11/2/2007

Vintage: Studio Economy Pact

Posted in Vintage at 1:54 pm by Sam

The WGA is on the verge of striking. As with the last WGA strike in 1988, it changed the face of television overnight. The reality show genre blossomed, and audiences fled the networks for cable channels in droves. You think there are lots of reality shows now? Feature films are less likely to impacted, although films that might otherwise go direct to DVD might get a shot in theaters.

Behind the mask of arts and entertainment Hollywood puts forth as its product, it’s one of the messiest political maelstroms you can imagine. In short, there’s a lot of money floating around, and everybody wants a piece of it.

On that thin connecting link, we segue to another struggle about money between factions in the moviemaking machine about. In 1927, the studios were facing rising costs, especially with sound on the horizon. The proposed solution? To cut salaries 10% across the board. I’ve mentioned this before as asides in previous Vintage posts. Needless to say, there was an uproar at the prospect, and it moved filmmakers of all sorts — producers, directors, writers, actors, and technicians — to devise and propose an alternative. They came up with the “Studio Economy Pact,” a pledge they would enact with the studios to observe a policy designed to keep costs down.

Studio Economy Pact

The pact is noteworthy for showing how the movie studios really started to work together. A few bullet items under the “producers” section talk about cutting costs by the studios pooling their resources, so that research need not be duplicated within each studio. But the very existence of the pact itself is evidence of this. Note, at the top, where the pact was devised. At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences — AMPAS — now best known as the “Academy” in “Academy Awards.” AMPAS was originally formed as an entity that would further the art of film…and resolve problems like this one.

The scan here is a copy of the Studio Economy Pact. Some of you will find it dry. I thought it was pretty interesting. My favorite bullet item is the very first, which speaks directly to the stereotype of spoiled, temperamental actors. And I can’t help but think Stanley Kubrick would have had a tough time with the rules for directors.

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