Archive for August 14th, 2008

Writing Reality

14th August 2008

Robert J. Elisberg, writing at The Huffington Post, discusses the oppressive conditions that many writers deal with while working for the biggest producers of “reality TV” in the USA, FremantleMedia. Yes, reality TV shows are scripted.

Fremantle creates American Idol, along with a slew of other shows, and made $1.8 billion last year from its programmes. The host of American Idol, Simon Cowell, signed a five-year contract for an annual fee of $50 million.

Elisberg writes:

And the writing staff and production assistants are regularly required to work 15-20 hour days, seven days a week. No healthcare. No pensions. And often no time for lunch breaks. And rest breaks.

To address this problem the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has organised a Truth About Freemantle tour, which is drawing attention to Freemantle’s policies among the people who are auditioning for American Idol.

Elisberg adds;

By the way, to those unaware of the term used earlier, “production assistants” is a glorified name for “lackeys.” They run errands. Chauffeur others around. Do people’s laundry. You know, the glamorous Hollywood stuff. Justin Buckles is a former production assistant for “American Idol.” He recalls, “I wasn’t allowed to take a break, even for lunch.” One day, after working 18 hours again, he figured out how much he earned. “It came to $4.50 an hour.”

In case you forgot, minimum wage in California is currently…$8.00 an hour.

“American Idol” alone made a profit of $200 million. Simon Cowell alone was paid $50 million. The company took in $1.8 billion. Justin Buckles wanted lunch. And minimum wage. (Just think: Fremantle could pay the $250,000 in overtime wages it’s currently being sued for, give health care, pay Simon Cowell his $50 million – and still make a profit of $199.5 million.)

An old story, but one that needs to be repeated until change happens.

Write in France

14th August 2008

Irish writers, who have published at least one book by a reputable publishing house (i.e. not a vanity press), are entitled to apply for a residency in La Villa Marguerite Yourcenar, in Northern France, on the Belgian border, 25 miles from Lille. All literary genres are acceptable: novel, poetry, theatre, essay, comics, youth-oriented literature, etc.

The residency is managed by the Conseil général du Nord, and offers authors from all over Europe accommodation for a period of one to two months in order for them to carry on or finish a manuscript. Applicants are selected by an independent jury of specialists and personalities from the European literary sphere. Residence at the Villa Marguerite Yourcenar is accompanied by an €1,800 monthly grant.

The deadline for the next application round is: 31 January 2009. For information and application forms, contact Françoise Bultez :