Podcast: F You, Pay Me
00:00:07;03 - 00:00:12;15
F1: You’re listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Let’s be weird, snobby, and intellectual together.
00:00:14;13 - 00:00:25;24
M1: This week, I want to talk about respect. Respect for writers, for creative people and for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and independent contractors. Because apparently, people need to be reminded.
00:00:28;04 - 00:00:47;07
M2: (Clip from Goodfellas): The guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any he guy's got Paulie as a partner. problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill, he can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy. He can call Paulie. Now the guy's got to come up with Paulie's money every week no matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh?. Fuck you, pay me.
00:00:48;28 - 00:01:33;16
M1: If you love classic cinema, you know that scene from Goodfellas. " Fuck you pay me" has become a mantra for people who are self-employed. Shameless plug: It's also the title of my latest essay, which you can read at www.uptownbourgeois.com. It sounds harsh. Sure, guys in the mob can say " fuck" at work and get away with it. I n the freelance marketplace, the sentiment may not be appreciated. B ut the attitude, the bravado is necessary. Let me explain. It's almost guaranteed that at least two times a week, I'll receive a message from a prospective client along the lines of the following: " Hey I was really impressed with your work and I see that you charge X amount for this size job. I can only afford to pay half that for a job twice as big. I really want to work with you."
00:01:34;19 - 00:02:16;21
M1: If my eyes rolled any further back into my head, they'd get stuck. Listen, I get it. You started your company and you dumped all your money into building a website or a product and then it suddenly occurred to you that content is the way to connect with new customers. But you didn't budget for it. So you're pulling together whatever pennies you have left to get some great articles written. When you try to lowball me, you're just looking out for your bottom line, for your best interests. But you know what, I've got to look out for my best interests too. I f I do every job for half the price, that means I'm working twice as hard with half as much to show for it. Not sure about you, but my creditors don't accept half payments for my loans and my landlord damn sure doesn't accept half the rent as payment. So, until those two things become a reality, I need my money.
00:02:18;07 - 00:03:26;18
M1: (Clip from Harlan Ellison interview): Get a call yesterday. From a little film company down here in the valley and they're doing the packaging for, f or MGM, uh not MGM, for Warner Brothers on Babylon 5, which I worked on and I did a very long, very interesting on- camera interview about the making of Babylon 5, early on when Joe Stravinsky hired me and they want to use it. A young woman calls me and she says we'd like to use it on the DVD. Can that be arranged? I said absolutely; all you gotta do is pay me, and she said, What? All you gotta do is pay me. She said, well everybody else is just doing it for nothing. I said, everybody else may be an asshole but I'm not . By what right would you call me and ask me to work for nothing? Do you get a paycheck? Well yes. Does your boss get a paycheck? Do you pay the Telecity guy? You pay the cameraman, you pay the cutters? Do you pay the Teamsters when they ship the stuff on the trucks? Then how do you... would you go to a gas station and ask them to give you free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have him take out your spleen for nothing? How dare you call me and want me to work for free. Well it would be good publicity. I said lady, t ell that to someone a little older than you who has just fallen off the turnip truck.
00:03:26;23 - 00:04:10;17
M1: That fiery little gem was courtesy of Harlan Ellison, a prolific writer who has published more than 1700 works including short stories, novellas, screenplays, essays, plays, and so on and so forth. In other words, this is a guy who gets paid to write and he also advocates for other writers to be paid and he should. We all should. Writing is more than just a job; it's an art. A n art that takes a lot of fucking time to complete. It's an art that leaves you exhausted once you're done. It's consuming. Everything you write contains a little piece of you. You give it your all, and when someone refuses to pay you for it or suggests you should be paid less than what you're worth, i t's offensive. Writers, like any other profession, should be valued. Plain and simple. No questions.
00:04:10;27 - 00:04:56;16
M1: Before we take a quick break, I'll leave you with this quote from Yasmin Nair over at Vox. She writes, " It seems a huge stretch to state that, for me, writing is about changing the world. I am struck by how uncomfortable I am with the very idea of even saying that aloud but my discomfort has everything to do with the compacted and dense history of writing, the myths and confabulations that have sprung up around it and forced it to survive as something precious, incandescent, luminous. What I want instead is to bring back the idea of writing something that has a muscularity and a will to bring about a different world. And if we're to do that, we need to understand it as both work and labor and not pretend that to ask for payment is to be ungrateful about our place as writers." In other words: Fuck you pay me.
00:04:57;23 - 00:05:14;11
M1: It's a new year and this is a new podcast. Thus I need new sponsors. I f you like what you hear, and you're interested in helping make the show bigger and better, let's talk. Shoot me an email at Jefferey@uptownbourgeois. com. That's J E F F E R E Y at uptown bourgeois. com.
00:05:18;05 - 00:05:58;20
M1: Apparently, writers aren't the only ones fighting for fair pay and respect. This week, a big story broke when Mo'Nique called out Netflix via Instagram. (Clip): I'm asking that you stand with me and boycott Netflix for gender bias and color bias. I was offered a $ 500,000 deal to do a comedy special. However, Amy Schumer was offered 11 million dollars. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle 20 million dollars. And then, Amy Schumer went back and renegotiated two more million dollars because she said I shouldn't be getting what the men are getting, they're legends . However I should get more. Netflix agreed. Why shouldn't I get what the legends are getting? Please stand with me in this boycott of Netflix. I love us for real .
00:05:59;02 - 00:07:18;08
M1: There's a lot to unpack here. So Mo'Nique claims Netflix offered her five hundred thousand dollars to record a comedy special. Recent specials from the likes of Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle have commanded between 11 and 20 million dollars. She's calling for a boycott of Netflix on the basis of both gender and color bias. The next day fellow comedian Wanda Sykes says she was offered even less by Netflix but she went to Epix where she netted a bigger payday. First, I respect Mo'Nique a lot. It's not easy to be this transparent about how much money you make and it's not easy to call out a company like Netflix, that's so financially strong and influential in the entertainment industry. Plus, she's not wrong to ask for more money given she is an Oscar- winning actress who built her career as a comedian. That being said, I think asking for a boycott is a bit outrageous. At a time when a lot of people are experiencing financial hardships, it's going to be tough to feign outrage over half a million dollars. And to compare herself to Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle seems a little misplaced. When I think about their output, the movies and shows and social commentary they've delivered, the way they've influenced the public discussion. I just don't see Mo'Nique having that kind of impact. I think Netflix might be able to offer her more but I'm not sure she'll get 11 million dollars or 20 million dollars from any network.
00:07:18;23 - 00:07:43;11
M1: But I think this does bring to light pay disparities based on race and gender. And that is something to consider. Netflix hasn't commented on the matter, claiming they don't publicly discuss private negotiations but it seems there is an issue and there is at least an opportunity here to discuss how pay is determined and how the checks are divvied up. We're looking for more transparency and for creators of color who hope to reach a level in which they can negotiate with Netflix, I think they're looking for answers.
00:07:43;21 - 00:08:42;13
M1: This week, an anonymous pay survey, assembled as a Google Doc, started circulating, showing salaries, gender, experience, and other details about Hollywood writers, assistants, producers, and several other positions. The purpose of the doc is to shine a light on pay disparities, both gender and racial, and back it up with real data. First off, Hollywood writers get paid a lot like 3000 to 4000 dollars a week. Well that's not really a lot once you factor in the new tax code and all, but it's more than I'm currently making as a freelancer and it makes me think I should be moving in another direction with my work. But I digress. Even just quickly scanning, there are some clear gaps between what men and women are paid and there are racial gaps, but I'm sure a closer review will either reveal some dark truths or show that we're moving in the right direction. We'll see. But I bring this up to show that fighting to get paid what you deserve is a struggle at every level and in every industry. And if we don't stand up for ourselves and push back and demand to be paid market rate, we won't get it.
00:08:42;14 - 00:08:58;23
M1: Last thoughts I stumbled upon this piece this week while I was researching the podcast and there is a passage that really resonated with me. It's from Jonathan Tasini at the Guardian. It dates back to 2012, at the height of criticism when Huff Post wasn't paying a large portion of its contributors.
00:08:59;06 - 00:09:45;07
M1: Quote: the Constitution's framers understood an obvious thing. If authors are not paid a fair wage by controlling their work and earning a living, then there will not be an incentive to keep writing, and they wanted to keep power out of the hands of one king or a powerful entity. In the modern world, media companies, the new kings of information, have exercised enormous powers, slowly but surely seizing away the rights to authors' works via horrific contracts, then imposing poverty- inducing conditions on anyone who wants to produce creative works. I understand why people feel forced to write for free. Creators exist to have their work seen and consumed by others. It's fear not freedom that drives creators to succumb. Working for free, however, is not something we should accept as a norm that media companies can exploit.
00:09:45;08 - 00:10:52;12
M1: If you flip through corporate reports or media stories you may note that magically, billions of dollars are flowing into their coffers and top media executives are making millions of dollars in pay and benefits. When those executives donate their work, perhaps creators will reconsider their own demands for compensation. Indeed, that brings me to the larger issue consumers should keep in mind. I understand that more people, especially those under 30, believe that the advent of the Internet ushered in an era of " information is free", that anyone can be a writer and perhaps the idea of a paid creator is a thing of the past. But it is a truth that even in the age of the internet, where we think things are free, some very big powerful corporations are making and will make billions of dollars ultimately. That's because this is about power; actors, news writers, screenwriters, and some journalists make a decent living because unions established basic conditions and marshaled power. The " work for free" virus has spread precisely because millions of creators throughout the world lack collective organization; that isn't inherent in what we do. It's because we failed to get out of our pajamas and onto the streets. End quote.
00:10:52;18 - 00:11:01;02
M1: It's powerful. It's true. And the only way we can get what we deserve is to ask, and in some cases, take. Closed mouths don't get fed.
00:11:02;20 - 00:11:17;21
F1: Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week and subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud so you never miss out. If you love it, s hare it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email and let me know what you'd like to talk about. Until next week.
This podcast was transcribed using Simon Says.