If you were the boss of San Francisco, how much would you allow an agency you oversee to spend on a rap video about SF's sewers? $20? $100? $500? How about $16,000?
(This is not an April Fools' joke. We don't do that shit here.)
You probably heard about the video last week: announced via press release by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, it's intended to “introduce youth to their sewer system," and got a decent load of local coverage. We even mentioned its Main Library premiere in our evening links roundup.
As basically everyone reported, the video was a collaboration between the PUC and BAYCAT, a non-profit org that helps "underserved youth" learn about digital media. In the video, PUC staff are joined by folks like Ronnie Lott and Willie Brown, as you hear lyrics like "I know, you wash, you poop, you pee."
Here it is, for your enjoyment. Check it out, then keep reading.
According to the PUC, "BAYCAT was able to employ eight (8) young adult intern graduates spanning over 4 generations of its TechSF Internship Pathways program to partner with the Sewer System Improvement Program to develop the story, film and edit the music video."
Which, great, right? Well, hang on, because you might have a little trouble with the next part: according to San Francisco Magazine, taxpayers are now on the hook for the video's $16,000 price tag.
For the sake of comparison, independent filmmaker Ed Burns makes full-length features that clock in at around $10K. Layover, an award-winning feature that premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, was made for $6K.
So how did the PUC's little poop and pee rap video cost $16,000?
According to SF Mag, a lot of it was labor. $10,000 went to two city workers who "spent 24 hours apiece supervising interns and providing feedback," they report. "One employee spent eight hours coordinating with BAYCAT...four more workers spent eight hours a pop recording the song’s vocals."
Doing the math for us, SF Mag notes that that comes out to around $114 per hour for those staffers. The other $6,000 went to BAYCAT to create the video, SF Mag reports.
Doing a bit more math on our own, since the video (at publication time) has 4,303 views on YouTube, that means that the city has spent $3.71 per online viewer in the seven days since the video was posted.
Look, don't get me wrong. I'm glad San Francisco does fun stuff like this, and I'm even more glad kids are getting real-life digital work experience. And, sure, $16,000 is a drop in the bucket when you consider SF's overall annual budget of $8.6 billion. So I leave it to you, dear readers: is this worth it?