little bit more on working for free.

Apps on the iPhone are pretty damn cheap. Many are free. Some fantastic ones are free actually. But invariably the free ones have much more one-star ratings (or even no-star if that's possible). This happens no matter how good the app may be.

Often, the more expensive an app is, the fewer one-star ratings it gets.

People pay for things they value. But it works the other way around too -

We value that which we pay for.

So, on the app store, it's easy to see how that works. People download a free app, load it up for thirty seconds (if even), don't instantly get hooked and then delete it, which hitting it with a one-star rating. If they've paid a tenner for that app, it becomes worth their time to really try the app out, get used to it, see if it has more to offer than it appears on the surface. By dumping it too early, they could miss out and lose the investment they put in to pay for it in the first place.

The same is true for employment.

If someone has invested even a week's wages on you, they'll be more likely to put the time into teaching you what you need to know. More likely to pay attention to what you do. More likely to look for the value you bring.

Less likely to give you that one-star rating.

And less likely to dump your sorry ass out on the streets.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome for animators

Cartoon Brew reported on a piece in the New York Times about unpaid internships. Specifically, that they may be illegal. The piece called out Little Airplane, makers of Wonder Pets -

"At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu."

In the comments in the Cartoon Brew piece, many came on anonymously not only backing it up but making out that things are far, far worse. Unpaid interns being completely mistreated, psychologically abused. Workers being treated like children. If there's any truth to the stories there, it sounds like people are expected to work in hideous and demoralising conditions. For little or no pay.

I actually hope the stories aren't true. I rather like Wonder Pets. It would be terrible to think something so pleasant comes from a place like that.

Little Airplane aren't alone. Other companies are brought up in the comments of the Brew piece, some not paying people for years. Not paying for the work they are getting. Like whole departments of slave labour.

But that wasn't the most horrifying thing of all.

No, there is something much worse buried in the comments of that Brew piece - Stockholm Syndrome for animators.

Many people are taken on as unpaid interns, put to work on productions and not compensated in any way, if any of them are like the allegations aimed at Little Airplane, they are taken advantage of.

And the victims not only accept it. They are grateful.

Grateful for being exploited.

From some Brew comments -

"As the work experience I gain allows me to be hired there or elsewhere", "don’t write off the value of the experience", "the unpaid intern spot got me a foot in the door", "couldn’t an internship just be viewed as a training session or a really long interview process?" and more.

Yes, it's hard to get your foot in the door. Harder still to make a steady living in this industry.

And, if you work for free or very little, you are part of the problem.

You are sabotaging your own craft, your own end of the industry, your peers and your co-workers both old and new. You are setting the value of your work at zero. You are setting the value of your co-worker's work at zero. Those new kids who are having a hard time getting a foot in the door, you can be damn sure you're setting the value of their work at zero.

You are part of the problem.

It's hard enough in this business. The power and the money is in all the wrong places. Most people accept the situation as normal but many of these people being exploited or working for very little are more talented than the people doing the exploiting. But those people at the top have the money and the control, creative and otherwise.


Because they won't do a damn thing for free. They don't allow themselves to become victims. And, in cases like these, you can be sure the people at the top, the slave drivers, are laughing their asses off and are getting paid damn well for it. They're getting what they want. Don't kid yourselves that they wouldn't take anyone on if they weren't getting them for free. Anyone who has had anyone hanging around for work experience knows that having a new kid around is often far more trouble than it's worth.

Which means only one thing - to retain these people for any length of time, they need the positions filled. They need the work done as part of their production. The Brew comments point to whole departments in some places being filled with interns.

The people at the top get what they want and make damn sure they are paid for it.

Creative talent, on the other hand, can be discarded and moved aside with no problem because the creative people will work for free, will work for almost nothing. They are willing victims.

And that's why it's so god damned hard to get your foot in the door.

Don't accept that.

Don't set the value of your work at zero. Stop making it harder for every single other person in your end of the business. Stop being part of the problem. Stop accepting the exploitation.

Stop working for free.

And please, stop being grateful to your captors. It's not right when it comes from a sex slave who has been kept in a box for years and it's not right from creative talent.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finding blog subjects...

I currently live a very sheltered life. By choice.

It's something I mentioned here before but I have a huge interest in what goes on in the world. I think we're capable of so much and yet we're kind of shitting on each other in a big way. Wars, conflicts, killing, maiming, torture are commonplace and almost always for the wrong reasons. And much of that is supported by people like us working for particular people, owned by particular corporations. We're part of it. Just doing our jobs.

Very little of that is reported by mainstream media. But it's all out there. It's not really hidden. And the more you look, the more things you'll find that will haunt you.

That was a major issue for me when I was in advertising. Trace who your clients are and who owns them and what they've done and, well, it's only a matter of time before you find out that you're a Stormtrooper working on the Death Star. I had to get out of advertising and I did but that doesn't mean things stop happening.

I had to go on a media blackout because these things haunted me and prevented me from living my life. I'm not completely happy with that choice because it's only by knowing about these things we can do something about them. Although, personally, I think the only real way things will change is by tearing down the whole current system and starting again. And that wouldn't be pretty.

I suspect it will happen some day in the not too distant future though. There's only so long this society's charade can continue. But that's a whole other subject.

Most of what is happening, I can't change. Not in my own little life. But I can contribute positively and choose carefully what I do and who I do it for. And I do that.

But I'm still on a media blackout.

And that sometimes means I don't have a huge amount to talk about.