Author Topic: Unpaid/Underpaid Positions  (Read 27760 times)

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Unpaid/Underpaid Positions
« on: Sep 25, 2007, 08:59 am »

"Would you mind working over 40 hours a week for enough money to buy you a Happy Meal?"

In my recent pursuit of employment, I've unfortunately come upon a number of companies who are asking for full time stage management staff with a ton of experience.  Upon further investigation, they are also offering little to no salary.

What's a SM to do?  How can a company expect their staff to live and work if they aren't willing to pay?  It just seems to me as though if you are going to be paying less than full time wages for full time work, you should A) Not be requiring a ton of experience so that these kinds of jobs can go to college students or less experienced Stage Managers or B) not refer to yourselves as "professional" if you aren't going to pay your staff.  Realize that you are actually running a community theatre!

Granted, all companies have to start somewhere . . . . ah, the joys of being a non-union SM.

I'm curious to see what everyone else has to say about this.


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Re: Unpaid/Underpaid Positions
« Reply #1 on: Jun 29, 2008, 02:01 pm »
I feel this way about some of the union work out there. Some off Broadway contracts offer lower salaries than unemployment


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Re: Unpaid/Underpaid Positions
« Reply #2 on: Jun 29, 2008, 05:18 pm »
And SPT . . . I pay my PA's more then many AEA SM's make in Washington DC.

I thought that all theatres had woken up to the reality that stage managers are not technically managers (we don’t hire and fire, we don’t set our own schedule, and a host of other issues) in the exempt/non-exempt touch stone, and if not AEA, they would need to be paid hourly, with overtime.

Unfortunately, I think it's market driven to a certain extent, and then sort of the accepted norm to a certain extent.

If I need a stage manager, and I offer $100.00 and find someone, then the next time, I may try to get away with $90.00 and see what happens.  Part of the solution is for us not to take the low paying jobs. 

The other thing is that we are sort of sold on the fact of the myth of the suffering artist - we need to need to suffer for our art, we need to work for nothing in hopes to get experience to get a paid job, etc, etc - we actually are enabling theatres to produce without paying a living wage – and people do this for years.  (NYC seems to be the worse, with people doing workshops after workshops getting paid NOTHING to do an entire show – I did one workshop for a fairly established theatre company in NYC – and quickly realized the scam of showcasing.) 

Go to school.  Get an internship, and then wake up to the reality that this is a job, and you need to get paid for it.  Yes, there is going to be a period where the pay is going to be crap, but never let yourself be taken advantage of.  Producers need to learn that if they want someone full time, they need to pay full time (and this is not just a non-union issue, there are SPT contracts where the pay you could never live on).

In the end, if this is a career, you need to make calculated decision about home much time and money you are going to invest into your business (doing a show instead of paying job is in an investment in you $400.00 a week + Health Care working at Starbucks a week versus $100.00 and no health care to do a non-equity show means that you are hoping sometime down the line to make up that $300.00 + Health Care costs.) 

And, the industry as a whole, needs to learn to stop take advantage of people early in the career. 

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.


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Re: Unpaid/Underpaid Positions
« Reply #3 on: Jul 20, 2008, 03:23 pm »
I wish “the industry” would treat AEA minimums as what they are, rather than acting as though they are the standard salary.  When you have more than the minimum experience, you should get more than the minimum salary, yet I’ve often found that the burden is on the SM to justify even the smallest increase.   Complicating this is that, especially in SPT theater, they may simply not have the budget to go above a certain point financially, for anyone.  Being a talented and well-liked SM will indeed get you hired, but it won’t always get you more money, and it’s not necessarily because anyone wants to take advantage of you.  Not taking the low paying jobs may have too high a price when you love the challenges of SMing the new plays and intimate productions that smaller theaters are more likely to produce.  If your goal is to work on the large scale classics and big budget musicals that the big budget theaters are putting on, you may find there are fewer companies working at that level, and more competition for their SM slots.
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