Saturday, October 25, 2014

Art and Money

I am now a member of two unions, SAG-AFTRA (One Union!) and AGVA (which is mainly for characters in theme parks). Yay for me, yay for them!

I recently saw a tweet that included the line "Never work for money..." in the context of screenwriting. After a very short Twitter conversation, I was told that I was taking the line out of context and to get off my soapbox. 

Here's the thing: in or out of context, I believe that this quotable quote, which we've heard before, was invented by the people who make money off of other people's work.

Now on its surface, it's pretty innocuous. Of COURSE we should make art because of almost any reason at all except for money. OF COURSE art made for the sake of money is less inspiring. (Not "of course", but that's not what this post is about.)

But that quote is really insidious. It makes the artist feel shame about demanding fair compensation for his or her labor. We are supposed to love what we do, to be doing what we do for the love of it, not the money, so why would we expect to be compensated for it? We're supposed to trust the corporations that monetize our art to compensate us fairly.

But the corporations have no such idealistic principles. Or... well, they do. They have a financial ideal. To create the greatest profit. And here's the thing:

If they can pay you less, they will.

None of this is earth-shattering. We know that's how capitalism works. I'm just adding to the conversation that this insidious little phrase, "Never work for money," in any context undermines the professional artist who is selling his or her labor for money. Thank goodness I have a union that can do the struggling for finances for me, because I'm too in love with doing my work to refuse to do it if I don't get paid. They protect me. (And so does my agent: Shoutout to Pacific Talent for their labor and how they look out for me)

But also, don't get into the arts for the money. There isn't much. There are many easier ways to make a living. I recommend you learn coding. It's fun and salable.