My comment on Stephen M. Levinsons Blog Concerning Artists and The Productions They Work On

This is actually a comment I left over on Stephen’s Blog but it seems like a pretty good opinion piece that’s suitable to post here too.

Wow, that’s a lot of questions there Stephen!

Firstly, if you want to know about some of the basic principles of capitalism, I highly suggest a book on basic economics. The class I took went a long way in helping me understand some of the foundations upon which modern enterprise is built.

One of the principles that I learnt was that of opportunity cost and marginal benefit. Basically what that means is that you are willing to work at the price you work at because the opportunity costs of doing otherwise are too great. That’s not to say that you should keep working at a crappy job, but that if you believe you are under-valued, you will, not may, will look and move elsewhere.

I don’t agree with the pay of the Viacom executives, that’s just my opinion. As an engineer, I absolutely detest inefficiency and waste, so you can imagine how I might feel when I see that Vicom pays it’s execs far more than Disney while having a far lower market capitalisation. Granted, they’re different companies with different make-ups and priorities and the Cartoon Brew post did focus specifically on the numbers in light of animation, which I think skewed things a bit.

Should artists be given fair compensation for their work? Absolutely! However, capitalism is not necessarily based on merit, it’s based on risk. As a businessman, that is something you are already familiar with. Capitalism is founded on the idea that whoever takes the risk gets to enjoy the rewards. In a company or studio’s case, they are the ones putting up the capital for an animation project, and as a result, get to keep the proceeds. In most cases, they do, although it would be foolish to believe that some will not resort to shady tactics in order to keep as much of the earnings as possible.

I think the crux of your argument centres around the idea that animators do not receive adequate compensation for their work. I think they do, in light of the current level of demand and the size of labour supplies. When you look into it though, series creators normally do have rights in regards to their creations. In this regard, I think the internet will be a boon on a larger scale than what is offered by the incumbent networks.

Right now, we are right smack in the middle of a Gutenburg-esque transition in the world. The internet is only another broadcast medium albeit one that allows two-way interaction and right now, it is companies like Next New Networks who are showing the way to a successful business model in the new era. The transition will affect animation too, but the artform’s ability to transcend national boundaries with relative ease will stand to its benefit in the long term.

I firmly believe that artists and animators should have a say in how productions are run but as you posted yourself a while back, Joe Murray gets it dead on in his opinion that too nay artists don’t get the right balance between art and business, and if you’re the manager of a studio, would you want someone with know business knowledge making decisions that could affect your bottom line? I don’t think so.

My advice to you is to read (if you have not already done so) “Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive” by David B. Levy. It give a superb overview of the animation industry and offers plenty of insight into the rewards and pitfalls of a career in the industry.

By the sounds of things though, you should do just fine 🙂

All the best,

Charles

2 Comments on “My comment on Stephen M. Levinsons Blog Concerning Artists and The Productions They Work On

  1. Hi Charles,

    You make good points, but the underlying issue with executive pays is that they don’t assume the risk nor they put up the capital.

    The shareholders assume the risk. Their investments allow the company to purchase the capital and produce intellectual properties which they acquire.

    Entertainment executives, by and large, aren’t assuming any risks. There are exceptions, of course, Lucas and Jobs immediately come to mind.

    I’m not going to begrudge Sumner Redstone his millions from a corporation he bought through canny business deals. But if I were the type to invest my money in other people’s companies I’d be miffed if my investments were going to these inflated salaries and bonuses.

    • Thanks for the comment, Richard.

      Right you are, company executives are supposed to act as shareholder’s agents when conducting company business and in a lot of cases, their compensation is tied to fiscal performance or meeting certain returns on investments.

      The funny thing is, as you point out, the ones that really did act in the best interests of both the shareholders and employees of the company, turned out the richest of all, and they didn’t earn it through a salary! I think there’s lessons to be learned there.

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