Many people responded with varying degrees of interest to my idea of creating short web-based economics lessons—brief (3-4 minute) animated pieces. So I thought I’d create a contest. If you’re interested, read on.
UPDATE: I should have mentioned that some of the numbers that follow in the example are illustrative. As we go forward, I’ll get the right numbers.
I’m going to lay out my idea of a "script" or story line for the first idea–the economics of the minimum wage. If you want to enter the competition, you can do the first minute or so of what I’ve outlined or all of it. Put your work up on the web and send me the URL.
What’s in it for you? I’m pretty confident I can raise some money for this project, so also tell me what you’d charge to do the full-blown version or the next one. If I choose you and I can raise the money, we’ll go forward.
What I’m looking for is the most visually compelling approach. Success will be measured by whether people want to watch this either because it’s interesting or funny or intriguing or ideally, all three.
This video  is what I’m after in terms of pace and visual appeal. One reason it works is because it’s very clever. But it also works because you want to see what’s next and the pace is perfect–just slow enough so that you can figure out what’s going on and fast enough so that you don’t get bored. It inspired me, not because I want to do an animated power point presentation on the minimum wage, but because the pace made me realize I could tell an animated story.
So here’s the rough, rough, idea for the minimum wage. It’s a rough draft. Your entry is a rough draft, too. You can leave holes in the narration or fill them in with your imagination. Or you can email me for more info or ideas.
And some of my ideas are bad ones. They won’t work visually. Feel free to do something different. What I’m looking for is the idea of how you’d approach the story, not the details.
There are two elements to the story. One is words. The other is visual. Some of the words could be part of the visuals appearing as text on the screen. Or they could be voice-over. So in this outline of the story, I’m going to give you the words and suggestions for the visuals. Don’t worry about the words for now. Focus on the visuals. My visuals are very much suggestions. If you have a better visual idea (or a more feasible visual idea) feel free to do something different.
Questions? Send me an email. Roberts at GMU dot edu.
Deadline for submitting your entry: March 7th.
Here’s the narrative I have in mind, at least as an outline. Good luck!
WORDS (1): People call me heartless because I’m against increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 and hour.
VISUAL (1): An economist without a heart. Maybe the economist is a stick figure who opens up the door to his heart like the tin man and there’s nothing there. Or maybe he empties a briefcase and there’s a kidney and a spleen and a liver and he keeps shaking it put no heart comes out.
WORDS (2): Let’s look at the minimum wage a little more closely. There are about 140 million people who have jobs in America. About 2 million earn the minimum wage or less. About 7 million earn less than $7.25
VISUAL (2): 140 stick figures, each representing a million. Seven of the stick figures are shown in a different color. We zoom in on those.
WORDS (3) What’s going to happen to these folks who currently earn less than the proposed minimum wage of $7.25? Why, they’re going to get a raise! They’re all going to earn more than they do now! Or most of them anyway. Some of them are going to lose their jobs.
VISUAL (3) Stick figures celebrating as money rains down on them or dollar bills flutter down.
WORDS (4) According to most economists who have studied the minimum wage, about 1 million of those workers will lose their jobs when the minimum wage goes up 40%.
VISUAL (4) Show six of the seven stick figures celebrating. Show one dejected and forlorn.
WORDS (5) Why will these workers lose their jobs? When wages go up, employers will look for cheaper alternatives. They will use technology and hire fewer workers who are more skilled. That’s why a fast food restaurant today has so few workers compared to the old days. When workers are relatively expensive, you try and find machines to do the job. Not every employer will be able to use technology. But some will. And workers will lose their jobs.
VISUAL (5) Lots of choices here. I’m open to ideas.
WORDS (6) Which workers will have trouble finding work? The least skilled workers. If you’re an employer paying your workers $7 an hour, a raise to $7.25 isn’t as likely to make you find a cheaper alternative than when you’re paying your workers $5.15. The two million workers making $5.15 an hour or less are the most vulnerable ones.
VISUAL (6–more of whatever you did in (5))
WORDS (7) If a million low-skilled workers are laid off, can’t they find work somewhere else? Some can, but it’s going to be tough. If you’re worth $6 to an employer, the employer won’t find it worthwhile to pay $7.25. Any bargaining power you had is ruled out by the new law.
VISUAL (7) Maybe an employer measuring the worth of an employee with some kind of monetary tape measure. Show worker going from door to door and coming up empty.
WORDS (8) So 6 million workers get a big pay raise–40% more per hour. One million get a big pay cut. Low wage jobs are often the first rung on the ladder for people trying to get started. A minimum wage makes it harder to get on the ladder.
VISUAL (8) Dozens of ladders with people slowly climbing up them. Some ladders have no rungs at the bottom–the rungs start up really high. We see people jumping, trying to reach the first rung but unable to get there.
WORDS (9) So why am I the heartless one?
VISUAL (9) Lots of possibilities here.