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Film Profits Don't Discriminate by Age

August 20, 1994

Concerning Susanne Gayle Harris' Aug. 12 article on age discrimination, "Seniors in the Industry Strategize for Hollywood Jobs":

Neither approach being considered by the Writers Guild Age Awareness Committee has much chance of working.

Producers are driven by the need for success and profits. Whether or not labor practices are unfair is an academic question. Developing programming for mature audiences is an admirable goal, but there's no reason why this should be done by older people.

As a writer on the aging process recently pointed out, the best way for older people to become ossified is to associate entirely with their peers. Carry this philosophy to its extreme and you could say that only cops should make cop shows and only doctors should film in hospitals.

The way for older, creative people to get work is very simple. Producers just need to realize that the mature person will do it better--whether the subject be babies, oversexed teen-agers or septuagenarians.

And they can. Mature writers have learned how to structure stories. They can draw on a lifetime of experience and wisdom to give their work reality, depth and significance. They know how to develop character.

And directors have encountered enough situations to know how to solve problems when they arise. If time or circumstances preclude creativity, they can fall back on technique. They know the secrets of communicating with actors and don't waste time and film on coverage they'll never use.

If producers believe that older people can do the job faster, better and cheaper than the kids, no one will need to worry about lack of employment.

The article also refers to non-union production and the flood of film school students willing to work cheap. Remember that many older people actually need very little money--they own their homes, their kids are through school, they have investments and pensions, some even draw Social Security. They are able and often quite willing to work for nominal salaries because they enjoy what they do. And, unlike the kids, who see each job as a steppingstone to Spielberg-class fame, they are more often disposed to do what's best for the show.

Before assuming an experienced filmmaker is out of their price range, producers should try asking. They might be pleasantly surprised.



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