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David Poland

By David Poland

Sad SAG Swan Song

I don’t even know how to express how it feels to read Nikki Finke’s breathless coverage of the latest steps in SAG’s dismantling. It was the future that many of us saw coming, as she made her name by cheering along unions, starting with WGA, into the terrible choices that are leading to the most severe marginalization of the talent unions since they the days of the old studio system.

I certainly can’t blame her for the wrong choices being made. She just used the opportunity to promote herself and an agenda that she could not have understood, lest she realize that she was basically working for AMPTP’s goals. And I don’t think she would do that, no matter how much she relies on top execs of AMPTP companies to give her information hours before anyone else.

AMPTP won every conflict in the last go round. They fed WGA Pyrrhic victories while using DGA, the union least reliant on the residual system for their members, to keep the union from holding out any longer than allowed the studios to clean their books of a wide swath of deals. The lack of any union backing them up, combined with AFTRA buried SAG’s then-leadership’s efforts to protect the middle class of talent. And the argument that old issues cannot be reopened – as in, “we can’t re-open DVD… we’re just going to focus on the internet” – suggests that there is no happy ending on the way, unless you are singularly focused on union mergers and keeping the machine going at any cost to actors (1st) and then other creatives in lessening pain down the line.

We’re at that moment where the Republicans are now, claiming that this is Obama’s recession and any mention of Bush’s economic policies are “looking backwards” when we should be “looking forward.” But everything that the “Membership First” group predicted and was shouted down over, like they were hysterics, has started coming true. Reruns are dead. AFTRA keeps eating more of the network schedules with less stringent contracts, especially on residuals. And the best friend Netflix, Hulu, and other online streamers have against the cable/satellite world is the crappy contracts for streaming, which make those deals even more attractive to the studios.

It’s hard, because many people who are not only well-intended, but who are unquestionably honorable and very smart often line up on the side of it that I feel is dangerous. Some of those people are actual friends. And I, and those who believe as I do about these issues, would love to be wrong… would be thrilled to be told “We told you so” instead of the other way around.

Sad days. Hollywood’s correction is probably about 85% done and the industry will start getting seriously healthy again, leaner and meaner, next year or the year after. The unions, mostly SAG, are a significant percentage of that correction and will be a bigger percentage in these upcoming years. And that’s a real shame, as working actors were never the problem for this industry’s bottom line.

Of course, everyone will survive and jobs with be had and some will get rich. Many of the victims of this transition will be invisible, aspiring actors who are forced to give up their dreams before they have crawled their way into “working” status. And yes, many will still overcome this hurdle out of sheer determination. Another vulnerable group will be actors who make a living acting, but not a consistent six-figure annual income. Not only will they suffer with a continuing slide in how much they make for each job they do, from start to residuals, but they will struggle to earn enough to get benefits that used to be a relatively easy target to achieve for even modestly successful working actors.

But hey… remember Alan Rosenberg playing guitar and wailing about how hard life is… wasn’t that funny? Isn’t it fun to mock the guy who almost lost his mind trying to fight for his beliefs? Not so much.

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8 Responses to “Sad SAG Swan Song”

  1. Don Murphy says:

    Once again, Uncle Dave the All-Knowing has all the answers. Why oh why won’t more people just listen to him?

  2. IOv3 says:

    I don’t know but the guy seems to be rather sensible. I think? Who knows? HE RAN A FILM FESTIVAL! SUCK IT!

  3. Don Murphy says:

    IOv3 – still with that crappy avatar? Anyway- who ran a film festival? What does that have to do with Labor Unions? What do you so desperately need sucked? I am sure we are all dying to know.

  4. IOv3 says:

    Oh Don, you are a character, but David quit this job back in the mid-oughts to run the MIAMI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. He went away, did that, then came back one day bitching about Daredevil. It was really weird.

    Also, hating on MEW, is very shameful. She can act and look pretty at the same time. I know that’s not something your films look for, but in the future, take it under consideration.

  5. Don Murphy says:

    So because he ran a film festival I never even heard of he knows about what SAG should do? I am not mocking you in this post, I am just not following your point.

    If MEW is the chick from Scott Pilgrim, she cannot act and she is not pretty. There are a 1000 girls up in the trees along Melrose who can do both way better.

  6. IOv3 says:

    Don, that’s the point which I am not conveying enough. He has no experience what so ever in labor relations but that’s what makes David David: He LOVES to act as if he KNOWS. He will give you or anyone else shit for acting the same way, but David loves to put out there a stance of knowing every answer to every problem when it comes to the biz. On one hand, it makes for a strong arguing stance but on the other, it can make him look like an obstinate ass know it all. Again, if you came here more often, you would understand this already.

    You also have to realize this: the best looking and most talented women are not up in trees on Melrose. They are in the middle of the country just looking hotter than all get out and unlike most hollywood actresses, they are taller than 5’3″.

    Hating MEW still? You had a hand in Shoot’Em Up existing, so… YOU GET… A PASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Don Murphy says:

    I understand better what you are saying (work on your clarity sir) but after finding some things out earlier this summer I am less tolerant of the pure bullshit DP spouts as knowledge out there, even if it is mostly unread and uncommented upon. He criticizes others for made up facts and figures when he is among the worse offenders. And this is AFTER thinking at one point that he walked on water. Knowing what I know now, I feel really stupid for drinking his Kool Aid all these years.

  8. Merkin Muffley says:

    Ok. I’ll bite.
    Where specifically does David get it wrong on this one? I understand you dissaprove of his know it all attitude, but where are his FACTS off. No mocking here. I genuinly would like to know.

    DON: “knowing what you know now, I feel really stupid for drinking the kool-aid all these years.”
    Is their something specific that turned the tide for you?

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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