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Observer at Large

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The stereotype of the struggling actor waiting tables is the firstimage that comes to mind when talking about what people do when theyaren’t working in the industry. However, many industry workers, bothbelow and above the line, piece together a full-time living from avariety of jobs in motion picture and television production or in otherfields. Recent studies conducted by The Entertainment Economy Instituteand others confirm what we have known anecdotally for years.In our study on industry employment and earnings released in December2004, we discovered that over half of the 400,000 entertainment workersin California earned more than half of their income fromnon-entertainment jobs.For example, an animator may be laid off after a feature film projectis completed and get a freelance job at a game company or a web-designfirm. A set painter or construction foreman may sometimes work for afriend’s construction company. My favorite is an entomologist whoprovides “trained” insects for production companies and also consultswith the extermination industry!This finding naturally led to the question: Where else do people work?In our first exploration of that subject we coined the term”crossworking.” Our focus was on so-called “high-tech” entertainmentemployees. These included people working in production, post, visualeffects and animation, distribution (including DVD production) and”high-tech support.” We identified a series of industry occupations andthen looked at what other industries employed these same occupations.Not surprisingly, the less industry-specific the occupation the morelikely it was to be found in other sectors. For example, the high-techsupport category was found in 275 different industries. Fewerindustries employed camera occupations (52), sound editing and mixing(31) and film editing (18). The top industries for film editors wererelated industries—radio and television broadcasting, cable and othersubscription programming, and the manufacture and reproduction ofmagnetic and optical media. Sound editors and mixers were also wellrepresented in broadcasting and performing-arts companies.Our next project zeroed in on one specific occupation—what thegovernment calls “multimedia artists and animators.” We had alreadydiscovered that these digital artists worked in at least 55 differentindustries. Our task was to uncover what those industries were and theprojections for employment in the future.My research director, Kathleen Lee, set out to pull all the availablegovernment data and make it easy to understand. We found that digitalartists are employed in advertising, architecture and design, webdesign, video games, toys, automotive, aerospace, software publishingand forensic science among other industries.We also discovered that this area is growing faster in California thanin the nation as a whole. In fact, employment growth trends in art,design and entertainment-related occupations in California are expectedto continue over the next five to six years. According to employmentprojections published by the California Employment DevelopmentDepartment, art and design occupations are expected to grow by 21percent between 2002 and 2012 and multimedia artists and animators willgrow almost 28 percent over the same period. And the jobs are very wellpaid. The average annual wage for a multimedia artist and animator inthe Los Angeles region was $80,870 in May 2005—nearly double theaverage annual wage for all occupations in all industries.Why? One reason is that we are increasingly consumers of visualinformation. The development of the web and the accessibility ofpowerful tools to design and animate have allowed many industries toharness the power of the moving image. Watch the coverage of the MarsRover and you will see simulations that are created using the samesoftware and skills found in the latest blockbuster CG movie. Evensomething as personal as laying out your new kitchen comes completewith a virtual flythrough done on a computer. Don’t like slate floors?Here’s what it looks like with cork or tile.Another recent study of artists in LA and San Francisco funded by theHewlett Foundation and Irvine Foundation found that artists of allkinds (musicians, visual or performing artists) move often between thecommercial, nonprofit and community sectors. Of the 1,800 surveys theyanalyzed, only 19 percent never work in commercial art and only 17percent never work in the not-for-profit arts.There are several implications for individual workers in this research.One is that project-based employment, for long a normal fact of life inmotion picture and television production, is now the way manyindustries function. Another is that the creative, technical andpersonal skills that are so valuable in the entertainment industry havea lot of value in other industries. Finally, the requirement thatindividuals keep their personal and professional networks wide andwarm, their skills up-to-date, and their finances in good order, hasnever been more important.NEWSCLIPS DIGESTNew York: NYPA Releases Economic Impact StudyThe total economic impact of film, television and commercial productionin New York was an estimated $13.3 billion—a much larger figure thanthe estimate of $5 billion previously reported. the study, funded bythe New York production community, targets the impact of globalization,pressure on production costs, and new investments in sound stagecapacity. Go to www.nypa.orgSource: New York Production AllianceAustralia: Local Filming Up, Foreign Production DownAn Australian Film Commission survey that found fewer internationallybankrolled features were made in 2005–2006 than during any other periodin the past 10 years. More Australian films are being made locally butoverall production has dropped 33 percent from the previous year.Source: Border MailIsrael: Hollywood Scouts Israeli LocationsA high-powered group of Hollywood agents, producers and directors willspend a week touring Israel on a trip sponsored by the IsraeliConsulate in conjunction with the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles. Thegroup includes director and screenwriter Alexander Payne, producer anddirector Jon Turteltaub, director Michael Tolkin, and William Morrisagent David Loner.Source: Israel Today MagazineColorado: State Loses ProductionColorado, the first state to create a film commission, closed it in2003 due to budget woes. That same year, neighboring New Mexico enactedaggressive production incentives and has attracted over $280 million inproduction.Source: Denver Post, Electa DraperUK: Film Council Encourages Diversity Through ToolkitA new resource created by the publicly funded UK Film Council coverstopics like employment practices designed to increase minorityemployment, access issues for disabled theatergoers, and the portrayalof minorities in entertainment content. The toolkit can be accessed athttp://www.diversitytoolkit.org.uk/Source: Regional Film and Video, www.4rfv.co.ukTo be added to my mailing lists, email me [email protected]. I welcome comments and suggestions forfuture columns. You will find a number of studies about the industry atwww.entertainmentecon.org.

Written by Kathleen Milnes

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