Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

If I’m going to get screwed, could someone at least buy me a drink first?

Inconsistency is the nature of working freelance in any industry, so of course I have good years and bad years, but I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve always been able to earn enough to make ends meet.

Work like hell in the good years, save it up for the bad years.

However, this last 16 months have been terrible for just about everyone.  When it should have been busy, it was dead, and when it was normally dead, it was stone dead.  Although a lot of us had hoped it would pick up in March, unfortunately this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Although I’ve been able to scrounge up a day or two each week (which is a lot more than others have managed), I’ve completely run through any savings I had and am now dependent upon my state unemployment insurance to fill in the gaps.

Which is fine – by pinching my pennies and foregoing all the things that make life extra wonderful (sushi, wine, periodicals, etc…) I’ve managed to scrape by.

Until today, when I opened the mail, expecting to get an unemployment check and finding that they’ve invented a new ‘waiting period’ out of the blue – which, of course, fell on a week when I didn’t work and was due the full amount.

For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with unemployment, when one first files a claim one is forced to endure a waiting period of a week during which no benefits are payable – I don’t know why that is. I guess they hope I’ll find a job and won’t  bother to file the rest of the paperwork.

Normally, though, there’s only one withheld week per claim, and my ‘fuck you, loser’ week was in January, so this random withholding of benefits confuses and angers me, but at least I’ve got company.

Upon making a few phone calls, I discovered that just about everyone I know has had benefits withheld for that week, so I’m guessing the the state of California, in a desperate attempt to save money, has just decided to screw the unemployed people out of a week’s worth of benefits.

Normally, this would just make me roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all, but last week I made some promises to the utility company which I now can’t keep – so I may lose my internet again if calling and begging to keep the power on  doesn’t help.

Thanks, California. Thanks a lot. This is much better than a 2.5% tax increase on people who have a net income of over $250,000. Bleed me dry instead. I totally understand your logic one this one. Assholes.

Speaking of economic uncertainty, one of my aunts who lived through the Depression (the real one in the 1930’s), has agreed to take questions about how to stretch your dollar (or pound, or euro, or whatever) and what life was like back then. Although it’s for something that will go on LAist (I’ll happily crosspost here if you all would like),  if you’ve got a question for her, feel free to either email me or post it to the comments and I’ll relay it.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

13 Responses

  1. Catherine says:

    I’m in a comparable tight spot as we speak, and it’s just painful. GOod thoughts your way. Please ask your aunt what her favorite penny-saver recipe was back then, and does she still make it? Has it changed at all?

  2. Meg says:

    Same here for my husband the grip. Not only has the job situation been slim pickins, when he expected his unemployment check, it didn’t show up. Not on the usual Saturday, or Monday, or the rest of the week.Getting through on the phone is impossible, so he figured that they had cut off his claim. On that Friday he decided that he probably had to open a new claim. Since I handle the internet duties in this family, I spent 45 minutes online with EDD calculating the last 18 months with his various employers, filling out the details, and pushed “send.” At which point the “Connection Was Reset” screen appeared, eating all my work. I am recovering from cancer surgery, and my normally placid personality became Hulk. I was going to personally tear the State of Calif a new one, then remembered that we needed those unemployment checks, so I turned off the computer and cried instead. The next day his check arrived. No apologies for being late. Sigh.

  3. Clayton says:

    Set up a Paypal donation link. I know you’re not asking for money but I enjoy reading your blog and wouldn’t mind kicking in a few bucks to keep you “on the air”.

  4. geekhiker says:

    Shit. Stupid legislature with 2/3 requirements being held up by republicans who don’t give a shit about anything but ideology. Wish I had the magic wand to fix it all. Or, heck, I’d even buy you lunch and a beer!

  5. snarkolepsy says:

    I actually don’t think they are trying to save money. They just don’t have it. Not that it helps you. Unfortunately tax increases don’t hurt rich people. They hurt everyone else. Even before the tax increases happen. And, because much of California’s prosperity is based on the stock market. Which provide taxes to the state. It is a double whammy. It just sucks all around. I’m hoping you make it through. I hope we all make it through.

    It is odd though that you mentioned 16 months. The stock market has been going down for roughly 20 months. Maybe the stock market plays more of a role than I thought.

  6. Imee says:

    Hi, I’ve got a question for your aunt… I think it’s interesting that the Great Depression happened and yet people still found the strength to survive… I was wondering how she coped with all the stress, lack of money and whatever else kind of hell she and countless others had to go through, and what good came out of that experience? Thanks in advance.

  7. David H. says:

    I agree with Clayton. A donation link would be a great idea if you’re in a tight spot. I definitely appreciate your blog and would love to help.

  8. I’m waiting for the “waiting period” to show up again on my employment checks now. Sorry this his happening to you, but thanks for the heads up. There are so many of us in the same boat. I’d love to hear your aunt’s money-saving tips!

  9. Peg:

    Sorry to hear you’re getting it from both sides — the Hollywood Free-Lance Shuffle, and the EDD. Pilots are starting to happen, though, so it might be worth pestering all your connections in the TV world.

    I’m sure your Aunt will have some useful tips for scraping by in hard times. A strategy I’ve employed of late is to forgo dinners out with friends (the tab for which typically runs north of $50/apiece once the wine is gone and the tip added up — way too steep these days) in favor of a modified pot luck dinner. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, the group gathers at somebody’s house/apartment. With one person cooking the main dish, somebody else making a salad, another bringing/making appetizers and dessert — and two or three bottles of cheap but decent Trader Joe’s wine, an excellent meal and a great evening can be had for less than twenty bucks apiece. True, it’s not fine dining or being waited on hand-and-foot (and I do miss those cute waitresses…) but when living ever closer to the bone, a few compromises are inevitable.

    I hope your phone starts ringing soon.

  10. jobseeker says:

    California has been sticking people with the delayed payment schedule for years. For what it’s worth, the California will be adding an extra $25 per week to the unemployment benefits paid out, thanks to the stimulus package.

  11. Meg says:

    The most recent unemployment check did indeed contain the stimulus bonus. Since it was for a week where my husband the grip had worked one day (one day really screws up your unemployment) the amount was not quite what it would have been if he hadn’t worked at all, but was more than getting screwed by working one day. But one cannot turn down work, and every hour counts towards that new minimum.

  12. Hey i think getting up a paypal donate button is a great idea but unless there are other people that profit from crisis it doesn’t make much sense right now or? Financial crisis has hit Germany quite strong as well, lots of people already lost their job – atleast not in film industry, as we don’t have much of it *lol*

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