“Help” is a cottage industry these days in show business. Apparently the times of “The Good Samaritan” are over in the creative world. I suppose there was a time in the fields of writing and acting when “help” really meant “help.” You had a problem and someone came to your aid and they were glad to be of help to you.
I remember, and have mentioned in this blog before, when I was fourteen years old and my father’s first cousin, Sally Kelley, a published author, helped me when I proclaimed that I wanted to become a writer. She didn’t make me mow her yard or work in her garden in exchange for her advice and help. She just was too glad to help another human being try to get a toehold in a field of which she was quite experienced. Her reward was satisfaction that she had aided and abetted the creative process—not having lined her pockets with silver.
I remember when I first went to Hollywood, I could write agents, producers and directors and at least stand a slight chance of their responding to me. I can even remember when two very successful producers not only looked at my work but took the time to write me a critique to help me understand why they hadn’t accepted my submission. (George Pal, Jay Ward)
I remember when I first started acting, three different successful directors took time to explain why things were the way they were and how I could become a better actor—John Patrick, James Whale and George Cukor. I even remember famous actors and actresses who did the same for me—Billie Burke, Art Carney, Robert Mitchum, Dolores del Rio.
Oh, but those are DISTANT memories. Nowadays, “help” costs. If people have any secrets, bona fide or toro poo poo, which they think might be of help to you, they want money to divulge them. Even getting one minute of someone’s times these days is going to cost you.
Here is a big eye opener that I came across last month in a publication from a union I belong to—The Writers Guild of America. Here is part of one of their blog articles.
Coaches and Consultants
“They’re a new breed of industry professional, advocates-for-hire to help writers fine-tune their scripts, gain access to producers and strategize their careers. Do you need a coach or consultant?
“In recent years, coaches and consultants have emerged on the entertainment landscape, operating in the space between agents and managers to help writers develop scripts, find the right producers to pitch, even come up with a long-term career strategy.
“Last month, under the auspices of the WGAW’s Career Longevity Committee, four consultants and an independent producer convened to talk about what consultants do and how it might benefit writers. The panelists (who were not officially endorsed by the Guild): Wendy Kram, owner of L.A. For Hire, a boutique script consultancy firm; Lee Jessup, author of “Getting it Right: A Screenwriting Career;” Maggie Field, a literary consultant who matches screenwriters with literary properties; Tawnya Bhattacharya, founder of the consulting agency Script Anatomy; and Tracey Becker, President of Beachfront Films and producing partner at Informant Media.” Moderator and Event Chair was WGA member Mitch Paradise. (November 4, 2014, Write Now—WGAW News and Information.)”
As you can tell from the above article, HELP is definitely a marketable item these days. When I saw the phrase “a boutique script consultancy firm” in the preceding paragraph, it confirmed every nostalgic thought I had about the good ole days being gone forever and that the Good Samaritan now works for a fee.
Apparently every assistant director, producer, schlepper, production assistant, Craft food services employee, coffee maker at a studio is busy selling his or her “help,” “expertise” and “access” for big bucks.
Look on the Internet and you’ll be surprised at the number of blogs which are tied into someone trying to make a buck off of the person who will mortgage the farm to try and get his or her toe into this “fabulous” business. Then you have dozens of screenwriting contests where you pay to enter and they offer “access” as the reward for winning. Believe me if they can get a thousand folks to pay sixty dollars apiece, that’s pretty big bucks for doing nothing more than reading scripts—and the owners of the contest can buy their “access” prizes for a few thousand bucks, leaving themselves a chest full of silver.
Here we see the “free market” at its very worst. I guess the reason I’m so upset is because I never expected the “free market” to go into show business. Anything, anywhere that you can make a buck in the creative process seems par for the course these days. Such greed seems to be getting more prevalent all the time. The problem is “the little person” is now backing these nefarious schemes and social changes with their money. Until people stand up and stop this greed or until the show business profession stops being such a closed shop, the “help” for hire is here to stay.
What does the future hold? Who knows? Has greed ever produced a great society? If you know of one, let me know.