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David Poland

By David Poland

Ranting and Raving: Taxes

Beware the Ides of April. Brutus and Cassius had nothing on the Internal Revenue Service. If the IRS had gotten to Caesar, they would have gutted him alive with a lien, a claim of a false deductions for slaves and wine as business expenses, and demanded back taxes all the way back to 1. (That’s 1 A.D., folks) Hollywood has its own kinds of taxes. Rejection is like the sales tax. People pay that every single day. And you can’t avoid it no matter how successful you get. And like sales tax, the rules are usually unclear and indiscriminate. Actors pay the price for being too tall, too short, too blonde, too brunette or too nice (amongst a million other specific “flaws”) before even getting a chance to show whether they have talent or not. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of actors don’t get to pay any actual IRS taxes for their paid employment as actors in any given year. Most are just paying on their salaries as temps, waitstaff or cab drivers. Of course, there is some return for the most attractive of this suffering group. Producers who are trying to score (and not just men anymore) will buy dinners and plane tickets to Vegas for these wannabes and that never shows up on the IRS scope, except for on the producer’s Hollywood 1040. That’s their “Looks-Like-I-Can-Still-Get-It-Up,-But-What-I-Really- Want-Is-Some-Mylanta” tax.
Writers must pay the “reader” tax (more like a toll, with the readers as the Billygoat’s Gruff), which happens every time they submit a script to a studio and have to get a positive reaction from underpaid, over-rejected-themselves readers in order to get to the people who might actually influence the purchase of a screenplay, the Development Execs. The “D”-people who fall in love with a script then have to pay the “I- Hate-This-Job” tax, which comes when the boss of the “D”-people, the producer, laughs the script-lover out of the office because that producer “Doesn’t make that kind of movie.” That’s the Hack Tax. The script-loving “D”-person then gets another job and once again has the script they love covered by the reader (though the “D”-person now knows enough to choose a reader that will like the script as much as they do: “The-Better-Agree-With-The-‘D’-Reader” tax) and presents the beloved script to a producer who makes the film. If the film hits, the former boss/producer who passed on the script pays the “That’s-Just-The-Way-Things-Work-In-Hollywood-Schmuck” tax, which he or she pays everyday as they walk around the lot and people whisper and giggle as they pass. On the other hand, if the film flops, the new boss/producer pays the “They’re-Going-To-Dump-His-Deal-And-Bring-In- Name-Any-Hot-Producer-With-A-Deal-That’s-Ending” tax.
Then, of course, the studio chief who has a series of hits pays the “Why- Are-We-Paying-Him-So-Much-Money-Even-Though-He-Just-Made-Us-All-Rich-By- Making-The-Stock-Skyrocket” tax, a.k.a. the Michael Eisner tax. The failing studio chief suffers the “I-Hear-He’s-Going-To-Be-Replaced-By-Barry-Diller” tax. And Barry Diller suffers the “Geez,-Ain’t-He- Actually-Gonna-Make-Something-Happen-With-All-That-Money” tax because the poor guy only has a couple of billion in the bank. And while no one says no to Steven Spielberg or, these days, to Jim Cameron, they pay their dues in the form of “King-of The World” tax and “The Real King Of The World” tax. You can decide which one gets which tag because you always do anyway. Because in Hollywood, the only governing body is the buzz. And the buzz can either be completely free or the most onerous tax anyone should ever have to pay. Just ask Warner Bros., who paid a huge “Those-Movies-Should-Have-Done-Better” tax last year. (For more on that, check out the letters page in this week’s The Whole Picture. That’s the “David-Poland-Self-Promotion” tax.)
CONTEST RESULTS: Well, contest-prize sponsor Species II killed more of you than any other film. Less than a dozen of you managed to place Species II in fourth place. Only four of you managed to get the City of Angels, Lost In Space, Titanic, Species II finish in order. And only one of you, John English, got all four and the correct fifth place finisher, The Players Club. So I didn’t even have to figure on dollar guesses. The other three to get the Top Four (Pat, Donna and Jennifer) will also get prizes for their good work. The contest will continue to evolve as the weeks go on, so please feel free to send your suggestions to be by e-mail. And congratulations to all the winners.
READER OF THE DAY: Chomp71 offers up this career map for Jim Cameron: “Tackle Planet of the Apes, then True Lies 2, then Spiderman, then in 2004, do T3 along with a re-release of Terminator that year.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon