If you’re getting started in entertainment and making the standard assistant’s salary* but don’t want the same financially unsustainable lifestyle as your Boss then (especially early on in your career) you have to make sacrifices. If you’re paying for cable television, it’s not making the cut. That shit’s got to go faster than Andrew Rhodes five-minutes of fame via Reddit and IMDB’s Starmeter.
You’d think this is a no-brainer. As I learn more and more, however, when it comes to spending, saving and investing, things are never simple. Our relationship to money here in Los Angeles and working in entertainment is often completely fucked…
For example, my friend “Jack,” an assistant/CE, complains he doesn’t have enough money, doesn’t earn a high enough wage, and aspires to be make low- to mid-six-figures as a producer by his mid-thirties. Then I find out Jack is dumping $170 a month into his cable package, and I want to go Spock on his Khan ass (which sounds far more sexual than intended).
If you have cable, it is crushing you: it’s crushing your wallet, it’s crushing your time and your health, it’s crushing your formerly-well adjusted perspective on what’s important and what’s bullshit. Here’s how:
- Jack pays $170 for his Internet & Cable package. It’s “packaged” so unsavvy consumers like Jack will justify the cost for cable. “Internet alone costs $80 per month. Might as include an extra $80 and get the cable package as well. Obvi.”
- First of all, Jack needs to find a different cable provider. One that isn’t trying to bend him over and tell him who’s his Daddy.
- Second, a “good deal” on cable isn’t a good reason to buy. After moving from New York to California, I wouldn’t take up smoking just because cigarettes were a “good deal.” It’s still a waste of money, time, and bad for my health. Cigarettes, too.
- Third, the average American in the 18-24-years-old demo watches 25 hours of television per week. That’s 1,400 hours in a year, or +58 whole days — holy shit, can you imagine what you can accomplish with an extra 58 whole days in a year?
By watching less cable, you’re protect yourself from bombardment by the machines of consumerism. These are like the Machines in the MATRIX: REVOLUTION, except not stupid. Before touting the wonders of your TiVO or DVR device (“No Ming, I fast forward through commercials, I’m not susceptible to commercials, hah!”) you do realize you have billion dollar brands and million dollar P&A budgets working against you, don’t you? Do you think a little TiVO will stop them? The commercials and branding are all “built-in” the programming, and not just obnoxiously obvious product tie-ins on E! or on reality program, but on high-brow cable television as well. So on top of the hours you’ve saved on not watching cable, add on the time saved not chasing the “in-app” purchases equivalent to watching cable.
DEBUNKED: Reasons Why You Need Cable
Here are the most common responses I get when from the die-hard cable groupies, who defend cable like an abused spouse, standing by their provider despite the years of bruises and emotional abuse. I say, time to kick the motherfucker to the curb:
“You work in entertainment. How do you not have a television? How do you not watch TV?”
Nope, I’m too busy getting drinks (link back here) or kicking ass. If I don’t have drinks, my evening looks like this: work out, write, cook dinner for two, read like a motherfucker. Then I’ll squeeze in 30 minutes of whatever shows I’m catching up on (BOARDWALK, GoT, BREAKING BAD, HIMYM, etc.) If you work in entertainment, how do you have time to flop in front of the television screen in the evening?
If you need a schematic of America’s viewing habits, spend 20 minutes learning how the Nielsen ratings work. Then read the trades. Deadline offers a daily digest of television ratings from the night before, and Variety covers the Daily Box Office numbers. Between these two, you’ll have a thorough understanding of how America spent their evening while you kicked ass like a superhero.
“It’s people like you (who don’t watch TV, who don’t buy cable, etc.) who are ruining the industry.”
You know what’s ruining the industry? Shitty movies and shitty television. Executives who think if you chase a $20MM budget with $50MM in P&A spent on traditional media buys like billboards, bus ads, and TV spots. If you really want to watch E! or ESPN or the FoodNetwork channel that’s on you. Don’t lay the struggling financials of the industry off on people who refuse to bend over as Comcast, Time Warner, Dish, AT&T, or Verizon FiOS screw us.
Also, be honest: being the bitch of these cable companies has nothing to do with giving back to the industry. It has everything to do escaping the empty space in your life. That’s what entertainment is — which isn’t a bad thing. However, don’t pretend to take the high road. If you want to “give back,” make something awesome.
Giving back to the industry by paying for cable is like giving back to the city of Los Angeles by racking up parking tickets. Or overdrafting your bank account on purpose so you can pay the fee to support Big Banks.
“I want to watch all my games and movies on the big screen, for the full experience. I can’t watch streaming television on my computer.”
Seriously, you want the experience? I’d rather experience $10,380 invested someplace that’ll provide me income for the rest of my life.
On a more helpful note: if you already have your “entertainment system” set-up, with a flat screen that’s practically painted across the wall and speakers so tall they block jump shots, pick up a Blu-Ray player for the cost of about two months worth of cable (according to Amazon, one costs between $65 – $200). Then, you can stream your online content right to your entertainment system.
Online Content and Alternatives to Cable
Speaking of, here are the alternatives to dropping cable, all at fractions of the $60 per month price tag:
- Netflix (Streaming / DVD) – $8 / month for streaming, $16 / month for streaming and DVD rentals (good for films, good for TV series and now with Netflix original content)
- Hulu Plus – $8 / month (good for TV series, bad for films)
- Amazon Video – $80 / year, ($6 / month) (with membership to Amazon Prime, so you not only get access to their video collection, but free two-day shipping on most Amazon products.)
- Hulu – $0, with limited choices and more commercials
- Streaming network shows (which more and more networks do from their websites) – $0
- Finally, If you work in entertainment, you are two degrees away from a copy of every film, every produced pilot, and every completed season of any show. Unlike anyone else in every other industry, you have access. Does it take some legwork? Yes. You have to network, you have to play nice, and most important, you have to provide value to others first. Swapping of screeners and DVD is like commodities trading, and getting in the mix will help further your career.
The benefits of cutting your cable and stopping the hemorrhage of cash$ are vast:
- You’ll save more than $10,000, which after you save and invest for yourself, (link back) will provide income for years.
- What could you accomplish with an extra 1,400 hours (58 whole days) a year? Cut the cable and the time spent in front of the television will diminish to nothing. All that time you needed to write that script, shoot that short, or start your next project, suddenly opens up for you.
- If you need your entertainment fix? Get sceeners and pilots from other assistants, which will push you to reach out, meet new people, and give something in return. Cutting your cable not only saves time and money, but will help develop your network.
Why are you waiting to cut your cable? Don’t worry about ruining the industry. Bigger, stupider assholes have tried and failed.
*What’s a typical assistant’s salary? WME Mailroom starts it’s trainees just above minimum wage (~$10 per hour); Paradigm’s starting offer to assistants is $12.95 (there’s room to negotiate); smaller management companies start you anywhere from $27.5K to $32K yearly salary.
**These numbers are for watching television programming across screens (tv, computer, phone, etc.)
Photo credit: Alba Soler Photography