The Most Difficult Age to Be When You Work in Hollywood


“The Writer’s Guild of America has a term for my situation: They call it ‘The Gap.’ It’s the time period between when your years as a working writer end and your retirement begins. I actually have an excellent pension for when I finally retire. The Guild is a strong union and it has negotiated an excellent pension plan for writers who have more than seven consecutive years of service. When I finally hit 65, my WGA pension combined with Social Security means I should have a comfortable retirement.

“I was 46 when I had my last writing job in television. That meant I faced a 19 year Gap. As with other writers facing The Gap, my resume was a problem. I worked as a publishing executive before becoming a writer. I had a nice, solid resume that showed constant forward progress in my publishing career from financial analyst to business manager to circulation director. Which is great… except that progress ended in 1991 and I was applying in 2004.

“I sent off resumes and scored occasional interviews. But the interviewers mainly wanted to hear Hollywood stories and then said, ‘Thanks we’ll be in touch.’ I don’t blame them. I’d hire the person currently working in the magazine business instead of the guy who had a lot of amusing stories about comedy writing but hadn’t worked in a publishing environment for more than a decade.”

David Raether, a former sitcom writer who went from a $300,000 income to being homeless in Los Angeles, in a Priceonomics excerpt from his new book. Read more on being homeless.


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