"Age Discrimination in Motion Pictures and Television"

"Be good to them on their way up, because you want them to be good to you on your way down!"

   This is an adage which has served many a professional in our industry. Regrettably, in the last decade, it's value has somehow been diluted. Age discrimination has left an unfortunately large number of highly skilled Film and Television Craftspersons and Artists without a paycheck, and in many cases facing the end of their once glowing careers. This is an ever increasing reality in our business.

If you are like me you probably think of this subject as one affecting people as they approach retirement age, say fifty to sixty. Well guess what; age discrimination now affects people in some areas of our industry as early as forty years old.

We have seen more and more incidences of industry members being shunned from job opportunities because of their age. This crime, not only leaves the employee with out work, but also diminishes the quality of the project because more often than not, the experience that the individual would nave contributed will be replaced by that of someone whom the person behind the hiring desk perhaps feels less intimidated by, but is still learning his or her craft.

I once recommended to a Producer friend for whom I had worked many times as a Production Manager and Assistant Director that he hire an individual who had impressed me with his work as a Production Assistant. I felt that this person had the qualities that would make him a good A.D. some day. A few years later, I received a call from the Producer asking if I would consider assisting this young man in his Directing debut. Needless to say that the adage paid off for me, and the experience was richly rewarding.

On the other hand I know a gentleman who had years and years of experience as a Production Sound Mixer, who, while interviewing for a TV Movie, was told "We were looking for someone a little younger!" Within a few months, he was forced to sell his equipment, and withdraw his pension (at an earlier age than he would have liked) in order to survive.

This is by no means an isolated incident. I was recently told of an Academy Award winning Title Designer who has been aged out of the business. In Title Design, like most other areas of the industry, computer skills are a necessity in order to compete in today's job market place. The Title Designer, happily kept abreast of these skills, but has none-the-less been forced out due to some grey hair and wrinkles. His talent remains but his opportunity to use it has left.

Age discrimination takes place for a variety of reasons. The worst of these lies in a corporate concept which allows for a long term (and usually dedicated) employee to be terminated in place of a younger individual with smaller salary requirements. This practice is not just unconscionable, but serves as a counterproductive measure. Though this might look good on the Stock Holder's Report, the short term savings in overhead will be outweighed by the long term cost of the less experienced employee's "learning curve". And in our business where quality of product directly translates to box office or TV revenue, this practice is clearly not cost effective.

We fully realize that there is a very strong place for the concept of understanding the "pulse of the market" and turnover in the work force is a natural process, however somehow our values not only in the industry, but society in general, have become distorted when it comes to the manner in which we perceive our elder statesmen.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to take a look at how the Japanese (and other Asian societies) revere their "experienced" members. The work force in these countries grow stronger because they know the value of experience.

For those of you who are in a position to make a difference on this subject, now is the time to take a stand, because you are going to be surprised how quickly it will be you who realizes how you treated them on your way up.


We would like to hear from you with your thoughts or experiences on this subject of vital importance to everyone who works in the Motion Picture and Television Industry. We will post these comments in future issues of IndustryCentral (You may indicate a desire to remain anonymous, if you wish).
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Fact Sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office for Civil Rights
Washington, D.C. 20201

YOUR RIGHTS UNDER THE AGE DISCRIMINATION ACT (in Federally Funded Health and Human Service Programs)

THE OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) enforces Federal laws that prohibit discrimination by health care and human service providers that receive funds from DHHS. One such law is the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.


The Age Discrimination Act (ADA) of 1975 is a national law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance. The ADA applies to persons of all ages. It does not cover employment discrimination. (The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies specifically to employment practices and programs, both in the public and private sectors, and applies only to persons over age 40. Complaints under the ADEA should be sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, D.C. 20506.)

The ADA and DHHS age regulation (which can be found at 45 CFR Part 91) do apply to each DHHS recipient. The ADA also contains certain exceptions that permit, under limited circumstances, use of age distinctions or factors other than age that may have a disproportionate effect on the basis of age. For example, the ADA does not apply to:

An age distinction contained in that part of a Federal, State or local statute or ordinance adopted by an elected, general purpose legislative body which:


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