I’ve been involved with reality television for a long time, and have seen productions of all shapes and sizes shift their story department and editor rates north and south in the strangest of ways.
Let’s say that fictional Company A caps their story producer salaries at $1200/wk and their editors at $2500, working everyone into the ground to meet nearly impossible deadlines on abbreviated schedules. Company B pays their story producers $2300/wk and caps their editors at $3500, maintains a regular work week, and manages to get shows out on time and on budget without driving their people nuts.
Why would anybody want to work for Company A? Because they don’t know that if everyone took a little stock in themselves instead of desperately jumping for the low-hanging fruit of any old paycheck at any personal cost, there wouldn’t be any Company A’s.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m at the comfortable point in my career that I can go a long stretch between gigs if need be rather than jump at something that’s half my rate just to keep the lights on, but I realize that some greener story folks just can’t. This is what Company A is banking on. Places like Company A are always on about how their budgets are being squeezed so they have to stay “leaner” and “more competitive,” but the reserved parking spaces next to the front door still have Maseratis in them instead of Priuses. The reality is that Company A and Company B are probably getting the same rates from the networks and cablers, the real difference being the disproportionately large chunk of change going into Company A’s owners’ pockets that they’ll begrudgingly fund overages out of only after things start to go south. Bringing shows in for them while paying anemic rates is like playing poker in Vegas. Sometimes the house wins, sometimes it loses, it just depends on the flop.
Since Company B pays competitive rates for their story producers and editors, they can attract more experienced, seasoned people. The result is a happier, more efficient work environment in which great shows can be turned out by skilled minds and eyes without robbing their employees of sleep or pride. There are fewer mistakes, fewer notes. The owners still make a healthy (though less obscene) profit on their shows, and generally, everybody goes home happy at the end of the day.
I’m begging you, future editors and story folks … don’t work for Company A. Just don’t. If you get promoted within, you’ll probably work your way up the ladder and someday be supervising shows for about the same money you should have been making down the flow chart as a story producer. What kind of reward or long term plan is that, and why on earth would you remain so doggedly loyal to a company that would treat you like that just to get a title bump or two?