Studios must do more to curb obesity, as commissary operation costs and productivity losses from afternoon naps are rising at an alarming rate, a group of international health officials are warning. While some studios have made recent strides in reversing the trend, short term fixes, such as staff behavior modification through electrified lunch room desert trays, have made little dent in what is being labeled as “an epidemic of gastronomic proportions.”
Senior entertainment industry health officials, speaking at the annual Adiposity-Con in Manchester, called for studios around the world to coordinate their efforts to deal with the “growing” problem. Dr. Wilhelm Lippid, head of the EU’s Entertainment Studio Snack Desk (ESSD), pointed out that several recent studies show unequivocally that the prevalence of obesity at film, TV and game production studios has increased from 12 to 46 percent between the years 1975 and 2010. He noted, “The obesity rates are increasing at an alarming rate. While there is slight variance among the different population groups, such as Scottish model makers, who are genetically predisposed to being loud, pale and wide, within the studios, overall, the trends are not encouraging.” He also noted the data does suggest some low socioeconomic status groups – such as the Direct-to-DVD-Sequel groups, in-house training staff and female riggers – are disproportionately affected as well.
Dr. Lippid continued, “We’re seeing more overweight artists, eating bigger lunches and stopping work more often to grab high calorie snacks, which leads to more frequent afternoon naps. In addition, we’re seeing evidence of more office furniture breakage from staff unable to support their own bulk, struggling to reach food items stashed on shelves, in drawers or on the floor near their feet. The associated costs are staggering.”
A just released NIH study reported that on the recent John Carter production, the cost of food, beverages, snacks, their preparation and distribution topped more than $30 million, more than 10% of the film’s reported budget. Said one lighting supervisor who worked on the film for more than two years, “Too much nervous energy makes you eat. There were hundreds of us that had seen the script. You do the math.”
While no executives would comment on record about their studio’s commissary operations or internal efforts to fight staff obesity, one studio president, who wished to remain anonymous, explained the inherent dilemma succinctly. “Listen, we have three buildings full of fatties. Just last summer, we had to replace all the wicker furniture in the quad with reinforced wooden benches. So what? The tubs do fantastic work, which makes us a fortune. What do I care if they want to eat bacon wrapped cheesecake instead of endive and tofu?”
The NIH study concluded that, “If growth trends continue, by 2015, studios will be spending almost 30% of their operating budgets on food and commissary operations alone. It’s both a fiscal and public health crisis.”
Key findings of the 30 nation, five year NIH study on entertainment industry obesity include:
- Marketing personnel have a higher prevalence of obesity than all other types of studio workers. This is attributed to the fact that they tend to be lazier and less educated, often choosing high-sugar content snacks with shiny wrappers that can be easily hoarded in desk drawers and eaten quietly at AA meetings.
- Producers and business development staff tend to have the lowest rates of obesity, attributed to the fact that they are often refused food service because no one likes them.
- Game programmers had the second lowest rates of obesity, attributed to the fact that they tend to eat only foods that can be slid under doors.
- 38% of model makers are at risk of becoming overweight, attributed to the growing availability of new, more flavorful plasticine.
- Rates of obesity fluctuate quite significantly within various groups of artistic talent, from animators to game designers. Data suggests certain groups tend to exert more dictatorial control over distribution of the “excellent” snacks, primarily high-sugar items such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and single-portioned bags of Oreos. More aggressive and popular staff tend to take all the “good stuff,” leaving more healthy but much less desirable “shit snacks” for unpopular staff and temporary freelance workers who are usually ignored and treated as outcasts.
- In the US, studios in southern states display the highest rates of obesity, in part because staffs favor energy drinks mixed half and half with Squeeze Parkay.
- Scandinavian studios still show the lowest overall rates of obesity. This is attributed to the fact that Scandinavians work less hours than all other entertainment workers studied and therefore have more time to devote to activities that counter obesity, such as skiing and having multiple partner intercourse on government-provided bicycles.
- Canadian studios have the highest obesity rates of any country studied, attributed to the fact that Canadians tend to get confused by the concept of cafeteria-style food distribution. They want to be polite and subsequently take a bit of food from each available tray rather than just taking only what they actually want to eat.