July 2006 Archives
In case you do not live in Metropolis, Gotham City, Atlantis, or any of the other major cities where the Bureau of Superheroics is airing its latest public service announcement, you may see it online here.
(The ad was written by my co-author Matthew Brozik, and directed and edited by his brother Adam. I did the music and a few additional tweaks.)
A common question among aspiring screenwriters is: how much does a screenwriter make?
Every year, the WGAw releases an annual report, listing various statistics about its membership. It provides an interesting way of answering that question.
Acccording to the latest report, only 55% of all WGAw members had any income from film or TV. Among those who did have some income, median income was $106,756. So... if you have a 55% chance of working in a given year, and you get $106,756 that year, your annual expected income is $58,715. And there you have one answer: "A screenwriter earns $58,715 a year."
Of course, the problem with this calculation is that WGAw statistics only cover writers who are already in the WGAw--and you can't join the WGAw until you've already gotten one or more film or TV writing gigs. If you factor in a couple of years in a low-paying job as an assistant (or a waiter), the average income goes down further.
Furthermore, if you don't work for long enough, you can lose your active Guild membership--at which point, you vanish from the statistics.
I suspect that if you really factored everything into account, the median lifetime salary of a writer would be about $40-45k per year... which happens to be exactly the same as the median income for all Americans.
In short: screenwriting is a middle-class job. A hugely lucky screenwriter can become a millionaire--just like a hugely lucky office worker can become a stock-option millionaire--but most of us are just happy to be earning a solid, middle-class living doing something we love.
By the way, if you don't want to read through all 138 movies on my consensus "Greatest Films List," here's a bit of summary.
Not surprisingly, there was no movie that was on every single list. However, three movies were on eight of nine:
1931 City Lights
1954 On The Waterfront
Nine movies were on exactly 7 of the nine lists
1934 It Happened One Night
1941 Citizen Kane
1944 Double Indemnity
1946 It's A Wonderful Life
1952 Singin' In The Rain
1957 The Bridge On The River Kwai
1964 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying...
1972 The Godfather
1977 Annie Hall
There were 18 movies that appeared on exactly six lists. Among the
six-listers were Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown, Raging Bull, and
Vertigo, movies that I personally consider superior to such 7-listers
as Double Indemnity and "The Bridge on the River Kwai. Further proof,
as if you needed it, that taste is subjective.
About seven years ago, when I decided I was really serious about pursuing film as a career, I realized that I needed to start filling some major gaps in the movies I had seen. So, I took a couple of "Greatest Films Ever Made" lists and collated them to discover which films appeared most often. It soon became clear that my starting lists were biased in favor of English-language films and more modern films, so I added in a few lists weighted in favor of foreign films and older films.
Then I took every film that appeared on three or more of the eight lists I was using. And, because I am a geek, I arranged them in chronological order and steadily worked my way through all of them, starting with 1903's The Great Train Robbery and ending with 1994's Pulp Fiction. (The list ends in the early 90's because I put it together in 1999, and it seems to take at least five years for any consensus to start to emerge about the greatness of a given film.)
I've occasionally had requests from equally filmgeeky friends to send them the list. So, as a public service, I post it here: my objective, definitive, consensus list of the Greatest Films Ever Made. (OK, not really. What I REALLY have is a list of 138 movies that at least 3 people or organizations with some expertise feel everybody ought to see. I think that's still worthwhile )
I came across a rather interesting eBay auction. I wonder if it's authentic? If so, I wonder how the guy got his hands on it.
Matthew? Any guesses?
As proof that I haven't forgotten the ways of my native land, I would like to wish all my fellow Americans a very happy Fifth of July. I know that today, all across the US, Americans will be playing football, eating apple crisp, and flying the Star-Spangled Union Jack. God save the President!
(Actually, Lauren and I spent the Fourth of July in the traditional way--by hanging out in a London pub while the Germany/Italy World Cup match played in the background.)