Terkel, Working (Organizational Behavior) Case Study

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Her job has been entirely replaced by technology.) The interview I conducted with a NYC theatrical agent, "Brett Shelley," also noted the way in which humans can be reduced to something insignificant by the marketplace: "The client has spent 6 months of his life writing a screenplay -- but you'll know within a week, maybe two, if anybody's going to buy it. If not, there's very little chance for that script to be reconsidered." (Shelley Interview, 2014). The rather chilling sense of how dehumanizing people have become in large-scale corporate enterprises is perhaps best underscored by Jack Hunter, a Professor of Communications (who is so bewilderingly out of touch with reality that he thinks the Watergate affair will be easily forgiven and forgotten by the public). Hunter is accustomed to thinking of people in terms of mass audiences -- in other words, reducing them to demographic slices and parts of a giant collective to be persuaded and manipulated. He therefore describes his role in the ruling class that controls these masses in terms of power: "Communications specialists do have a sense of power. People will argue it's a misuse of power. When a person has so much control over behavior, we're distrustful. We must learn how to become humane at the same time." (Terkel 40). Hunter is persuasive as to why people distrust those who have control over large numbers of people -- however he doesn't seem to offer a persuasive reason to believe that corporate overlords will become more humane, or what might incentivize them to do so.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Case Study on Terkel, Working (Organizational Behavior) the Assignment

Overall, the basic issues with the workplace in Terkel's interviews are fairly intuitive. People feel a greater sense of satisfaction from personal autonomy, from feeling connected to what they do -- the uneducated hillbilly farm wife seems much happier with her lot than the woman who works for Bell Telephone, and is assigned a number and constantly scrutinized for error. Even collective enterprises like unions that are designed to help, rather than exploit, workers can become problematic: because they must negotiate with management, there will always be workers who feel that too much power has been ceded to management. But the most important thing is something intangible: a sense of agency and a sense of humanity. The coal miner who says that nobody is satisfied working for another person does have a valid point: yet most of America is not self-employed. The real solution here must be to restore the sense of personal agency to workers even as they operate within the framework of larger institutions: just because a corporation is large does not mean it automatically has to be dehumanizing. Maybe the solution is to remember to place people before profits.

"BRETT SHELLEY" (Literary Agent, William Morris Endeavor Agency, NYC)

What is a typical day like in your job?

I am a literary agent in the New York offices of William Morris Endeavor. Everybody knows WME, because the Hollywood office is so well-known and Ari Emanuel is just a force of nature. But I'm not based in Hollywood, I'm based in New York. I represent writers -- people who write scripts for theatre, film, television, things like that. I have one or two composers who write musicals, but there is another agent in our office who basically specializes in musicals, so that's not really my main area of focus.

My clients are playwrights, mostly, but these days playwrights are also screenwriters and increasingly television writers. A lot of the big flagship HBO shows are staffed mostly with playwrights, and there's plenty of other stuff on TV that is written by people who came out of the New York theater. "New Girl" is a great example -- the showrunner on "New Girl" isn't my client, but she's got a typical trajectory of how things work, she started as a playwright like six or seven years ago, then she wrote a screenplay that got made, a romantic comedy with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, then off the back of that she sold her TV spec. It was originally titled "Chick With Dicks" or something like that, but of course to put it on network TV they can't use that title, so now it's called "New Girl."

Any writer who works in theater, film, television has an agent, and that's basically my job. I have a client list of -- well, most agents these days represent about fifty to a hundred different clients. A hundred is way too many. But you have to maintain a broad range of clients because at any given time half of them aren't going to be working -- they're going to be staring at the computer working on the next thing, and that's an investment of like six months to write a script. Obviously sometimes less, maybe with some writers it's more time, but I generally estimate that a piece of writing represents six months of the writer's life.

But think of it this way: if you're good at writing drama and dialogue, you might not necessarily be good at sales. You don't have the time or energy to go out and make connections with the people in production companies or film studios or theatres who actually buy the work. That's where the agent comes in. My job is basically to know what's going on in the larger entertainment marketplace -- to maintain connections with the people who are buying or staging new work -- and then to maintain connections with my clients, who are the writers. Then when a writer has a new piece of work, it's my job to send it out for submission, follow up, generate interest, play one potential buyer off another to get the price up, make the sale. The agency takes a ten percent commission from the sale and from profits of the work. So say that we get a writer's work to go up on Broadway. The writer has a fee arrangement for that -- a percentage of the box office or whatever. The writer gets paid through us: the producers send the checks to WME, we take ten percent of what comes in, and re-cut a check for the client.

Generally I arrive in the office by ten. We are expected to stay late, because our office in New York has to communicate all day with the Los Angeles office, and obviously there's a time difference. I'm in the office generally until about 7:30 and then on weekdays I leave from work to go to the theater or to a reading. If I'm not at the theater, I'm generally at home reading scripts. So my workdays are long but enjoyable.

What do you like and what do you dislike about your job?

I like it when I'm able to get a client's work staged, or when I can get a client placed with a job -- basically when I sell something. The unpleasant part of the job is when I can't make something happen for a client. It's difficult to tell the client that he or she has to do a lot of this work on their own. I can try my best to get theatres or literary departments interested in a new writer if the writer has new work to read. But it's impossible to do something with work that's already been looked at -- nobody in this business wants to reconsider a script that they passed on two years ago, even if it's a masterpiece. There's some ways around that, sometimes, but that's a major frustration.

If you could do it over, would you choose the same job? Why or why not?

I'm happy working as a literary agent, though. I would almost definitely choose the same line of work, even if the current state of theater in New York City is a little iffy. There's less work going up. Most theatre is not commercial -- it's not-for-profit -- and that depends upon donors, foundations, financial support from outside. That's not where the money is, but it's a great way of launching a career in writing for film or TV. But after the financial crisis, there is less work happening overall. And people are having the same problems in Hollywood -- if anything, things are more tense in Hollywood because new media is changing how people approach things like film and television. That landscape is changing way more rapidly than live theater is. Live theater is either Broadway -- which is for profit, and which is what it is, these days mostly musicals, or maybe a play with a celebrity name in it -- or else it's run by not-for-profits. There are very few writers who make a living solely by live theater, though, except maybe for the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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