Wages really have gone down

His first novel, The Man Who Rode By Night, written when he was a teenager, was a 40,000-word Western for which he was paid the princely sum of a guinea per thousand words.

That’s £5,000 these days. And a no name teenager writing a penny Western really isn’t going to get that sort of sum as a fee.

Heck, if that was the fee then you’d be seeing edition 504 of my westerns by now….

Not that it was all loadsamoney being a writer:

When Sharples submitted his first television script, shortly before ITV went on air in 1955, he was told that he would receive no fee as, after all the payments to actors, there would be no money left. When he asked why the actors were being paid and he was not, he was told: “Because the bastards have a union.”

6 thoughts on “Wages really have gone down”

  1. he was told that he would receive no fee as, after all the payments to actors, there would be no money left.

    No money left for a decent script once the top-billed actors are paid? What’s changed since 1955, exactly?

  2. Everything I think about developing a second career as a writer and dream about the possibilities of money and travel, Tim happens along and shatters the dream with a great big baseball bat.

    I suppose I better just carry on with the IT caper.

  3. Tim Newman,

    “No money left for a decent script once the top-billed actors are paid? What’s changed since 1955, exactly?”

    One thing that’s changed is that there isn’t the pay like there once was for top-billed actors. Tom Cruise was making $20m a film in the early 90s. No-one is making that today, except Robert Downey Jr, and that’s only for Iron Man, and only because of continuity – they didn’t lock him into a 3 Iron Man/2 Avengers option deal at the start because they didn’t know if Iron Man would be a success. The guy playing Thor makes about $1m a film.

    I’m not exactly sure what’s behind it (I suspect it’s that the Kardashians etc dominate gossip columns rather than actors), but it’s a good thing. Actors are about the least reliable measure of a film being good out of actors, directors and producers.

  4. One thing that’s changed is that there isn’t the pay like there once was for top-billed actors.

    Ooh, I didn’t know that!

    I’m not exactly sure what’s behind it

    Perhaps the closing of the gap between TV and films? Starring in a decent HBO series is almost as prestigious as starring in a film these days. A decade ago, any star moving from film to TV would be considered finished.

    Actors are about the least reliable measure of a film being good

    Indeed.

  5. Tim Newman,

    Yeah. TV is now a bigger place for the “drama” genre. People are happy with stuff on TV like Breaking Bad. But TV doesn’t have so much money sloshing around.

  6. Witchsmeller Pursuivant

    Kudos to Tim for pointing out how vital trade unions are in protecting the wages of workers.

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